Hey guys! Wow, time flies when you’re having fun. It feels like just yesterday I was writing my first blog post and beginning the journey of PT school. On Monday, my class began their neuro module and successfully completed our first clinical rotation! So if you’ve done some research into the curriculum of PT school, you may be asking: what is a clinical rotation?
A clinical rotation is an opportunity for physical therapy students to apply their knowledge to real patients under the supervision of a certified physical therapist. At Elon, we complete three 8-week clinical rotations in our 2nd year and finish our 3rd year with a final 6-month rotation. The first clinical rotation is completed in an outpatient orthopedic clinic to follow our heavy orthopedic semester. I was lucky enough to return to my alma mater and work in the greatest university health care system in the area (Go Heels!).
So now you may be asking: what do you get out of a clinical rotation?
After a year of intense, didactic studies where we spend hours absorbing lectures, digging through textbooks and deciphering research it can be difficult to maintain the passion the existed at the time of PT school application. It is challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re staring at names of neurotransmitters found in the nervous system. But there is nothing more thrilling than your first opportunity to step into the driver seat and feel what it’s like to really be a physical therapist. You have the ability to see first hand the necessity of physical therapy and the direct results that patients experience. It gives you a window into the “why” that is often missing from the pages of a textbook.
If you ask any of my classmates their level of confidence on the first day of their clinical, the resounding response would probably be quite limited. But in a matter of 8 weeks, we began to trust our knowledge and our ability to apply what we know to our patients. We learned how to problem solve, adapt when things change, and discover unknown answers on our own. Now, that’s not to say this was an easy process. The struggles and the mistakes we made in the clinic only made us better future physical therapists. But the best part about the clinical rotations is that they are the perfect place to make mistakes and learn from them. One of my favorite quotes I discovered online, “Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before” and I couldn’t agree more.
Getting into the clinic gives you the opportunity to foster relationships with patients, physical therapists, and staff members that only strengthens your professional presence. I had the opportunity to work with the same patients over the course of the entire clinical who ended up feeling like family to me. Although it was difficult to leave, I know that I had a small part in their recovery process by building trust and respect. I also had the opportunity to develop friendships with everyone on staff and have resources within the physical therapy community that extends far past the end date of the rotation.
It’s expected that you will learn tons of new information in the classroom during PT school, but the new skills and techniques that you learn from your clinical instructor (supervising physical therapist) and other therapists on staff is just as valuable. I had the opportunity to learn tons of new exercises, manual techniques and types of interventions that are used in the clinic. It would be nice if I could learn every single thing in the classroom, but one of the coolest parts about physical therapists is their creativity when it comes to treatment. Each therapist offered a unique perspective and gave me new tools to use for my future patients.
While there are many more valuable lessons learned in the clinic, I like to keep these blog posts brief enough to digest. On Monday my class had the first day of our neuro module! The next 4 months will be dedicated to understanding the neuroanatomy, neurological disease processes and the implications for physical therapy. But the best part is I get to spend the spring and summer with my classmates. After 3 months apart from one another, we are so excited to be back and spending time together. Physical therapy school may only be for a few years, but these friendships are for a lifetime.
Until next time!