Category Archives: Libby

Elon DPT students get a different view of physical therapy during trip to Belgium

This past spring, the third-year DPT class participated in a six-week clinical practice selectives course to prepare us for our 24-week internship. About half of the class stayed in Elon and studied in more depth specialties like orthopedics, neurological disorders, or pediatrics. The other half of the class spent time learning about physical therapy all across the world in places like Alaska, Australia, Belize, Peru, Belgium, which is where I went with six other classmates.

Every fall, students from Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) come to Elon to sit in on classes and go to area hospitals and clinics to work with physical therapists. This spring was our turn. Although a bed sounded great after the long flight over, in order to fight jet lag we ventured around the city to find waffles and fries. All seven of us stayed in the most perfect AirBnb in the French neighborhood of Auderghem. It was just a 20-minute metro ride to the center of Brussels.

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This would be a very long blog post if I told you everything we learned in six weeks, so I will hit the highlights:

  • The country of Belgium itself is diverse yet divided in terms of government and language. The northern half has more Dutch roots and the people speak Flemish while the southern half speaks French. The city of Brussels is in the center and is a melting pot of Dutch and French. In order to treat all patients, the physical therapists we met knew both languages and spoke English, too. Most of the research they read is in English, so it is necessary for them to learn a third language. Very impressive.
  • The first day we jumped right in to classes at the VUB and helped with human cadaver dissection in the anatomy lab. We worked with medical students who moved VERY slowly through dissection. They allowed us to help but I could tell in their faces they didn’t like my technique. As a physical therapy student at Elon we spent seven months dissecting, focusing mainly on muscles and their origin, insertion, innervation, and action. The Belgian students were graded on their precise dissection so I stopped and decided it was more enjoyable to chat with them about their lives while they dissected.
  • Back at Elon, I am dependent on my car to take me everywhere. It was nice to take a break from the, “car life,” and walk and take the metro. I would average around 20,000 steps per day. We may have gotten turned around (lost) a time or two, but it was all part of the experience.
  • The physical therapy education is different in Belgium. At the VUB, students get their Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in rehabilitation and physiotherapy. This takes four years. After that they do not have to take a final board exam and are free to work. If they would like to specialize in manual therapy, they can continue for another year to achieve their advanced master in manual therapy. I am planning on taking the board exam in just five short months. After over two and a half years of DPT school, I am ready for this day to come. But I also think how nice it would be to not have to take a national board exam. I’ll keep dreaming.
  • American health insurance is confusing; Belgian health insurance is even more confusing. Every Belgian citizen has health care and pays a flat fee of 30 euro to the therapist ($35) for a strict 30-minute appointment. The patient gets reimbursed a certain amount of that by the government. Making $70 dollars per hour sounds great as a therapist but sadly taxes are so high that nearly half of what a “physio” makes goes back to the government.
  • Outpatient therapists in Belgium work crazy hours to be accommodating to the working persons’ schedule so most work 12-hour shifts Monday through Saturday. Two of the therapists we followed had private clinics and worked out of their homes. I guess that helps with the commute. The physios we met in Belgium live, eat and sleep PT.
  • Speaking of eating, waffles, fries, chocolate and beer. What more can I say? I miss the sweet smell of 1-euro waffles around every corner. I am not use to living in a big city, so I really enjoyed venturing to the city square, the Grand Place, to soak in the culture and to enjoy walking around with my classmates before we departed for our 24-week internships.
  • In America we must document everything we do with patients to be able to get reimbursed by insurance so we can get paid. I would say probably 25 percent of my working day on my clinical rotation right now is spent documenting patient care. In Belgium, there is no need to document to get paid so therapists only document if they need to remember something to do with a patient. As a result, they can see more patients throughout the day.
  • One day we went to circus school (one of I believe five in the world) and observed a physical therapist that worked with acrobats. It was a unique experience to see these amazing, fearless athletes flipping around bars and contorting their bodies in ways they are probably not meant to be contorted.
  • We met a Belgian Olympian who went to Rio last summer. He was being tested for Overtraining Syndrome by performing multiple VO2 max tests on a bike. He performed one test in the morning and another test in the afternoon and the amount of lactate in his blood would determine if his body was able to recover or not.
  • Every therapist treats differently, but most of the manual therapists we observed treated primarily with joint mobilizations and manipulations and left exercise up to the patients to do on their own time. This is something I would have a difficult time doing.
  • We observed physiotherapists at three large rehabilitation centers around Belgium. In the U.S., insurance dictates how long people are eligible to stay for inpatient rehab post stroke, TBI or SCI. Patients are able to stay in rehab for much longer in Belgium. Some may stay for a year. Revarte, a rehab center in Antwerp, had state-of-the-art equipment with an amazing treadmill for gait training that one of our classmates got to try out.
  • Last, but certainly not least, Brussels is so central to everywhere else in Europe that we had the opportunity to explore many other countries. It’s amazing how you can take just a two-hour train ride or flight and be swept into such a different culture. One of my favorite weekends away was to Salzburg, Austria, where we rode bikes on a Sound of Music tour and were surrounded by the Swiss Alps. It was so breathtaking.

This was a long post and I could go on for hours and hours about all the memories the seven of us made while in Belgium and in cities all around Europe on weekends. If I could, I would go back in heartbeat. I am so thankful for the plethora of experiences that Elon has to offer. I was able to learn so much more about myself as a physical therapist by gaining an appreciation for another culture.

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Focused on the Future

Hello Again!

Here’s your Michigander, back at it again with the blog posts. Shout-out to Blake, a DPT candidate, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks back on Interview Day. He said he read the blog and that I talked about Michigan a lot, so I thought I would continue the tradition.

Many of us in the Class of 2017 have had great conversation with interviewees over the last couple of weeks. I have enjoyed how Admissions lets us DPT students’ help out on Interview Day. It benefits the candidates because they get honest answers from us about what to do at Elon, balancing life and school, ways to get involved, global learning opportunities, the curriculum, the professors, and much more! At the same time, it is great for DPT students because at one point we were in their shoes and we can see how far we have come! It’s motivating. I’m so proud of the Class of 2017; only one month in the Francis Center for some of us!

After Easter, our class is given 6 weeks to study anything we want to study. FREEDOM! About half of our class is choosing to stay at campus and delve more into the nitty gritty of either Orthopedics or Neurological Disorders. The other half of us have the opportunity to learn about physical therapy abroad in either: Australia, Belgium, Belize, Alaska, or Peru! I will be going to Belgium with six other classmates and I can’t wait to share my experience with you. It has been hard to focus in class at times because I start daydreaming of Europe.

Let me tell you what we have been up to this New Year! We finished off Module IX, which included Electrotherapeutic Modalities, Prosthetics and Orthotics, Management of Cardiopulmonary Dysfunction, and Exercise Physiology. My favorite part of this past module was when clients came to class or when we got to treat a client. After many years of sitting at a desk listening to lecture, many of us are just ready to see and do all things physical therapy. There’s only so much you can learn from words on a PowerPoint; everything just clicks when you see it put to action. For example, there are so many different parts to prostheses, but when clients with amputations come to class and walk and run all over the Biomechanics Lab, everything just makes more sense! It so much easier to learn by seeing how they move, and listening to their experiences.

Now we are in our final module of learning in the classroom! We are taking Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Clinical Decision Making, and Administration and Management. While I really enjoy having the opportunities to work with little kids in lab and going out in the community to learn from older adults, I have really enjoyed Clinical Decision Making. Over our last clinical rotation we had to choose a patient who we found to be complex. Now we are presenting the cases to the class, and teaching the class what we learned from our experiences. Students so far have presented on fascinating cases of people with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, strokes, conversion disorders, lymphedema, and the list goes on. It’s very cool to see through pictures and videos the progress complex patients can make with the right therapeutic interventions.

While we continue to have a good time in the classroom, we are cherishing our last days of togetherness outside of the classroom. Excursions have included a weekend ski-trip to Beech Mountain, and a tour of breweries in Asheville. Whether it is cold and cloudy or warm and sunny, the class enjoys tailgating in the parking lot of the Francis Center at lunch. People brings snacks and meat for the grill and enjoy games like volleyball, corn-hole, Kan Jam, Frisbee-ing, playing giant Jenga (professors love it too), and water-balloon launching (I don’t know if that is really a game; people just enjoy launching water balloons and watching classmates get hit). Our class’ average age may be 26, but we are all kids at heart.

We all enjoy each other’s company and know that we will greatly miss each other, yet I think most of us are feeling prepared and ready to go out into the clinic. It’s different out there in the “real world,” but we are ready for the challenge and ready to be Physical Therapists.

 

 

 

 

Back in the Game

The Elon Class of 2017 is back on campus and back in action! We’ve been back together since the first week of November and it has been an adjustment. From July through October we were on clinical rotations and up on our feet working with patients in acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and inpatient rehabilitation hospitals from 9 to 5. I would say most of would agree that it was so nice to be up and moving and putting the skills we have learned in the classroom and lab into action. But now it is back to the books and the Francis Center for a couple more months! The hardest part about being back so far has been the sitting; nevertheless it is great to be back with our DPT family!

So now let me tell you what we are learning! Yay.

We are currently taking five courses: Exercise Physiology, Management of Cardio-Pulmonary Dysfunction, Wound Care, Prosthetics and Orthotics, and lastly, Directed Research.

One of my favorite parts of Exercise Physiology and Cardio-Pulm is the lab experience. We combine the knowledge we are learning from both classes and work with a client who has some type of cardio-pulmonary dysfunction 1x/week for 12 weeks. We are only 3 weeks into the experience, but I’m excited to see how far my group’s client will improve. This week our patient came in with 7/10 neck pain and with a little exercise and postural education, they left with 1/10 neck pain! Pretty amazing, right?

Now I know you are probably thinking, why were you treating your patient’s neck in a cardio-pulmonary class? Well, when your patient’s number one complaint is their 9/10 neck pain that they woke up with, you can’t just ignore that. You must evaluate and treat the whole patient. As a physical therapist you can’t be narrow-minded. You must be ready for anything a patient presents with that day, and you must be skilled in all areas of physical therapy to treat a patient effectively.

That leads me to wound care!

I will be honest, when I arrived at Elon nearly two years ago I had no idea physical therapists evaluated and treated wounds. It is pretty amazing though how vast the physical therapy scope of practice really is. We must become skilled in all areas of the body, including the skin. So I guess it does make sense! Lectures and labs are spent analyzing pictures of wounds, which isn’t the most appetizing for everyone, but it has been an enriching experience that I wasn’t expecting. We also do fun things like debride fake wounds (AKA oranges). On my clinical rotations I came across A LOT more patients who had wounds than I expected I would. It is important that we know how to care for wounds so we can provide the best quality of care to our patients.

Next up is prosthetics and orthotics! This past week we all learned so much from having healthcare professionals and clients come to lab.

  • An occupational therapist told us all there is to know about upper extremity orthotics and splinting.
  • A certified prosthetist and orthotist brought in a variety of AFOs, KAFOs, HKAFOs for use to try on so we could see how it would impact a patient’s gait.
  • A physical therapist who owns a sports store in Greensboro came to teach us all about running shoes and foot orthotics.
  • A woman with MS came in to show us how her AFO helps her walk faster and more efficiently.
  • A pediatric physical therapist gave us a run down of all there is to know about pediatric dynamic ankle and foot orthoses. She brought in SO many cute and little orthotics for us to put our hands on which helped us learn more about them.
  • A man who had a recent stroke demonstrated the use of he HKAFO and how it impacts his gait and quality of life.
  • Lastly, an orthotist brought in a variety of COs, CTOs, TLSOs, LSOs, and KOs and showed how impressive some of these larger braces can be.

If you don’t know the abbreviations, please feel free to Google! This post would get really long and wordy if I typed it out. J

Last, but not least, is Directed Research. We have all been split into groups of 6-8 or so, depending on what we want to learn more about (i.e. nutrition, manual therapy, peds neuro, adult neuro, etc.). Each time the group meets, someone picks a research article to pick apart. Dr. Bailey helps the group analyze not only the content of the research, but also how it is presented to the reader. It leads to great group discussion, and helps us to understand the importance of analyzing research.

While it has been great to get back into the swing of school, it has also been wonderful being together again as a DPT family. This week we came together for a holiday party. Everyone came to school in their tacky holiday wear, with SO MANY crockpots full of deliciousness as well as a wide array of desserts that Buddy the Elf would be so excited about. Over half the class participated in a gift exchange. From seeing the gifts, it is pretty amazing how well our class knows each other. Three DPT students who live together even handed out a “family” Christmas card to everyone in the class. Holiday spirit is in the air!

Nevertheless, we have four pretty big exams that separate us from Christmas break. The end of our 2nd year is in sight! I was talking to first-year physical therapy students this afternoon who are nearing the end of their ortho module and about to leave for their first clinical rotation in January. It is hard to believe that that was the Elon Class of 2017 just one year ago! We have come so far in one year and I’m so proud of all we have accomplished together.

Here’s to (almost) being third years!

 

Learning All Around the World

Hello Readers!

The 2nd Year Class is nearing the end of our clinical rotations and from what I hear (and from my own personal experience) we have all had a great time and have learned so much. We are really becoming physical therapists! There is only so much you can learn in the classroom, so it is great to get some hands-on experience with patients. Physical therapy students are pretty smart, but not the best actors when trying to “act out” being a patient; so it is great that we get to practice our skills on real patients who have had spinal cord injuries, strokes, and brain injuries. Our first rotation was an outpatient rotation, so now most if not all of us are at skilled nursing facilities, rehab hospitals, or in acute care hospitals.

In July and August I was at my acute care rotation at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois. I (as well as many other PT students) have had my eye on outpatient orthopedics when I’m out of PT school. I enjoy working with this patient population and love the problem solving aspect that outpatient provides. However, in order to be a well-rounded physical therapist you must be exposed to different settings. I knew Dr. Andrews and Dr. Folger had prepared us well, but I was still a little hesitant to jump into the hospital setting. Patients may be medically unstable. There are lines, leads, and tubes everywhere! And what if I forget to set the bed alarm? Or what if I forget to leave the patient their call light? So many scary scenarios would pop into my head that sometimes I’d freak myself out.

Now, after eight weeks in Illinois I can now say that I really enjoyed acute care and could definitely see myself working in that setting some day. The patient presentations were so interesting and always kept me on my toes. My clinical instructors were helpful and made sure I wasn’t going to be pulling anything out. And soon after I began my rotation, setting the bed alarm and giving a patient their call light became routine. Hospitals aren’t so scary after all!

Another part of my clinical rotation that I really enjoyed was learning from other PT/OT students. The hospital provided housing to therapy students so I had the opportunity to live and work with students from schools all over the country. I had the pleasure of co-treating with OTs as well as other PT students. My clinical instructors also provided me with other learning opportunities like observing swallow studies with speech therapists, watching open heart surgery (SO AMAZING), and going to an exercise class designed especially for patients with Parkinson’s Disease called Rock Steady Boxing. Learning so many awesome things was exhausting, be oh so rewarding!

My roommates also had pretty amazing learning opportunities on their clinical rotations. One went to Italy and the other to Australia! The beautiful cornfields of Illinois were pretty great and all, but I’m not going to lie, I was a little jealous! Kellie said that Italy was a wonderful and unique experience that taught her a lot about the physical therapy field and the Italian culture. Brittney worked at an outpatient office in Newcastle, Australia called the Physio Joint (great name for a physical therapy office, am I right?). She says that learning from the “physios” gave her an entirely new perspective on how to conduct initial evaluations, and how to select the appropriate interventions. Physical therapy is a lot different in other countries, so it is great that Elon provides these opportunities for us. It helps us figure out why we do what we do in America.

I have been in South Bend, Indiana at Memorial Hospital on my inpatient rotation since Labor Day, and I have about two weeks left of this experience. I’ll update you more on my experience in South Bend next time! Each rotation has its own challenges and joys; I’m grateful that Elon has provided all of these learning opportunities for us. I have enjoyed learning and life outside of the Francis Center, but I sure do miss all 45 of my classmates and can’t wait to see all their smiling faces in a few weeks!

Talk to you again soon!

The Highest Standard of Care

We (the 2nd year PT class) are now in our 13th week of a 16-week marathon of neuroscience. I’m sure many people in our class would say that they’ve “hit a wall.” So much knowledge has been stuffed into our brains as we learn about the brain! Last week’s 4-day Memorial Day Weekend was much needed. We have come back refreshed and ready for the last 3 weeks before heading off on our clinical rotations for 4 months!

One of my favorite aspects of this module are the number of patients we are able to meet and learn from who have neurological impairments. It is great because patients receive therapy and we get to practice our skills before we go on clinical rotations. Definitely a win-win! We have been able to talk to and work with patients who have had a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease, just to name a few. We all really appreciate how these clients share their stories; some are heart-breaking while others are encouraging. Nevertheless, we are grateful for these patients and the opportunities they give us to help us become better therapists.

One cool way our class was able to use our talents in the community was through the Special Olympics. Every year they are held on Elon University’s campus. Hundreds of athletes, both young and old, come from all over the area to compete in a variety of events. The 2nd year PT students had the opportunity to entertain the athletes in between their events. We had numerous activities including a dance party, velcro vests, obstacle courses, tug of war, and of course, the giant parachute (definitely, my favorite part of P.E class. as a kid).

If you follow this link to a video, you can see how much fun we had that day!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX3oTPzy4i4

This spring, the PT program hosted the 2nd annual HOPE Clinic 5K. I know I have talked about the HOPE (Health Outreach Program of Elon) Clinic before, but for those of you who don’t know, it is a student-led pro-bono clinic that was started about 3 years ago. Every Tuesday evening, patients who don’t have insurance or who have run out of their PT visits for the year can come to the HOPE Clinic and be treated by students under the supervision of licensed PTs. It is a great way for students to serve those in the community, and to learn and refine clinic skills. That Saturday was the most perfect weather for a 5K and it was so great to see everyone out there who supports our patients the HOPE Clinic!

I’m sure that knowing all the parts of the Basal Ganglia will be important….someday…..maybe?? Until then, what has been helping me persevere through this intense 16-week module is knowing that what I’m learning will help me treat my patients with the best quality of care. We have learned so much over the past year and a half and I’m looking forward to what we have yet to learn in the next year and a half!

Enjoy some pictures of the fun times our class has had this spring!

Together Again

Greetings, friends!

The second-year PT students are back at Elon post-clinical and the Neuro module is in full swing! We spent January and February on clinical; we were on our feet all day treating patients, and getting a taste of the real world of PT. A majority of my class was in the outpatient orthopedic setting; by the end of the clinical, we were all able to carry 75 percent of an entry-level PT’s caseload! It is pretty cool to see how much we have learned and how far we have come over the course of a year.

I am not going to lie; I really miss working in the clinic! I was in an outpatient orthopedic clinic near Myrtle Beach. I learned so much about patient care and treatment, and therapeutic interventions from the PTs and PTAs I worked with. My clinical instructor was one of the kindest and most patient people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She was so encouraging and wanted me to get the most out of my clinical experience. She also provided me with the wonderful opportunity to observe total hip and knee replacement surgeries. It was a very bloody, but absolutely amazing experience. My clinical instructor made me feel like home in a place where I knew no one. She invited me out to dinner with her family, and we even (and the other lady PTs) went to a painting and wine event!

But alas, we are out of the clinic and back in the classroom. Although I miss the clinic, it is wonderful to have our PT family back together again! March was definitely a transition month for my class. We all had the time to share great/funny/sad stories of our clinical experiences, but had to quickly get back into study mode.

But not too quickly!

March is the one time of year where all three PT cohorts are together at the Francis Center. It is really cool to see the Francis Center hustling and bustling with brilliant minds! We all had time to mingle amongst each other while eating pizza provided by the PT department, and the new first-year class seems like a fun and smart bunch of people!

I know I talk about this a lot, but PT friends become family. I can already see it happening in the first-year class! We spend Saturdays at the coffee shops together, go camping together, and work out together. Some of us weren’t able to spend Easter with our families back in other states, but it was OK because we had our PT families here. We also know how to be competitive with each other and had another successful year of March Madness together. Third place for this girl!

Now back to good stuff…NEURO!

Instead of learning about ACL and rotator cuff tears like last fall during our orthopedic module, we are now learning about dysdiadochokinesia, homonymous hemianopsia, and habenulointerpeduncular tracts amongst other things. Neuro is another language. It’s difficult, but it is all right because we have Dr. Folger and Dr. Andrews there to interpret it all for us. They simplify neuroscience as much as they can to make it easier for us to understand. We also draw a lot to help us make sense of things within the brain and spinal cord. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m going to PT school to be a physical therapist or to be an artist!

Prior to PT school I didn’t understand how much diversity there is within the field of physical therapy. Treating a patient with orthopedic injuries is so different than caring for a patient who presents with neurological deficits. Patients need physical therapy is a variety of different settings: outpatient, inpatient, sub-acute, acute, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and more! Each and every day as a physical therapist is different which makes the career very exciting! Each patient presents with a different problem and individual needs; however, PTs have one common goal for all patients and that is to improve their quality of life. It is a lot of information for us students to learn, but with the help of our professors, it is exciting to know we will be able to confidently treat anyone with a physical ailment by the end of next year.

In order to do this, however, I must get back to studying! Until next time…

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Learning (Way) Outside the Classroom

Today marks the third week of our clinical experiences for second-year students! It is so great to finally be in the clinic and putting what we have learned over the past year into practice. We are all in an outpatient clinic and from what I have heard from my fellow students, it is going really well so far.

Here are a couple of things I have learned:

1) Research is really important. During our first year we had to learn all there is to know about research. I think many of us thought we were done with research forever, but let me tell you, research never ends! There is so much research out there and as PTs we need to know what it all means and how we implement findings into how we practice. The field of physical therapy is always changing, so it is important to stay on top of recent evidence so that patients can get better faster.

2) Traveling for clinicals is really fun! Many of my classmates are working in local clinics (shout out to those people still holding down the fort in Elon!), but others are in Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado, Arizona and Florida. I’m currently in a town right outside of Myrtle Beach, SC and absolutely loving it. I miss my PT school friends, but it’s been nice getting to know the people in my clinic. I am also enjoying walks on the beach, waking up for sunrises and getting to know a new area! If you have the chance to travel on a clinical, do it. You won’t regret it.

3) The practice of PT is different wherever you go. In some states it is legal to practice dry needling, while in other it is considered not within the scope of PT practice and therefore is illegal. My clinical instructor treats about 2-3 patients daily with dry needling. After seeing the immediate dramatic benefits it has given patients, I’m now a die-hard advocate for dry needling to be legalized within the state of NC. It is nice to be exposed to settings in different states to see how PT practice changes among them.

4) I really like the outpatient therapy setting. Each student has to find his or her niche, and I think I have found mine! I love the fun and relaxed environment in an outpatient environment. I also love to see how patients change and progress from visit to visit. We still have two more clinical experiences this year in the acute care and inpatient setting, but I think I have found what is right for me.

5) Being out in the clinic is a lot different than doing case studies in class. I was very nervous the first week to actually put my hands on and treat patients. In class we are put into hypothetical situations and our “patients” are our very strong, healthy and mobile classmates. In the clinic, you are treating real patients with real problems who really want to get better as fast as possible. It is really nerve-racking having to make real decisions about patient care, but I guess that is was being a DOCTOR of Physical Therapy is all about!

And luckily…

6) My clinical instructor (CI) is the best. I’m sure my classmates may say the same thing about their CIs, but I’d have to disagree with them. From day one, my CI has made me feel so comfortable in the clinic. She understands that I am a student and still learning, and is always willing to answer any question I may have…and I have many. She has even made an effort to get to know me outside of the clinic by taking me out to lunch and Costco! The best, right?! Elon has connections with great quality facilities and CIs and I am so grateful for this opportunity. I hope that all students have a CI who is as patient, understanding, and helpful as mine.

 

Talk to ya’ll again soon!