Almost to midterm? Is that possible? It may seem impossible, but that is exactly where the 3rd year PT students are in their last of 4 clinical rotations. The first 8 weeks I was unsure I’d ever start to become more proficient in my documentation or multi-task well enough to instruct my patients, keep them safe, provide them with appropriate tactile cues for technique, and make notes regarding their progress all during their physical therapy session. Be sure you read that last long sentence carefully, I by no means implied that I am anywhere near proficient or that I have mastered the art of multi-tasking, I am simply stating, that I am BEGINNING to become more proficient at my documentation and am STARTING to become more capable of multi-tasking during my patients’ therapy sessions. The outpatient clinic that I am currently at is a far busier clinic than any of those I’ve been at before, and while the software system is meant to be user-friendly, it has been more than just a simple challenge for me to learn to navigate. I did not grow up with computers like most of my peers and my PT school BFF has told me that the one thing that shows my actually age is my decreased efficiency with technology. She has often told me that she forgets I am older than the rest until we start doing something new on the computer and that when my inability, or if I’m lucky, my delayed ability quickly gives away my age!
So, yes, I feel blessed to have this extra time to adjust, adapt, and try to figure out ways of doing things to help me along in these areas I find challenging. I have also learned that earplugs… not diamonds… are a girl’s best friend! Or at least they are in a busy rehabilitation clinic that houses physical therapists, occupational therapists, SLPs (speech language pathologists), cardiac rehabilitation specialists, several support personnel, and at times, many, many patients. I struggle with focus and maintaining attention in a quiet environment, but I believe this type of environment can make even the most focused person deviate from the task at hand.
With the national board exams a short month and a half after graduation, my classmate’s CI (clinical instructor) has been generously hosting a Wednesday night study group session and has opened her home to any third year students wishing to attend. She has been bringing the review material to life as she gives us examples of patients that present with the very symptoms, diagnoses, and impairments were are studying. I am confident that her stories and examples will be most helpful when trying to figure out the correct answer to the board questions in January, as they are making a more lasting imprint in my mind compared with reading and memorizing facts out of a textbook.
Aside from treating patients, documentation at our clinical sites, and working long hours with limited to no downtime, my classmates and I have other responsibilities. We are also enrolled in DPT 809, a research course focused on producing a case report with desired end result being publication. We are very fortunate that there are several professors that lead this course allowing for our class to be divided up into groups of roughly 6-10 students per professor. We regularly have portions of our case report due throughout the six months that we are involved in this course. As we gather information, implement interventions, and assess the progress of our patient, we are able to complete the appropriate sections of our case report that are due, roughly each month, in a more manageable way. As part of our DPT 805 clinical experience, we also have work that we’re required to submit throughout the time that we are at our affiliated clinical site. The biggest, most time consuming, thought provoking, and somewhat stressful assignment that we must complete occurs at mid-term and at the end of our experience is known to all Elon PT students as the CPI or Clinical Performance Instrument. This is an assignment that requires us to investigate the guidance we require from our clinical instructor, our ability to perform simple and complex tasks, the quality with which we provide care, the proficiency of our clinical abilities in simple and complex situations, the proficiency with which we accomplish these tasks, and our overall rating for 18 unique criteria. For some this may not be as daunting a task as it is for me, but I will admit, that this thought provoking task that requires time for reflection and evaluation of self, can feel a little overwhelming to complete at times. I try to complete portions of it as I go along throughout my weeks at the clinic, but regardless of how good my intentions are, I still find myself at my computer for hours the week or two before it is due adding, changing, and completing the final product. With that said, it’s time for me to get back to work addressing the next criteria of my CPI as we are quickly approaching midterm!