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!

 

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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.

Three Months Down, Three To Go

For the class of 2016, we’re now officially on the back half of our final clinical rotation and that means only a few more months until we get that coveted DPT! By this point, we’re all becoming more independent and starting to really feel like we’re ready to hit the real world on our own. I think I speak for us all when I say that our PT skills have grown immensely since that first day in Module I! But this clinical is about more than just sharpening the PT skills we’ve learned in school; it’s also about honing the intangibles that we can’t necessarily learn or practice in the classroom. For instance, personally I’ve felt over these first three months that I’m constantly learning how to be a better listener (if you think I’m wordy with blogging, just imagine how I am in a conversation =). One intangible that I definitely have down pat is making every patient smile or laugh AT LEAST once during a treatment session (let’s be honest, it’s quite possible that they’re laughing at me, not with me). While I’m certainly thankful for the chance to expand my hands-on PT skills, it’s been the growth of the intangibles that have really made this last clinical so much fun. Three more months, Class of 2016!!!

I’m Hooked

That split second when you pass beneath an overpass during a torrential down pour, although quick, the silence and stillness of the moment is magical; a perfect analogy of our most recent 2-week break.

As we 1st years enter into the much anticipated yet dreaded (due to tales from 2nd and 3rd years) ‘ortho’ module, the rainstorm of knowledge has once again begun. Now, I understand, from an outside perspective, the endless amount of work is seemingly daunting and quite undesirable, but in reality, it is addictive. Within the past week we’ve endured lecture and lab ad nauseam leaving us drained. At the end of each day, with mushy brains, we meander home only to continue our studying or work on our research projects. However, no matter how burnt out you feel lying your head down each night, you wake up with an uncanny motivation to get back and learn more.

Adrenaline in the classroom rarely occurs outside of being called on while daydreaming of the rock star life or hurriedly fumbling to silence a sounding text message. Yet, I’ve felt adrenaline coursing through my system as all the information from the past 8 months begins to mesh together and we start to ‘see’ like a PT. The idea of us becoming ‘movement specialists’ is constantly drilled into our minds and the title is beginning to make sense as our ability to analyze gait and breakdown the movements of the human body is developed.

As the wise words of Lao Tzu state, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” With the first week of ortho under our belt, we have officially taken that first step!

Being a PT Means Being a Student Forever

During this last clinical, I’ve found myself caught in between two mindsets. On the one hand, I find myself very excited to retire the role of student and graduate on to becoming a full-fledged PT. On the other hand, I find myself constantly being made aware of all the things I have yet to learn, and it’s during those times that I realize that in actuality, I’ll be a student forever. A classroom student?? No not necessarily, but a professional student that loves to learn more about how he can treat his patients more effectively? Absolutely! I’m thankful for a profession where I get to learn new things every day all for the sake of making people better!

Putting All the Pieces Together

At long last it has finally arrived! The Elon DPT Class of 2016 is now a little over a month into our final clinical rotation and that means graduation is ever so close! It also means that we’ve reached the point where we get to take all of the didactic knowledge that we’ve soaked up over the past 2.5 years and put it to good use. For me, it’s been pretty amazing to see the growth that I’ve achieved from my very first clinical to this last one. While there is still MUCH to learn and many areas for continued growth, I’ll speak for the class in saying that we are much more confident and feel much more worthy of that oh so coveted license!

In addition to putting together all of our hands-on skills and knowledge, this clinical also affords us an awesome opportunity to build our research skills and our ability to contribute to the knowledge base of the profession at large via a case report. Basically, this involves us gathering data regarding the response to particular intervention strategies that we implement in the treatment of a specific patient. Our profession is constantly evolving, and this case report is a fantastic opportunity to become better equipped to contribute to this growth once we graduate.

Exciting and busy times for sure for the Class of 2016 during this final clinical! While I know we all certainly miss each other, it will only be a matter of time before we’re reunited to recap our final clinical and then walk across that stage!