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The Final Year

Hi everyone! For those of you who may be hoping to get a broad picture of life in PT school, I’ve decided to take this blog post to explain your final year in Elon’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.

The third and final year is an exciting time that puts the icing on the cake of your foundational studies. By this time, you have had plenty of clinical experience to solidify your knowledge of the fundamentals of physical therapy. When we all reconvene after our 2nd year clinicals, we dive into supplementary topics that deal with special populations such as wound care, amputees, geriatrics and pediatrics. Our professors work extremely hard to find specific opportunities for us to work directly with clients from the community to practice our hands on skills. We also take this time to share our stories with each other and expand our knowledge base to improve our investigative skills. We often discuss what takes a physical therapist from novice to expert, and it involves the culmination of experiences to sharpen your skills. The more we share with each other, the better we ultimately become. We learn from each others mistakes and help build a framework for future patient care.

After we finish our required coursework, we enter a module (semester) called “selectives”. When I was applying to PT school, this was something I found unique about Elon’s program. For 6 weeks, you have the opportunity to select one course of special interest. These options include orthopedics, neurological populations, pediatrics, research, independent study and global learning opportunities. While our program ensures that we graduate as “generalists” with the ability to work in any setting, it allows students to pursue their specific interests. As much as I love my two baby nieces, I know I’m not exactly cut out for pediatric physical therapy. Even though that isn’t my career path, some of my classmates are absolutely incredible with kids and I’m glad they have the chance to investigate further. As for me, I’ll be headed to Brussels, Belgium for my 2nd GLO experience! I have always been passionate about interacting and learning from other cultures, so I am thrilled to spend 6 weeks learning from PTs and Professors in Europe.

When we finish our selectives module, that completes our didactic (classroom) education at Elon. We then head out for our final 6 months of clinical to really fine tune our hands on skills. While this is an exciting time, my classmates and I will be scattered around the United States. We will not reunite until our final week of boards preparation before graduation, and I’m sure I will miss the incredible friends that I have made.

Looking back, I thought that graduate school would last forever. Three months into 2019, it has flown by faster than I could imagine. I’m excited to start my career and see where the wind takes me! No matter where I go, I will always have Elon to thank.


First clinical rotation is in the books!

Hello Everyone,

Wow does time fly by. I have officially been in my 2nd year of PT school since January. Today was the first day back on campus and back to the didactic portion of our curriculum. I am excited to be back from my first clinical rotation. This rotation was in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. Everyone went to different clinics and had a wide range of experiences. It is very interesting to get back and hear from everyone about what their clinical was like. I am going to devote this post to discussing my clinical experience and some of the snippets of what other classmates have told me about their clinicals.

Before the clinical even begins it feels a bit stressful. You have a bunch of paperwork to fill out and you have to make sure all your immunizations are up to date. You might have to get a background check or a drug test depending on what your site requires. It feels like a mad scramble to get everything done, but you get it done and keep on chugging along. Then the nerves kick in. You start to worry that you aren’t prepared. That you don’t actually know anything and will make a giant fool out of yourself when you get there. That your CI is going to dislike you or quiz you all the time. All this worrying is for not. It’s natural and I doubt that me saying not to worry will help in any way, but really don’t worry. Everyone tells you that you actually know way more than you think that you do and it’s absolutely true. Elon does a wonderful job at giving you a very solid anatomical and orthopedic foundation. Your clinical is meant to be a learning experience and if you go in with a positive attitude and a desire to learn it should go well.

My clinical was amazing. I had a great CI who was very welcoming. I felt as though I could ask any questions that came to my mind. I felt free to ask what the thought process was behind doing one treatment or intervention over another. I didn’t feel as though I was thrown out to the sharks and left to sink on my own. I felt as though I was eased into everything and allowed to speak openly when something felt out of my wheelhouse. I got feedback on how to go about conquering these fears or new experiences. It was always about me learning and growing as a student clinician. Also, the patients that you get to interact with make the whole experience amazing. It takes it from cool and educational to life changing. These people will teach you so much about yourself and how much of a positive impact you can truly have in someone else’s life.

I do know that not everyone experienced what I did while I was on my rotation. I ultimately think this is a good thing though. This way when we get together and discuss our experiences we are able to learn so much from what each other went through. Also everyone is different and was seeking something specific from this rotation. There were some students who felt they needed practice with patient interaction, but felt competent with the other aspects. There were some students who felt they needed extra practice at treatment progression. It all varies so much. Some students require lots of feedback and some need to learn from trial and error. No matter what you will learn a ton on these rotations and grow as a person and as a student PT.

I also chose a clinical site in another state where I knew no one and had never been to before. I did my clinical in Birmingham, AL and had just the best time. I know there were lots of students who didn’t want to leave the state or travel somewhere they had no ties, but I think it is a really great opportunity to spread your wings and try something different. I would have never have thought I would enjoy living in Birmingham, but now I could truly see myself moving there after PT school to work and live. I think that sometimes going outside your comfort zone and going somewhere new can be intimidating, but ultimately it can really pay off in the end.

All in all, clinicals are such an incredible experience. I wish I had spent less time being nervous and more time being excited for mine!

Until next time,

Raina Stevens

Savor The Moment

I have a confession to make. Ever since I stepped foot in the clinic, I was ready to graduate. As much as I tried to engage during class and completely dissolve myself in the content, the patient interaction and humbling application of knowledge is intoxicating. At my second clinical rotation, I remember waking up each day excited to go to the skilled nursing facility. It was the moment I knew without a doubt that I was meant to be a physical therapist. And I couldn’t wait to have the opportunity to work each and every day.


But as February begins, so does the reality that my classmates and I only have 2.5 months together as a whole. Come mid-April, we will all split up for our Selectives module. While we are thrilled for the opportunity to dive deeper into special topics, explore new research or travel abroad, the temporary environment that we have become so comfortable in is beginning to expire. Once Selectives are over, we all venture out to our final 6-month clinical placements.


Arriving at PT school, I expected to become friends with my classmates, but I never realized the lasting impact they could have on my life in 2.5 short years. We have celebrated in each others highest moments including engagements, weddings, and even the birth of a child. We have supported each other through some of life’s most challenging obstacles. We have commiserated in the lows and relished in each others successes. After spending countless hours together, we have come to know the sound of each person’s laugh and the intricacies of their guilty pleasures. These life-long friendships have such a profound respect that is intertwined with the passion for our career. It’s hard to imagine that in a year we won’t see the same 46 faces every weekday at 9am.


The more I have thought about the limited time I have left with these amazing people, the more important it has become to truly savor the moment. Instead of dreading the longer days of lecture, I look around the room and I appreciate the company around me. In these short 2+ years, my classmates have transformed into incredible clinicians, and I can’t wait to see the amount of success they achieve in their lifetime. I know I will be cheering them on throughout the way.


I have the rest of my life to be a physical therapist, but only a few months left as a DPT student. Savor every moment. It flies by faster than you know.

National Student Conclave

Hello everyone,

This post is basically going to be all about the National Student Conclave. I recently attended and it was a wonderful experience. It was hosted in Rhode Island, so it was a little far away, but totally worth the long drive. Five Elon students attended it in total. A lot of really exciting things happened while we were there. I’m going to try and just talk about my top 5 favorite moments to keep things simplified.

  1. Educational break out sessions
  2. PT Day of Service
  3. Student Assembly Board of Directors
  4. Exhibit Hall
  5. PT Pub Nights

DPTblog1Educational Break Out Sessions

These were the lectures that were given by a plethora of different presenters. Each day you had an option of a few different lectures to go to. They covered a bunch of different topics. Everything from residency programs to travel PT to bridging the gap between orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation. This really allows for anyone who attends to get something valuable out of these lectures. They are my absolute favorite part of attending conferences. I have heard some amazing talks that got me thinking in ways that I wouldn’t normally. It is also topics that build on what you learn in class but go that one step further to truer and deeper understanding.


PT Day of Service

This was a real treat!!! It was on Oct. 12th and we all attended a build a hand event. This was so awesome to be a part of. We worked in small groups to build prosthetic hands for people without. They then send them to people with amputations who have been affected by land mines and other hazards in developing countries. The company that was hosting all shared some of their service stories and gave away a special bike for one of the patients that they work with in their clinics. It was a beautiful thing to see everyone come together to do good for others. It left me wanting to do more and trying to figure out a way to utilize being part of Elon to make this happen.


DPTblog2Student Assembly Board of Directors

This is the group that is behind setting up NSC. They are the direct connection between the students and the APTA. During NSC they hold their elections and being able to meet and talk with the candidates was a really great experience. It allows you to feel like you can really get to know who you are voting for and be more behind what they want to do with the association. You can see what is important to them and where their values lie. Also one of our own got elected to be on the Board! That was a true treat to see and be a part of such a big moment for her.


Exhibit Hall

This is where all the loot is. Tons of schools, companies, sections, and a whole host of other people will set up in these exhibit halls. They are there to offer information and give away prizes. They usually have some type of candy, T-shirt, or other items that they give out. It’s super fun and can give you an opportunity to learn a lot about different aspects of the physical therapy profession. I talked to the company that I will have my first clinical at and got to ask them some questions and I now feel like I have a way better idea about who they are. This wouldn’t have been possible had I not gone to the NSC.


PT Pub Nights

Oh what fun! Seriously such a blast! These events are where you get to socialize with the other students in a more laid back less formal setting. It is usually a really fun time. A lot of really great connections get to be made at these events. It allows you to talk to people that have different interest than you, but are still part of the PT profession. It’s also a chance to just let loose with your peers and there’s generally a ton of laughter!


I can not say it enough: GO TO A CONFERENCE! You wont regret it! Budget it in at the beginning of the year! Trust me on this one.




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.