Low back pain? Hip or knee pain? How about your ankle or foot? We can help with that. Your shoulder and elbow will have to wait a few more days. Over the past weeks we have been in intense training for examining, diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems in the back, neck and lower extremity. Just recently we began examining the shoulder. At the beginning of each “body part” it is a bit overwhelming. Finding the muscles and bony landmarks in your lab partner can get frustrating, getting the “feel” for joint movement can be extremely foreign, and staying focused after seven hours of lab can be quite the challenge. But with the patience of the instructors and classmates, I find that over time the foreign quickly becomes the norm. It is a great feeling of accomplishment to look back at all the material learned. At times it seems like baby steps but when looking back over the months, huge gains have been made in becoming a well-rounded physical therapist.
This month the focus is on the upper extremity (shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand). On the side we continue to dapple in pharmacology and spend time on our research projects. Three classmates and I created a research project that we thought interesting and applicable to physical therapy (Kinesiotape & Plantar Fasciitis). Other classmates joined professors in their on-going research. It has been a great opportunity to explore personal interests, meet people from the community who are willing to participate, and become aware of the need for research in effective physical therapy practice. To avoid sugar-coating the truth, there is a side of research that ages us all. Some projects can take a large amount of time out of each week. The process of developing a project, getting the project passed by the board, and then following through can be time-consuming and mentally exhausting. But I would expect nothing less being at a doctoral level. Once again, it is a step forward in becoming a DPT.
Giving back to the community is placed in high regards to myself and to many of my classmates. On the weeknights and weekends, we have found ways to apply what we have learned. Some classmates are assisting individuals within the community in following exercise programs at home, helping individuals with their daily/nightly needs, and volunteering for the Special Olympics Funfitness. We continue to support each other in marathons, half-marathons, triathlon training, going out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant (I think our waiters cringe when 32 of us enter regularly), coffee addictions, retail therapy and of course with our studies. An escape to the North Carolina outdoors has continued to be an amazing benefit to this geographic location. Hikes to Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain are typical weekend adventures. Even Asheville, NC isn’t too far away for more mountainous scenery. The fall colors are beautiful. As fall continues we get closer to the end of being in the classroom, closer to Thanksgiving break, closer to Christmas, and closer to beginningour second year in the program!
It’s very interesting to be back at the Francis Center; in some ways it feels like we never left and in other ways it feels like we’ve been gone an eternity! It has been great catching up with friends and classmates the last few days, but I have to admit it has been difficult to get back into the swing of classes, labs, homework and studying!
The current module is the complete opposite of our last academic module. Prior to our clinical experiences, we left off with neuro-science and neuro-management; currently, we are taking five very different classes: cardio pulmonary, exercise physiology, electro-physiology and wound care, research, and orthotics and prosthetics. Dr. Bailey has already warned us that this module will be challenging for the following reasons: 1) we’ve been out of academia for four months, 2) there are lots of breaks throughout the module ( both Thanksgiving and Christmas break fall within Module IX), and 3) we have, what he calls, “a hodge podge” of classes. It should be an interesting module to say the least.
My personal goal is to find balance during these last seven months of classes before our final, six month, clinical rotation. I have found, when on clinicals, I am much more social, travel more on the weekends, and have time to volunteer at (and participate in) events held at my church. The schedule of classes, assignments, projects, and papers seems pretty demanding for this module, but I am determined to find a healthy balance. It’s only been three days since we’ve been back to school, but so far I was to go out with friends Tuesday night and today I went for a walk with one of my classmates. It was nice to chat and catch up with each other as we strolled along the sidewalk lined with beautifully colored fall trees. I am not sure what this weekend will bring, but in addition to my school work, I will be sure to make time for friends and family!
2 weeks…10 work days. How is it possible that this is all that is left to the final chapter of our PT school journey? After 22 weeks on the job of our final internship, we have a mere 2 weeks left to soak up the knowledge that our CI’s have to offer, to say goodbye to patients who have become part of our PT lives, and to find the confidence to take the next steps towards our first jobs as actual PT’s.
We will have 2 weeks off to recuperate and spend time with family and friends for Thanksgiving, in between clinical and our last week back on campus. The first week of December, we will reconvene (who knew I could be so excited to return to classes) for our final week. It will be filled with learning at a continuing education course, licensure board review with our classmates, and our exit interviews, amongst the time we get to spend with each other catching up and finalizing this chapter of our lives together.
It is absolutely unbelievable to be at this stage of the game. I am humbled and grateful to be where I am today. I wish I could better articulate what it feels like to be at this point, but instead, I will just enjoy these last few weeks. I will do everything I can to soak up as much learning and time with friends and teachers as possible. I owe it to the past 3 years.