As I sat on my couch the night before the start of our first clinical rotation, I began to truly appreciate the enormity of the transformation we endured through our first year of PT school. I believe I speak for the entire class when I say we entered into our respective clinics with a strong confidence in our clinical skills and decision-making: a stark contrast to our first days in the program.
Throughout the ortho module we continually heard, “You will know more than you think you do once you start your clinical.” Those were hard words to swallow with a squadron of nitpicky professors watching your every mobilization and listening to every syllable of your clinical explanations. The immensity of their expectations and the relentless nature of their questioning drove us to adopt the “clinical mindset.” Within this mindset, one exists in a state where every clinical decision is self-questioned, which in turn incites an eternal hunger to consume current EBP literature in order to fortify ones toolkit (of knowledge) for the arduous journey towards the mystical peaks of clinical perfection.
For my clinical rotation, I was placed at Aquatic Physical Therapy and Beyond in Raleigh, NC. Prior to the clinical I had little experience in the aquatic setting. (a half-day lecture/lab) Now, having completed my rotation I am a big proponent of aquatic rehab for a number of reasons:
- It opens a world of pain free movement or at the least movement with less pain to patients with chronic pain conditions (severe OA, chronic LBP, CRPS). Often, pain leads to a sedentary life thus resulting in extreme deconditioning. The water facilitates the transition back into a more active lifestyle and allows for an individual to obtain a ‘foundational strength’ before transitioning to land based therapy.
- It allows the post surgical populations (mainly LE) to return to ‘normal’ motion at a faster rate. I saw several patients post-ACL repair and a patient with a full patellar rupture repair begin to walk, jog, and perform functional movements (squats, lunges, etc.) at an earlier time than possible on land.
- It builds confidence! Confidence is key to rehab, especially with individuals who fear movement or do not trust their ability to balance. The water creates a safe environment to rebuild and reshape their self-perceived capabilities and confidence.
Overall, the transition from classroom to clinical was a tad overwhelming to start between learning the clinic routine, documentation system, meeting new co-workers, and coming to the realization that I was working with real people (as opposed to a role playing classmate). The most enlightening part of the clinical experience was realizing the worth of my ability to build rapport with the person in front of me. Through school you gain a massive toolbox of clinical test and measures, you understand what questions to ask and what signs/symptoms to look for; however, the ability to connect at the human level is a skill that cannot be taught. Trust is the foundation of the therapeutic relationship; without it the path to rehabilitation becomes clouded. Never underestimate the therapeutic power of a strong, trustworthy relationship. To end this first post of 2017, I want to extend a warm welcome to the class of 2019! The class of 2018 looks forward to meet y’all and best of luck with your first year. There will be more to come on the wonders of our next module, Neuro!
That split second when you pass beneath an overpass during a torrential down pour, although quick, the silence and stillness of the moment is magical; a perfect analogy of our most recent 2-week break.
As we 1st years enter into the much anticipated yet dreaded (due to tales from 2nd and 3rd years) ‘ortho’ module, the rainstorm of knowledge has once again begun. Now, I understand, from an outside perspective, the endless amount of work is seemingly daunting and quite undesirable, but in reality, it is addictive. Within the past week we’ve endured lecture and lab ad nauseam leaving us drained. At the end of each day, with mushy brains, we meander home only to continue our studying or work on our research projects. However, no matter how burnt out you feel lying your head down each night, you wake up with an uncanny motivation to get back and learn more.
Adrenaline in the classroom rarely occurs outside of being called on while daydreaming of the rock star life or hurriedly fumbling to silence a sounding text message. Yet, I’ve felt adrenaline coursing through my system as all the information from the past 8 months begins to mesh together and we start to ‘see’ like a PT. The idea of us becoming ‘movement specialists’ is constantly drilled into our minds and the title is beginning to make sense as our ability to analyze gait and breakdown the movements of the human body is developed.
As the wise words of Lao Tzu state, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” With the first week of ortho under our belt, we have officially taken that first step!
As of June 1st, 2016, the Elon DPT class of 2018 is officially half way done with our first year of PT school! We currently find ourselves delving into Neuromusculoskeletal Assessment, Anatomy and Pathophysiology II, Clinical Seminar II, Human Motor Development, and PT Sciences III. The third module so far has been satisfying, allowing us to transfer our foundational knowledge from Module I & II to a more clinical and diagnostic setting. With our first clinical selection on our minds, we are eager to hone and test our skills as “practicing” student physical therapists.
Although now, the module is going swimmingly, I believe the majority of our class can attest to the neurological turmoil we experienced upon returning from our first weeklong break. After 12 long weeks of, as Dr. V puts it, “Drinking from a fire hose,” we were momentarily free to sip as we please from the sweet goblet of a week of freedom. The feeling was eerie due to having no dreams of brachial plexuses, no PTSD from a near ‘instafail’ during a PT I practical, and no 30 page patho study guides. However, I think its safe to say a week away was not long enough.
On a completely different note, I want to begin to advocate strongly for you to participate in Elon DPT’s H.O.P.E. Clinic. There is no better place to test your skills and come to the realization that all your hours of hard work and studying are leading you down the right path! I know I personally have had a fantastic experience being able to use what I’ve learned outside of a strictly academic setting. To see the fruit of your labor through your patient’s progress gives you an inexplicable sense of accomplishment, thus rejuvenating your drive to dive head first into your studies.
For much of my undergraduate experience I often felt like a lone wolf tackling my academic endeavors. From time to time I’d seek the company and advice of others, but primarily I preferred solitude. In hindsight, I realize each individual in my undergrad experience had a different path down which they sought their own unique goal. The DPT program provides a stark contrast to that environment; we are all here with a common goal to achieve the all mighty ‘knighting’ of the DPT degree. We no longer see unfamiliar faces from class to class but rather the same faces every day in every class. You end up spending more time with your classmates than you will by yourself. While during the first few weeks of the program I felt aloof to my classmates, each day we grew closer. Over the past four months our class has created a strong bond as we’ve conquered our first round of midterms, practicals and cumulative finals.
Although with this bond I can’t say I know every detail of all my classmates’ lives. However, I can say that I know each member is willing to help another whether it is academically or emotionally. We have come to understand that alone, many of the academic challenges we face are daunting and often elicit a fairly intense sympathetic response (especially midterm and finals week). However, together, the countless hours of studying and practicing wheelchair transfers (and bed mobility and gait training and proper guarding) all work out.
The beauty of your class community is that what knowledge one individual may lack, another will have and vice versa. Being part of the ‘pack’ will become your greatest resource. It becomes your support system, your motivation, and where you find life-long friendships.
As the end of my second month in Elon’s DPT program nears, I am sitting here wondering what to write. In all honesty, this blog post is proving to be more difficult than any of the classes I have faced thus far. I can understand the physiology of nerve function, I can tell you all the terminal branches of the brachial plexus, and I can take you through upper extremity passive ranges of motion, but what can I tell you about your future experiences during the first months here at Elon DPT?
Well, to begin, don’t fret about the transition from undergrad, your current job, or your ‘no work-just fun’ hiatus leading up to graduate school. The first module of the program really eases you into the swing of things. There you will gain a clearer understanding of what it entails, both emotionally and professionally, to be a PT as well an insight into the world of healthcare. Besides the initial shock of meeting Dave, my anatomy donor body in our first lab, I’d say the first month went by smoothly.
Module 1 is an excellent time to explore the area (if you’re not familiar), meet your classmates, and find a daily schedule that’s comfortable for you. Definitely try to make time for yourself to do things you love or that put you in your happy place. Personally, I’ve begun waking up at 6 AM everyday to go workout before class, which I found helps me get through our long days of lab and lecture.
Speaking of lab and lecture, I feel it is important to implant one concept I’ve learned so far before embarking on your journey to becoming a PT, which Shrek and Donkey’s eloquent dialogue about onions beautifully illustrates. “Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. You get it? We both have layers.” While we are not becoming ogres (although some mornings I feel like one), we are building layer upon layer of skills; each skill acting as a foundation for the next. At the moment, we have only gained the first few layers of PT knowledge and it can be hard to fathom our end form. My advice is to forget about the future for the moment and live in the now, focus on the current material, and immerse yourself into the process of forming your newest layer of skill.
That’s all for now. I’ll keep y’all posted on how our road to becoming PTs is going!