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An Ode to Roommates

This week my apartment was extra echoey. It was one of the first times since starting graduate school that I was living on my own. I’ve been very blessed to have wonderful roommates since starting PT school at Elon, and it has made a world of difference. My current roommate (at least as until last week), Shagun, and I met on the first official day of our program—when we happened to sit in the same row. Side note: choose your seats wisely because chances are you’ll be sitting there for the next three years. Anyways, we started studying together and during the unproductive moments (which there were many) we realized how similar we were and became friends and eventually roommates.

IMG_0162Over the last two and a half years, we shared so many experiences together. We discovered our mutually low tolerance to caffeine. We slowly increased our tolerance (and dependence) on caffeine. We watched every Marvel movie, in order. We memorized every muscle in the body. We adventured to the ocean. We cooked (and burned) a variety of dinners. We learned the details of how our muscular/skeletal/cardiovascular/neural system works. We I killed the monster bugs in the apartment. We binged A LOT (arguably too much) of Netflix. We practiced transfers and mobilizations and so many other physical therapy skills.

Having a roommate is great for many obvious reasons like splitting costs and cooking meals together. The latter, being especially important to me because I once accidentally dumped an entire pot of pasta down the drain. But by far, the best part about having a roommate in PT school (especially one that is in the same program as you) is that youIMG_0765.JPG have someone that can 100% relate to you without you having to explain all the details. They understand the stress and pressure of school, because they are going through it too. They help remind you that it is all worth it, because they are passionate about joining the same field that you are. And, perhaps most importantly, they help remind you to take a study break and enjoy life outside of school.

You can definitely make it through PT school without having a roommate, but having one makes the hard days more tolerable and turns the good days into great ones. Even if they are a Bears fan.


April 2018… update from first year class

Hey Everyone!

I am excited to tell you that Finals week has passed! I feel as though I started Module 2 as a pigeon and came out the other side as a fierce hawk. When I first started PT school I was fixated on getting good grades. I wanted all A’s! It was what I was striving for. Now I realize that the grade I get on the final isn’t what is important. What’s important is the knowledge I am gaining. I am supposed to be building my clinical decision making ability. I am supposed to be understanding what muscles work together to create which actions. What nerve gets injured cause what injury to present. These things are important. Not the letter that pops up at the end of the exam.

I’m saying this because I felt a sense of calm going into this past weeks finals. Substantially calmer than how I went into midterms. I was so paranoid that I was going to mess up or that I wasn’t smart enough. This time I felt assured that I was equipped with the proper knowledge to succeed on the exams. I wanted to know what I wasn’t sure of so that I could work on those things. I wanted to see what I got stumbled up or confused about. I wanted to be able to argue a questions correct answer because I was using my newfound clinical judgement skills. This to me shows real growth! I feel as though I have already showed real growth since starting Elon’s DPT program. It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling and I have so much more to learn. It’s impressive what the human brain can do because I have been shoving information into it for so long that you would think it would just pack its bags and leave. But no, it continues doing whatever it is brains do with knowledge. I’ll probably be learning exactly what brains do with information in my second year.

Now that we have discussed the school stuff lets talk about all the other things that make grad school awesome! The month of April was one crazy ride! There was so much to do. Here is just a few things that happed:

Maker Hub:

Elon has this awesome place on campus called the Maker Hub. It’s basically a woodworking, 3D printing, painting, laser engraving studio. They teach you how to use the various machines and tools and you are set to go. I took two classes with them this month and it was seriously awesome. Sometimes doing something that isn’t PT related is really nice. I also ran into one of the professors that I previously had there, which was a neat surprise.

Guest Speakers:

The DPT program is hiring a new staff member and they have been doing interviews lately. They do a really good job of including the students in this whole process which makes you feel like your opinion is truly valued. The interviewing professor gives a presentation about a topic of their choosing to anyone in the program. It’s very interesting to see what they come in to discuss because the topics are generally groundbreaking research that is taking place. Not only did I enjoy being a part of the hiring process by giving feedback on the presentation, but I also liked that I learned something completely new.

National Advocacy Dinner:

This was an event that in essence talked about advocating for the PT profession and the legislative process on the state and federal level. Me and a few others from the cohort went to this together. It was a bit of a drive as it was hosted at UNC, but it was so worth it. In my personal opinion, it is these events that make the full grad school experience. I got a chance to socialize with other students in different programs nearby. I got to know my fellow peers better and learn how they felt about the issues facing this career field. There was a panel of professionals in the area that spoke. they gave different sides to the varying issues that the PT profession is trying to get legislation on. It was interesting to hear the different areas where improvements could be made. I don’t think about these things on a daily basis, but they matter because this is my chosen career and I want it to be the best that it can be. Okay I’ll calm down now, but seriously when these events come up you should go to them!


WE GOT OUR RESEARCH TOPICS!!! I am so excited to start working on the research! I never got the chance to work on research in undergrad so I am looking forward to this experience immensely. What could be cooler than looking into topics that are plaguing the populations that you want to work with? The answer is nothing could be cooler. I have so much to learn and work on, but that’s the whole point of why I’m here. Bring it on.

Hope you all are having an awesome time reading this blog!

Combined Sections Meeting (CSM)

CSM 1Last month, 18 of my classmates and I went to New Orleans for the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) to present our research. During our first year here at Elon we worked on a research project as part of our curriculum. Many of us chose to work with a professor or group of professors on a project that they were starting or had already started and some students designed their own project. I worked with two professors and two of my classmates on a project that investigated the use of the Lower Quarter Y Balance Test in women ages 50-79. Through the course of our curriculum we developed a research plan, collected data, analyzed data and reported our findings. Many of us chose to continue with the research and develop abstracts to submit to national conferences or write manuscripts with our professors. CSM is the national conference that the APTA puts on each year to promote continue education, present new and updated research and further develop the profession of physical therapy.

So what was it like, you ask?

Well, most of us arrived to New Orleans a day before the conference officially started and did some exporting before the conference began. We filled the day with beignets, people watching, delicious food, streetcar rides, and enjoying the culture of New Orleans.  That night I went to the “opening ceremonies” of CSM, where we got to listen to the president of the APTA and celebrate the physical therapists that earned their specialty certifications this year. The celebration continued with delicious appetizers and desserts (pro tip: there is a LOT of free and delicious food at national conferences…you just have to know where to look).

CSM2The next three days consisted of the actual conference. At the conference there are MANY lectures given by physical therapists and researchers across the country. These lectures were in all of the different areas of physical therapy practice: Neurologic PT, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics, Sports PT etc. Because I want to work with a Neuro population, I primarily attended these sessions which allowed me to learn about new research that was being done and think about how I could apply this information on my final clinical and ultimately when I am working as a PT.

Each day of the conference there was a section where all the posters that were accepted were presented. This is where I (and my classmates) presented our research. In the simplest version, I made an abstract and a poster that depicted our data, the results and why it would be important for us as physical therapists. I got to talk with many clinicians and students about what we did and how it could be useful to them in their practice. It was a great experience to participate in and see 2 and 1/2 years worth of work come to fruition.

Overall, it was great to be in place with over 17,000 physical therapists who are excited and contributing to our (future) profession. It was an energizing experience as I near my final clinical rotation.

Rediscovering the Passion – Clinical Rotations

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?

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!


Surviving ortho 2K17

We are in the home stretch of our ortho module. So you may be asking what is ortho?

Ortho is the nickname for our courses titled “Biomechanics and Musculoskeletal Dysfunction.” At Elon, we spend the first three modules solidifying the basics. Before we can diagnose and treat our patients, we have to be confident in our understanding of sciences, such as anatomy and physiology, as well as the basics of patient care in physical therapy. We learned the skills of documentation and interviewing, and focused on easing ourselves in to hands-on treatment style. After we learned new skills and perfected old ones, we were ready to become clinical investigators and enter the timeline of rehab.

Now, the ortho module is unlike any schedule we have experienced before. The semester is separated into three, six-week sections focused on one region at a time: spine, lower extremity and upper extremity. The majority of our day alternates between lecture and lab where we learn the techniques and practice on our classmates. When we aren’t learning about ortho, we are supplementing our knowledge with skills in clinical imaging and pharmacology. These classes give us the ability to apply another element of critical thinking to our patients and cases.

Let me tell you, I am out of breath just typing all of that out! Ortho is absolutely a marathon, not a sprint. My classmates have adopted the phrase “Surviving Ortho 2K17” because each day is a grind. But the best part is that we love every minute of what we do. It’s incredible how my classmates and I can transform as clinicians in just a few short weeks. Every day we get another step closer to becoming skilled and knowledgeable professionals who will one day help treat thousands of patients. That statement becomes a little closer to reality every day.

In a month, my classmates and I will be stepping into our first clinical rotation. These ortho courses are the bread and butter of physical therapy that lay the foundation for the rest of our professional lives. At times it can be tough and exhausting, but the motivation to continue refuels every time a concept clicks. And those moments happen. They happen so often. It feels like our passion for this field will never fade. (That might just be the thought of a first-year.)

I had the opportunity to attend the North Carolina Physical Therapy Association annual conference in October with my fellow classmates and professors. There were many representatives from various clinics and companies who employ physical therapists all over the country. When they would ask where we attended school, our responses were met with overwhelming excitement. The combination of our growing confidence in our ortho courses and the positive reputation of our program only confirms how prepared we will be for our first clinical rotation. Let the countdown to January begin!

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.

A Day in the Life of a PT Student

Hey everyone! I can’t believe how long it has been since my last blog post. Time around here seems to be a constant contradiction– it speeds by while also creeping slowly. Before I began PT school, I always wondered what the day-to-day schedule would be like. Would I have any time to enjoy my favorite Netflix shows? Would my mom wonder if I was still functioning? Well, I thought it would be nice to give you all a play-by-play! Call it a day in the life of a first-year PT student. (Let’s say it’s one of my ultra-productive, Wonder Woman kind of days).

The alarm clock blares at 6 a.m. and I jump out of bed, resisting the urge to hit snooze. Waking up early is absolutely not a requirement for PT school, but I always loved the feeling of being accomplished before noon. My early-bird roommate has already hit the brew button and the aroma of coffee fills the living room. After chugging a glass of creamer drenched coffee, I head to the gym with the hope that my eyes are open enough to see the treadmill. Working out at 6:30 a.m. isn’t easy, but once you’re in the routine it gets pretty addictive. An hour later and drenched in sweat, I race back home to prepare for the day.

Class begins at 9 a.m. every morning allowing me plenty of time to get everything prepped for school. I pack up my backpack, make my breakfast and lunch (on a good day), make my bed and lock up the house. Living in a house with two of my classmates a short 5-minute drive away from the Francis Center is the greatest. While I like to pretend that my ducks are always in a row, it doesn’t hurt to have two friends giving me gentle reminders about school commitments when I need them (thanks Lauren and Allison!!).

I settle in to my seat in the third row and open up the PowerPoint of the day. Depending on the day our schedule can change. Sometimes we have one class for three hours and sometimes the morning is split between multiple courses. The good news is that our professors give us 10 minute breaks every 50 minutes. While that doesn’t sound like much, it feels amazing to get up and stretch your legs after sitting. I mean, would we be future PTs if we didn’t encourage that kind of behavior?

Our lunch hour arrives at noon and we each spend it differently. Occasionally, I’ll have different meetings, discussing clinicals with Dr. Herbert or my research project with Dr. Johansson. Many of my classmates use their lunch hour to study for upcoming quizzes or exams. On a beautiful day (and a day that may have started with a late morning), I may take my lunch hour to go on a run around our beautiful campus. Whatever you choose to do, our lunch break is a time to reset before our afternoon begins. The third years had a fun tradition of holding a cookout in the yard every Friday and everyone was invited.

The afternoon alternates between more lecture and lab days. Our lab days are great because we get to take the skills we learn in the classroom and apply them in a real setting. Today, we spent the first half of the afternoon in the anatomy lab working on our lower leg dissections. This week was particularly exciting because we had a teach-and-share swap with the PA students. While the PA students share the Francis Center with us, these moments of interdisciplinary work open our eyes to many different perspectives in the health care world. It helps to simulate a real-world experience of collaborating with professionals from other areas. It is always incredible to see how we can learn the same topic from a novel point of view.

After anatomy lab, we head to our practical lab for PT Science III where we learn the proper techniques for muscle testing. Today, Dr. Johansson and Dr. Murphy instructed us in evaluating strength in many motions of the arms and legs. While physical therapy can vary depending on your diagnostic methods, Manual Muscle Testing (MMT) is unique in that it is conducted the same way in every clinic. It’s pretty cool to think that every person who has learned physical therapy in the U.S. has been taught exactly what we are learning now. This is just one step of our initiation into the community of physical therapy.

Our classes wrap up by 5 p.m. and I head back home. The rest of the night can vary depending on the upcoming days. Today, I spent the afternoon analyzing some data to submit our research study for a conference. Now, that may not sound like fun to some, but I am so excited for this opportunity. Although that was the primary focus today, data analysis and research studies are not always the highlight of the afternoons. Some days I come home and binge on “Jane the Virgin” – my latest Netflix obsession – before reviewing lecture material. Some days I immediately hit the books and waste no time preparing for the school assignments to come. Every night consists of some sort of work to keep up with school, and some nights are busier than others. The reality is that while this PT program can be intense and it’s important to keep up with the work, you also need to find ways to keep your sanity. Whether that’s cooking an incredible dinner, walking around the lake on campus, or watching reruns of “Friends” on TV, the things you enjoy are still an important part of PT school.

Around 10 p.m. I hit the hay because, as my mom would say, that’s when I turn into a pumpkin. If you’re someone who enjoys late nights and late morning wake up calls – do not fret! I have classmates who make that lifestyle work as well. The most important thing to know is PT school is like a full-time job, but just like a job you have time for your personal life as well. The chance to learn the material that you’re interested in and pursue your dream career is the constant motivational force that makes the 9 to 5 more bearable. And in just two and a half short years, my classmates and I will finally earn that DPT we are so excited for. That makes everything worth it!