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Alphabet Soup

It’s crazy to think that my classmates and I are already three months into the Elon DPT program. Just a few weeks ago, we walked into the Francis Center unsure of where the nearest restroom was, exchanging awkward glances with unfamiliar faces, and nervously awaiting the hard work to come. Now, deep into our second module, we are gaining confidence as we breeze through bed mobility and flow through evaluation interviews like pros. It’s been a fun experience growing and learning with a group of people who continually support one another through new and exciting challenges.

Our professors fondly refer to much of our coursework as “alphabet soup.” Whether it’s learning neurotransmitters in Physiology, documentation abbreviations in PT Science II or memorizing the route of the brachial plexus in Anatomy, it can often appear as a cryptic, secret code. When that secret code evolves into a mastered language, incredible things begin to happen in the classroom.

One of the new challenges that many of the first-year DPT students face is the anatomy cadaver lab. We are extremely fortunate that these selfless individuals have donated their bodies for the betterment of our education. It’s impossible to describe the overwhelming gratitude that my classmates and I feel each day that we step into the lab to begin our independent discoveries. Our anatomy professor, Dr. Cope, has spearheaded an anatomical gift program at Elon that has given new meaning and respect to the act of anatomical donation. Last Friday, Elon hosted a signing ceremony to honor the individuals who have made the noble decision to donate their bodies to our university. Listening to the future educators share their life stories and experiences that led them to this program helped solidify the importance of human connection within the cadaver lab. We are so grateful that Elon has allowed us to have these wonderful and impactful opportunities. You can learn more about the Anatomical Gift Program here: https://www.elon.edu/u/academics/health-sciences/anatomical-gift/

While the anatomy lab can be an obstacle, both emotionally and technically, it is the glue that binds the textbooks and the lectures together. The maze of muscles and nerves can seem undecipherable and admittedly evolves into the dreaded “alphabet soup.” But beautiful things seem to happen when our lab groups work together and formulate an anatomy language. This week, we had the unique chance to see the human brain and heart for the very first time. My classmate Kahli said it best, “Right within the palms of my hands sat decades of knowledge, memories and life. To see the complexity of our anatomy first hand, to uncover the mechanics behind each movement and learn about someone’s life beyond what their own eyes could ever see, has been an experience beyond the pages of any textbook.”

The class of 2019 has survived their first week of midterms!!! (And it only took a few comfort pizzas to get us there…or was that just me?). We have already learned an immense amount of knowledge in such a short amount of time. While the days can be long, we can see how this program has transformed the second and third year students into confident and prepared professionals. One day we will make it there, even if it means digesting a lot of alphabet soup.

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.

 

 

 

 

Finally

Finally. After 15 months of anticipation, it was finally time to start the PT program at Elon. As I walked through the doors to orientation, I had no idea what to expect. Forty-six new faces filled my view as I hobbled my way to my assigned table. The strange mix of excitement, anxiety, fear and pure joy made my heart jump. While it was impossible to focus on the new introductions and informative sessions, I could tell this was the beginning of an incredible 3 years.

 Hi everyone! My name is Kailey and I just began my first year in Elon’s DPT program. I wanted to start my blog posts by giving you my first impressions as I acclimate to this new adventure. It has been an enormous amount to take in, but time is already flying by. Here are the incredible things I’ve noticed about our program in 3 short weeks:

 1.     My classmates are the BOMB (the good kind). I don’t know how we got so lucky, but each of us brings a unique perspective that transforms and builds our group dynamic. We have already begun to share learning methods and study materials because we care about each other’s success. It’s comforting to be surrounded by constant support when we are in such a new environment.

2.     It’s no wonder the class is a great group of people because our professors are outstanding! They are passionate and engaging with each passing minute, and inspire us to be the best therapists we can be. All of our professors have acquired special certifications or have conducted impactful research. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to learn from their experiences.

3.     Elon offers so many opportunities to get involved. Whether you are keen on leadership positions or you enjoy volunteering in your community, Elon encourages activities outside of the classroom. All of the first years have already gotten involved in our pro-bono physical therapy clinic called the HOPE clinic. It gives students the opportunity to utilize the skills they learn in didactic sessions and apply them in a real-life clinical setting under the supervision of a PT. These experiences allow us to expand our life skills and become well-rounded health care providers.

 While I could write an entire novel on our first impressions, I know there is still so much more to discover. One thing is absolutely certain: all of us are eager to learn and excited to join this promising profession. I hope you will enjoy following along with me on this journey! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you might have. Until next time, cheers to the next 3 years!

Many Thanks!

Well, it’s official! On December 11th, the DPT class of 2016 became Doctors! And maaaaan does that have a sweet ring to it. In the weeks since graduation, I’ve been reflecting a lot on these past three years. Some of the questions I’ve been asking myself: 1. How in the world did 2014-2016 go by so fast? 2. How did we learn SO MUCH in so short a time? 3. Most importantly, how in the heck did the guys not win an intramural championship!? As I’ve pondered all of these questions and reflected on these past three years in general, one particular theme keeps coming up over and over, i.e. thankfulness (OK maybe I’m not so thankful about the lack of intramural hardware, but I am thankful that we had so much fun trying!). I have been so incredibly blessed over these past three years in so many ways, and so this final blog post (bittersweet!!) will be focused on thanking those who have helped me reach my goal of becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

  1. First and foremost, I have to thank God. He clearly and lovingly orchestrated each step along the way during this journey, and I am thankful that I will be able to love others as he has loved me, through my work.
  2. To my wife and family, thank you for believing in me always, and thank you for your never-ending and unconditional encouragement, love and patience.
  3. A huge thanks to each of my professors and the entire Department of Physical Therapy Education at Elon. You have all been and will always be mentors to me, and I can’t thank you enough for how you have invested in me and helped me grow so much over these three years. It’s abundantly clear that each of you cares tremendously about your students and the profession of physical therapy!
  4. To my classmates, thank YOU! I mean it 100 percent when I say that you have all become like family to me, and I look forward to continuing to grow with each of you and to making a big impact on the world of physical therapy. Thanks for all of the laughs, the support and the love. I miss each of tremendously already!
  5. Many, many, MANY thanks to each patient that I have treated as a student. The lessons that you have taught me, the ways you have encouraged me, and the memories that we made together are more precious to me than you will ever know. I love physical therapy because of YOU!
  6. Last but not least, a big thanks to you the reader. I hope the posts I’ve had the honor of writing over these past three years have proved helpful to you in at least some small way. If my corny jokes haven’t made you laugh at least once or twice, then I hope you have learned more about physical therapy at Elon University and the profession of PT in general!

It has truly been a great honor and pleasure writing for this blog, and I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to share how the PT program here at Elon has prepared me well to venture into the profession that I love so much.

Many thanks,

Luke Boyd

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!

Behind the Scenes Physical Therapy

If you’re a super nerd like me, then all I have to do is mention the original Transformers cartoon and in your head you’re already signing “Transformers, more than meets the eye.” Now before we get into a discussion about whether you’d replace the manufacturer’s emblem on your car with either an Autobot or Decepticon logo, let’s recognize that we could apply that same catchy phrase to the profession of Physical Therapy (HUGE nerdy segue alert!). From the outside, Physical Therapy may just look like taking patients through exercises, mobilizing joints, training people on three vs. four point gaits, and powering through your required documentation. Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll find that there really is more to being a PT than what meets the eye.

One of my biggest realizations on this final clinical rotation has been that we do so much more than just deliver examination and interventions services. What people on the outside may not realize is that we are also educators and advocates. In addition, we have the professional responsibility to be movers and shakers in the world of health care. On top of carrying out the more typically recognized PT duties of performing an examination and delivering subsequent interventions, on this clinical, I’ve also coordinated wellness services for patients, advocated for surgical interventions for particular individuals, and provided ergonomic education and transfer training for hospital employees. At times, all of these different hats that I wear during a given day can feel a little overwhelming. However, when I leave at the end of the day, I’m always thankful that these “behind the scenes” roles that I play are ultimately geared towards bringing about even greater positive outcomes in the lives of others. Our profession is incredibly rich and full of new opportunities every single day, and I am beyond excited to graduate in two short months so that I can continue to expand on these roles and help more and more people, both in my own practice setting and throughout the health care landscape.

Oh and by the way, I’d totally be an Autobot.