I woke to the New Year of 2014 a little differently than 2013. Instead of waking and wondering how the first day of the Elon DPT program would go, who my classmates would be, and what the landscape of North Carolina would be like, I woke wondering how my first day of working in the clinic would go, who my first patient to evaluate would be, and what the mountains of South Carolina would be like. It’s a different world come the second year of DPT. It brings new challenges to tackle and new stressors; but in the end it is just another step to becoming a physical therapist. The second year starts with 2-months working and learning at an outpatient clinic. Personally I am stationed down in South Carolina near the Sassafras Mountains along with three other classmates. We found a mountain cabin to rent and are counting our blessings in having each other to bounce ideas and questions about physical therapy off of. Of course we are also taking advantage of the beautiful geographic location that surrounds us. Overall our class has exploded over the nation and we are spreading our cooped up enthusiasm and passion for life and physical therapy everywhere.
The day in the life of a physical therapy student at the clinic changes by the hour. We are assigned a clinical instructor at the clinic who is to guide and share their gems of knowledge to us. They are to stretch us mentally; at times it feels as if you are being fed to the wolves, but by the end of the day character is built and the spectrum of PT knowledge is that much bigger and broader. Each week a little more independence at the clinic is given and by the end of the two months we should be able to handle a good portion of patients on our own. Currently we are three weeks into this clinical rotation. I am starting to feel more comfortable and confident with my evaluation and treatment skills. I’m building a good foundation of what to do for simple orthopedic cases and am developing more of a tolerance to handling complicated ones. The 8-hour state of shock and panic has faded into a hint of “deer in the headlights” look when presented with a case that I initially am unaware of how to treat. It is at this point I fall back to what we were taught last year and manage to make it through. I have confidence in knowing that I have a good knowledge base from Elon and have a clinical instructor with years of experience to confirm my thinking process. I’m excited to see what another five weeks of working in the clinic will bring.
Overall I’ve heard good reports of our class’ experience with their clinics. Some have been absolutely loving it and some have had to turn lemons into lemonade. I look forward to reconvening in March to discuss the knowledge gained, the challenges, and the fun of living in the “real world” for a few months. It sure does feel good to escape the life of 8-hr flat butt, thoracic kyphosis, and forward head for a bit. As for myself out in the Sassafras Mountains with my other three classmates, we are having a grand time hiking, meeting the locals, finding deer in our driveway, and enjoying the perks of our mountain cabin which just may include a hot tub. We have been truly blessed. We can only hope that the patients we come into contact at the clinic are being blessed as well. Through our old and new knowledge, our motivation to learn, our willingness to listen, and our desire for them to get back to the life they want to live, I hope to both gain and give more and more throughout the next month at the clinic.