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The Final Countdown

Now that you’ve read the title and have Europe’s famous one-hit wonder stuck in your head, let’s take some time to celebrate that the class of 2016 has made it to our final year of PT school! As we’ve been welcoming in the newest class of first year students over the past month, I’ve found myself having quite a hard time believing that it’s been a full two years since we were in their shoes. We certainly have learned a ton over that time period and have moved a lot closer to being full-fledged PT’s!

Even though we’re much closer to our dream of being licensed PT’s, this current module (module IX) has reminded me many times that there is still much to be learned. From learning what different EKG signals mean to determining the best fit for a patient needing a prosthesis, we have continued to gain valuable knowledge that will help us as we move closer to becoming practicing and critically-thinking clinicians. Also, aside from the in-school learning, I’ve also been listening to a lot of PT podcasts and reading a lot of PT-related literature (more to come on this next month!). While sometimes it can seem a little overwhelming to think about how much there is left to learn outside of our three years of PT school, I find it more exciting than anything, because it means I get to experience the blessing of having a career that will challenge me in fresh and exciting ways for years to come.

Here’s to what I know will be a great last year!

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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!

DPT Pro Tips

Happy Holidays, folks!

The DPT Class of 2017’s much needed week-long Thanksgiving Break has come to an end. After nearly 16 weeks of the Ortho Module, the break was much needed to reenergize the class for a busy two weeks before Christmas Break! It is hard to believe that in only two weeks we will be able to call ourselves “second years.” Yay!

As my class becomes second year students, a new class will be coming in January! As I reflect on this busy year, here are some tips that I have for incoming Elon DPT students, or any DPT student I suppose! NOTE: These are much easier said than done.

  • Find YOUR best way to study – Everyone studies differently. Some people prefer to study alone, while others prefer to study in groups. Some study best at the Francis Center, while others thrive in busy coffee shops, or at home. Some classmates will study for an exam for two hours, while some will study 20 hours. Whether you rewrite the material, talk it out or type up study guides, find the way you learn best and be content with it. Don’t let others judge you for how you study best, because everyone is different. You do you!
  • Get to know your classmates and professors – You spend a lot of time with these people, so make the most of it! Everyone in our class comes from different backgrounds and it has been lovely getting to know everyone. All the professors at Elon are pretty unique too. They all have awesome nerdy quirks about them, which makes them so likable! Lately on Fridays at lunch, our class has been tailgating by the parking lot. People have been bringing food, a grill, and lawn games and we have been having a great time together outdoors. Dr. Freund even brought out her volleyball net!
  • Pace yourself and stay ahead – The classes are difficult and move at a rapid pace. They are manageable if you stay on top of the material and don’t cram until the night before. I remember in undergrad when I could cram the night before and feel comfortable going into a test. Those days are gone. Stay on top of things as best as you can, especially during the second half of your first year when Ortho starts in August! You can do it!
  • Thoroughly enjoy breaks – During your first year at Elon there are seven full weeks of break. Seven full weeks! One for spring break, two for summer, one for Thanksgiving, and three for Christmas. There are also some periodic long weekends. That’s a generous number of breaks! Enjoy that time with family and friends doing fun things.
  • Make time to do things you enjoy – Even if it isn’t during a break, enjoy fun things! Call or Facetime friends and family, workout, pop on some Netflix, bake, cook, hike, rock climb, kayak, go for a walk or run, or get a manicure or pedicure. The options are endless. Make time in your schedule to do fun things.
  • Stop complaining – I have definitely learned this the hard way. Complaining doesn’t really get you anywhere; it just buries you into a deeper hole of unproductivity. Stay positive and optimistic even when you don’t think you can do it anymore. Listen to Nike, “just do it!” This is much easier said than done!
  • Stay healthy – It’s alright to have your go-to study snack *ahem* Sour Patch Kids *ahem*, but make time to stay active and eat well.
  • Forget about your grades – Remember that time when it seemed easy to get an “A”? It isn’t as easy as it used to be. It is tempting to check Moodle frequently to see if you are staying at an “A” average, but having those expectations is detrimental to your mental health. The professors are challenging, and are already prepping you for the licensure exam. Try your best, but don’t expect an easy “A.”
  • Share your study guides – Study guides are great way to review material and you can definitely help classmates out by sharing them via Facebook or email. You are not competing with your classmates anymore, so help a brother or sister out!
  • Practice what you learn in lab – Be sure to practice different patient scenarios so that you are ready for the clinic. Knowing all the information from the book is one thing. You have to be able to put it all together in the clinic if you want to have the best patient outcomes!
  • Research opportunities are what you make of them – Students must participate in a research project during their first year with a faculty member. While some enjoy research, for others it’s not really their thing. Many groups will be taking their research to different conferences, while some will be done with their research experience after their first year. Doing research can be time-consuming and frustrating because a lot of times things don’t go the way you intend, but that’s research! Think critically and make the most of it.

 

If I could sum up everything I just said I would say that PT school is all about balance. Treat PT school like a job, and don’t let it consume you. Stay healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.

I hope that these tips don’t scare you, but instead help you prepare for the busy and fun year ahead of you! I have to tell you that I’m guilty of not following my own tips during my first year. They are a lot harder to follow than what you think. Hopefully I’ll follow them a little better during my second year, and you can get it right the first time.

Good luck, first years! Welcome to the Elon family!

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A Season of Thanks, A Lifetime of Thankfulness

On Thursday, all across America, families and loved ones came together to eat copious calories, watch football and hopefully spend some time reflecting on the things for which we can offer our thanks. My use of the word “thanks” there is 100 percent intentional because I’ve come to realize over the years that there is a difference between “giving thanks” and thankfulness. “Giving thanks” is something that I see as temporary and a behavior that we’re especially prone to do this time of year. While that is CERTAINLY not a bad thing, I’m working hard in my life to maintain the more permanent state of “giving thanks,” i.e. thankfulness. Thankfulness, I believe, is more of an attitude and a state of mind rather than a behavior, and I think it has profound implications for how we live our lives and for helping us live out our lives with joy.

Wow….ok now that I’m done waxing philosophical, I’d like to take this time to say that in my striving (yes, it takes work to maintain this attitude!) to maintain an attitude of thankfulness, I am reminded how much I love physical therapy and how grateful I am that I get to spend a lifetime making a positive difference in the lives of others. In addition, I’m grateful for the Department of Physical Therapy Education at Elon University and for the ways that our faculty pours into our lives and education. And last but not least, I’m grateful for the influence that my crazy awesome (seriously, they’re both crazy and awesome) classmates have had on my life over these two short years. So class of 2016, as we move toward our last year, let’s both give thanks and put on an attitude of thankfulness as we move closer towards the day where we can write DPT after our names and start doing what we love most!

Looking Back and Thinking Ahead

Currently I am sitting lakeside at a cottage in Michigan eating a fresh-baked cookie and a big ol’ glass of lemonade. Life couldn’t be better. The first-year PT students just finished up Module III and are now on a well-deserved two-week break. The classes during Module III were challenging, yet they were very enjoyable and hands-on. We are feeling more and more like physical therapists everyday!

Here are some brief highlights of what we learned in a couple of classes this past module:

ANATOMY: We just finished up seven months of anatomy lecture and lab. I looked forward to most every day spent with Dr. Cope, Dr. Little and Dr. Zimmerman. Since memorizing muscles origins, insertions, innervations, and attachments can be somewhat boring, we spent time during lecture having a competition of painting muscles onto each other. For being “movement scientists” we have a pretty artistic bunch! At the end of the module, we said goodbye to our donors and honored them in a memorial service at the Sacred Space on Elon’s Campus. It is amazing how much I learned from someone I never met. At first I was a little skeptical about human dissection, but it was a unique and fulfilling experience that I will never forget. When I am in the clinic and have a patient who has had a rotator cuff repair, I will envision my donor’s shoulder and all of its intricacies in order to help my patient recover better and faster.

HUMAN MOTOR DEVELOPMENT: We were able to get out of the classroom for much of the part of Human Motor Development this semester by taking part in a Baby Lab, Big Kids Lab and getting outside to teach middle school children about physical activity. Cute little babies came to our classrooms and we were able to analyze their reflexes and motor development. During Big Kids Lab children ages 3-6 came and we played games, and ran and jumped around with them, all the while analyzing their strength, gait and physical abilities. Getting kids entertained and doing what you want them to do can be pretty difficult, so it taught us that we have to be creative and innovative when working with children.

PT SCIENCE III: In PT Science III, we learned all there is to know about goniometry (measuring joint range of motion) and manual muscle testing (MMT which is testing and grading strength of isolated muscle/muscle groups). Who knew there was so much to know about measuring joint angles?! For the final part of the course we had to perform a full body manual muscle test. When it came to learning MMT, I really noticed how our class comes together and supports one another. Some of the hands-on stuff is a lot for the mind to grasp during two hours in the lab, but when 46 minds come together – magic happens!

While it is nice to relaxing back home, I have been having the time of my life back in North Carolina. Our class still finds time to have fun on the weekends. We hang out and celebrate birthdays poolside. Two of our classmates are phenomenal and bring treats for every birthday (let me tell you, that’s A LOT of treats). Going to movies and getting burritos the size of your arm at a local burrito joint is always a good time too. To work off those extra calories, people run 5Ks and go kayaking together. If you want to be a little lazier down a river, you can just go tubing down the river. The possibilities are endless when you have free time in PT school… and there is never a dull moment with the 46 of us together!

“Hey Mom, please pass the mobilizations, errr I mean stuffing.”

At long last, Thanksgiving break is here!! As we approach the end of the infamous Module IV, I think I speak for all my classmates when I say that this break is well placed and much needed. However, as the title might suggest, PT is still on the brain, and we’ve got a lot left to study before we finish up and head out for our first clinical. Despite the studying, the hustle and bustle that comes with the end of the module, and the head-spinning thought of us somehow having reached the end of our first year, there is much to be thankful for! So without further ado and in honor of Thanksgiving, I present to you the inaugural Elon DPT 2016 list of thankfulness!!

10 Things the Elon DPT Class of 2016 is Thankful For

  1. Soon we get to head out on our first clinical and get a chance to practice our passion!
  2. The Francis Center – it truly is a world class facility
  3. We’ve had the chance to learn from some pretty stellar clinicians during our orthopedic module, and we’re thankful for how they’ve prepared us for our first clinical.
  4. The countless intramural championships that the Elon DPT 2016 ladies have been reeling in (don’t worry gentlemen, we’ll get one soon).
  5. The chance to relax and spend time with family and friends over Christmas Break, before we head out for Clinical Uno.
  6. When we’re done with this module, we’ll be second years!!
  7. In just a few short months, the Francis Center fountain will awake from it’s slumber and signal the onset of the wonderful season of spring.
  8. We’ve all done some pretty awesome research this module, and we’re going to get to share it with each other when we get back from Thanksgiving break.
  9. There’s a new class of first years coming in at the beginning of 2015, and we’re excited to mentor them/show them the ropes!
  10. Time to get sentimental….we’re thankful for each other. We’ve spent A LOT of time with each other during this fourth module, and we’ve grown even closer than we already were. Definitely gonna miss everyone while we’re out on clinicals, but I’ll be excited to hear about all the amazing experiences we’ll no doubt get to have while on clinicals!

Well I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with lots of turkey, football, and therapeutic exercise….uhhh I mean pecan pie. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Earning a Break

We are second years.  How did that happen?

I’m sitting on the couch relaxing in Michigan with a friend from undergrad after going to another friends’ wedding the other night.  As with every break, it feels like it can’t come soon enough but then when it comes, it’s everything you hoped it would be.

The whole last month has been ridiculously busy but we learned so much, we spent time together, and we got prepped and ready for Christmas.

Congratulations on your graduation class of 2011!  And good luck with the move and prepping for school to the class of 2014.