Monthly Archives: June 2018

When do I get to see my first patient?

**We are pleased to share a guest post from Ms. Nita Skillman, Director of the Client and Standardized Patient Program for Elon’s School of Health Sciences.**


Elon University Physical Therapy students have their first patient encounter just a few months into their education.  The Client and Standardized Patient Program (CSPP) provides on average eight encounters the first year, thirty the 2nd year and fifty the 3rd year.  These encounters ensure students are given the opportunity to test their examination skills with patients, grow critical thinking skills, and develop individualized treatments plans even before their first clinical rotation.

The very first encounter is focused on enhancing communication skills and taking a patient history.  After this encounter, the patient and faculty offer each student personal feedback on their communication style and effectiveness.  This provides a richer experience to the student and adds a sense of realism that practicing with their peer might not.  This encounter is also recorded to allow the student an opportunity to watch their video and self-reflect.

Just recently our first-year students held a Baby Lab in their DPT 610 Human Motor Development class.  This lab consisted of eight typically developing children ranging in age from birth to one year.  During the lab, students performed assessments looking at each baby’s motor development.  All while observing primitive reflexes, infant mobility, and functional play.  Each baby was also paired with a pediatric therapist from the community allowing the student to have access to an expect in that area.  For the same course in July, the students will participate in a Big Kid Lab that will include ages ranging from one to seven.  During that lab, they will assess gross motor skills such as higher-level locomotion, ball skills, and higher-level balance.

In the second year, PT students worked in groups of four to treat patients with a neurological disorder in their DPT 703 Clinical Seminar IV class.  During this class, the students worked with their patient over five visits.  The first visit included testing and goal planning followed by four treatment days.  This exposure to patient care not only gave our students the chance to see how neurological disorders impact a patient’s everyday life, but also gave our students an opportunity to bring to life classroom lectures.

Our third-year students gained valuable patient exposure during their DPT 804 Selectives class.  Selectives offer our students the opportunity to choose which area they wish to gain more practice and instructional time in prior to their final six-month clinical rotation.  Currently the offerings include pediatric, muscle skeletal, neurological, independent study, research and global studies.  The muscle skeletal group of students logged approximately 45 patient treatment hours within their six-week instruction.  During this class, faculty gave one-on-one assistance to students with their patients.  The students worked on things such as treatments to help patients return to running, community ambulation and evaluations of muscle injuries such as strains and pains.  Students enjoy not only the one-on-one instructional time, but also valued the additional hands-on experiences with the patients.

The CSPP is often asked where we get our patients from, and what type of patient will a student see.  Our patients are local members of the community that want to partner with Elon to ensure our students get as much patient exposure as possible.  Some of our patients participate in classroom discussions, some receive individualized treatments, and others work with our students to simply give them hands-on knowledge to how their illness has affected their body.  Our students are exposed to patients with a wide range of diagnoses including but not limited to stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, orthopedic complications, amputations, and multiple sclerosis.  The CSPP not only encompasses patients that have very specific diagnoses but also includes trained Standardized Patients (SPs).  SPs portray a medical diagnosis and allow students to work through treatment options without risking harm to vulnerable populations.  SPs are also well versed in giving patient centered feedback to students.  The feedback conversation is designed to allow students to hear directly from a patient’s perspective about the encounter and work alongside of the SP to improve upon the experience.

The Client and Standardized Patient Program is focused on providing every student an opportunity to work with patients, reflect on their encounters, receive feedback, and gain valuable firsthand experience.  It is our goal that all students will be able to look back on their classroom patient encounters and take those lessons into their clinical practice.


Neuro, neuro and more neuro

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry it has taken me so long to write another blog. Time just slips away from you in PT school, but for those of you unfamiliar with the Elon DPT Curriculum, today I’m going to talk about the best module — neuro!

In your second year of the DPT program, your first didactic semester revolves around treating patients who experience or develop neurological injuries and disease processes. Half of the time is spent learning the anatomy and physiology while the other half details just how physical therapy can make a difference in the rehabilitation experience. Neuro has a reputation for being a dense module with challenging material, but I can honestly say it has been my favorite module so far in PT school! Maybe I’m a little biased, since I think I’d like to work in this setting, but here are some of the aspects I’ve enjoyed this module.

We have outstanding professors that are incredibly passionate about the material they teach. Dr. Folger has a remarkable gift for taking complex information and transforming it into a language that is easily understood by my classmates and I. Dr. Andrews has a wealth of experience that gives us the tools to conquer challenging situations using our intuition and learned skills. Along the way we have heard from numerous guest lecturers who have shared their expertise and allowed us to learn a new set of skills unique to the neuro population. All of these incredible instructors make it easier to sit through the long days and enjoy the lessons that are being presented.

The professors have also done an amazing job of integrating opportunities to work with clients currently living with neurological conditions. We have had multiple visitors come and speak to tell us of their experiences in their day to day life. We have had the opportunity to evaluate patients with spinal cord injuries and practice hands-on skills. We have the opportunity to work under the supervision of a physical therapist and have weekly sessions with a client to practice selecting and implementing interventions to help improve their quality of life. Each of these experiences leaves me so grateful to have the chance to be in this profession. I am often humbled by the wise words of our clients and the determination that they exemplify. One of my favorite moments from a client to class, was a client who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. They said “When I think about my life, I truly think MS has given me more than it has taken away. MS has stripped away the facade and has shown me who I really am, and more importantly, who appreciates who I really am.”

In just 4 weeks, we will leave for our 2nd and 3rd clinical experience. This means my classmates will be apart for 4 months before returning to the classroom in November. It’s been a beautiful experience seeing how all of my classmates grow into the confident and capable physical therapists that I know they will be on graduation day. Our next clinical experiences will focus on the acute care and neurological settings, so we will be able to take the skills acquired this module and really apply the knowledge we have gained.

As for me, I’ll be staying in Burlington for July and August to work at a skilled nursing facility for the next clinical. But at the end of August, I’ll be headed to AUSTRALIA! Thanks to Elon’s incredible global studies initiative, I get to spend two months learning from the manual therapy experts in Newcastle, New South Wales. As you can tell, a lot of exciting things are coming, and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

Until next time,