We’re Basically PT’s….sort of

Seems like just yesterday that we were nervously awaiting the start to our first clinical rotation. Fast forward to this first day of November 2015 and we’re now officially finished with three of our four clinicals. And that also means that we have all had the opportunity to experience and treat patients in a number of different kinds of clinical settings.

Honestly, as I think about returning to campus for more didactic material, I’m tempted to just say “Hey, who needs more class!? I mean, we’re basically PT’s now right??” Wrong. While I’m sure that I speak for everyone in saying that we have learned a TON of skills and gained a TON of knowledge during these three clinicals of 2015, we would be doing a disservice to our future patients if we think for a second that we’re above the information that we will continue to learn and absorb back at school. PT is a profession that demands the willingness to learn throughout one’s career, and while I will certainly miss the clinical life, I’m excited for this upcoming third year and the opportunities that it will bring with regards to learning how to more effectively treat my patients.

With all of that said, I hope as well that we will all take the time to reflect on all the amazing things that we’ve learned while on these two neuro clinicals. Personally, I know that I have the tendency to just bounce from one season of life to the next without taking the needed time to sit down and really think about the personal and professional lessons that I’ve learned. If I were to give in to that same tendency during this particular transition period, I would lose what are without a doubt some of the most important life and professional lessons that I have learned up to this point in my life.

So 2016, as we head back to school soon, let’s work hard to hold on to all that we’ve learned over the past 4 months while at the same time being thankful and excited for all the wonderful knowledge and skills that we have yet to learn!


It’s Inevitable: How to Deal with Homesickness

In the midst of a long module of Ortho classes, you could say I’m a little stressed and homesick. Don’t get me wrong, North Carolina is a lovely place to call home, especially with this gorgeous fall weather! But my classmates will tell you that Michigan has a special place in my heart (because half of my wardrobe is Michigan apparel). I especially miss my family in Michigan, but it’s all right because my PT family has my back and has become my second family.

We eat, hang, play, laugh and work together. It’s a beautiful thing.

First of all, we definitely know how to celebrate birthdays. Our president and vice president make sure everyone gets a funny card on their birthday and bring in delicious treats. I have eaten more donuts this year than I have my entire life! One day a classmate got a piñata for her birthday, so naturally Dr. Lawson hung the piñata from a theraband on a crutch and wanted my classmate to strike her piñata with a quad cane. Wish you could have been there to understand the madness that was going on that morning. It was a definitely a memorable day in PT school.

Our class also embraced the fall season with pumpkin carving and every fall treat imaginable. It was a dream! Some people’s pumpkins were works of art. I hadn’t carved a pumpkin since my high school days, so it was fun to get all the guts out and carve. It was definitely a good bonding experience with classmates and a nice time to take out some stress on the pumpkins!

I have also been able to bond with my classmates over intramurals! I participated in volleyball and let’s just say that we DOMINATED. Elon’s DPT students are notorious for winning intramurals so we wanted to make sure to continue the tradition. We were undefeated and got super cool T-shirts! My fellow classmates also won flag football intramurals, too. Again, intramurals are another great way to bond with classmates and take out some stress.

Elon’s Homecoming was last weekend! None of us are alumni of Elon YET, but we decided to join in on the Homecoming festivities. The small town of Elon was booming with returning alumni and parents visiting for the weekend. Elon may not have the most winning football team around, but nevertheless, students and parents enjoyed a crisp, fall, Saturday afternoon of football.

Believe it or not, most all of us know where we will be going for our three eight-week clinicals during our 2nd year. I’ll be in Myrtle Beach during the winter, which will be a nice change from the bitter winters of Michigan. Then I’ll be in Indiana and Illinois for my other clinicals, so it’ll be nice to be a little closer to family during the summer months! I’m excited and a bit nervous to step my foot in the clinic come January! I have learned A LOT this past year so I don’t know if I’ll remember most of it, but hopefully it has all become natural to me. We have had a lot of practice in class and in Elon’s pro-bono clinic, so I am confident it’ll show.

Demographically we are a diverse group of individuals, but we click so well. The love and laughter of my second family helps me get through those tough days when words like “presynaptic adrenergic inhibitors” sound like “skjdflksdsfdeghjosfj.” It will be strange as we part ways for our clinical experiences in January, but it will be great to come back and share our experiences with one another.

Elon DPT Elon DPT Elon DPT Elon DPT

Mobility Experts

Many times throughout my young and fresh PT career, I’ve heard those of us in this wonderful profession referred to as mobility experts. While I’ve certainly experienced and learned what this means during my time in the classroom and during my prior clinicals, it has been this current Inpatient Rehab clinical that has truly showed me quite fully what it means to be a mobility expert.

If you really take a moment to stop and think about it, human movement, especially gait, is an incredibly complex and beautiful thing. Since the majority of us are blessed with the ability to move around just fine, the complexity behind our movements is most likely not something that most people do actually take the time to think about. As for me, after three amazing weeks at my inpatient rehab clinical, I have taken A LOT of time to think about the complexity behind human movement because without this understanding, it makes it awfully hard to treat my patients. In fact, in addition to learning more about how an injured body moves, I’ve also had to learn potentially even more about how to most effectively move my own body. As an example, as I turned red with the exertion of trying to bring one of my patients up into quadruped the other day, my CI intervened and made it look so easy that my patient started laughing and asked me if I needed a drink of water. While the situation was certainly a good laugh for all of us, it just goes to show that the knowledge of how to utilize movement effectively is crucial in making sure that we deliver the best care possible to our patients. I have no doubt that all of my classmates are doing amazing things on this clinical as well, and here’s to all of us walking, or should I say gait training, the road towards becoming mobility experts!

The Anticipation Builds…

That feeling of overwhelming excitement is starting to fill the air. It is almost as magical as the feeling of a child when the trip to Disney World lies right around the corner. But instead of preparing myself to stand at the base of Magic Kingdom, be donned with princess tiaras, and bombarded with enthusiastic smiles….I’m preparing myself for the second half of my clinical rotation. That second half means half way closer to reuniting with my classmates back in North Carolina for graduation. That second half means I’m feeling good to hit the working world. That second half means moving out of my parent’s house in Michigan in roughly 3 months (insert slow clap).

We still have loads to learn and assignments to wrap up over the next few months as well. Elon likes to keep tabs on our progress and help remind us we are still in school. This is a welcomed reminder because the date of the licensure board creeps closer and closer. For some classmates this date is soon. For others, it isn’t until January 2016. Why the discrepancy? During the final year of PT school you have the option of taking the board exam in October 2015 or wait until after graduation and take it in January 2016. There are valid reasons for arguing both dates. Take it early and you will spend much time outside of the clinical rotation studying for the boards instead of taking time studying information directly pertinent to the rotation. You may be quite stressed during this clinical rotation if you are not good at time management. Yet, you will be stress free at the time of graduation and you can start working as a licensed PT quite quickly after December 13 (date of graduation). Or, you can take it later and find yourself with a good 6 weeks after graduation to dedicate to studying. You may find more time to focus on researching patients during your clinical and more time to catch up with family if your rotation was back home. This may sound a little less stressful. However, come graduation you won’t be able to practice as a licensed PT until after January 28. There is good and bad to both but I believe that one option could be good for one student and bad for another. It really depends.

Although there are future events to look forward to, an attitude and mindset to not take these next months for granted is necessary. It is easy to let the hours at the clinic escape you and hope for the weekend. Each weekend brings us closer to graduation but each weekend also means one less week in this season of life. There are many positives to being a student; it is only in our favor to take in as much close mentoring, guided studying, and open questioning while we can.

Searching for Balance…and Having Fun in the Process

Now that it is September, the Ortho Module is in full swing for the Class of 2017. When Module IV started in August we realized that we didn’t have class on Wednesdays.



Wednesdays are for practice, research and visiting PT clinics! While it is nice to sleep in an hour or two, most of us spend our time in the lab practicing different techniques we have learned during the week. Multiple professors are in the lab so there is always someone to ask for help. We are doing a lot of hands-on learning and the professors challenge us every day, but every day we feel more and more like PTs. We also spend time with our research advisors working on various projects. Lastly, we visit some outpatient clinics and observe. It is a lot different observing physical therapists now since we actually know why they are doing what they are doing. Pretty exciting stuff!

As PTs we must be advocates for a healthy lifestyle. Every hour we are given a 10-minute break to clear our minds and walk around. To get away from this monotony, a student in our class had the brilliant idea of starting the “Motion is Lotion” challenge. Every break, students have the option of staying at the Francis Center or taking a quick run outside. There are two route options: a mile and a half-mile. Friday is a wild-card day where people are given the option of doing some type of strength exercise. It has been a great success so far! People keep track and at the end of the module there will be a prize. Exciting! 🙂

We continued the “Motion is Lotion” Challenge last Thursday night at a baseball game with a 1K Beer Run. It was social event of the season! After a busy week of lab practice and research it was the perfect night to support the local baseball team, the Burlington Royals. We had great weather, yummy food and good company!

Last weekend I had a great time with friends in Asheville. It was a bit of a drive, but it was well worth it to spend the weekend in the mountains celebrating a friend’s birthday. The highlight of the trip was going zip-lining in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville is very cool artsy mountainous city that I definitely want to go back to.

I am now realizing that perhaps I spend too much time having fun with friends and not enough time studying, but it is all worth it. It is difficult to find the perfect balance between studying, friends, and making time for yourself. You have to strive for it though when you are PT school. So much of my time is spent studying and as much as I love Elon University and physical therapy, there is only so much I can do before I NEED time with friends or time taking care of myself. It’s great that I have a support system here that allows me to do just that.

Baseball Game

Baseball Game

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!

Classroom? What Classroom?

The campus of Elon seems like a distant memory. Streams of new PowerPoints to download are no longer a daily task. Eating a snack every 50 minutes due to a break from class no longer exists (I’m now hungry ALL the TIME). Some days I yearn to be back in the classroom surrounded by good friends and new knowledge. But, on the majority of days I am quite content being in the clinic. As the next month proceeds, we 3rd years will be moving deeper and deeper into our fourth and final clinical rotation. Hurrah! We all ventured to new clinical sites during the month of June. We now cross the nation from Michigan, Florida, Maryland, Texas and more! Being our last clinical, independence with patients comes quicker and with more confidence. The cases that once seemed complex are not as intimidating this time around. We know the language, we know the abbreviations, we know the diagnosis, we know the progression. There is always a learning curve with every new Electronic Medical Record but even that is learned more efficiently. The time to graduate is coming and I can speak for not only myself by saying “we are ready!!”

Before this final clinical came about we wrapped up courses in Geriatrics, Resume/Interview skills, Pediatrics, and Business Management. Although these courses were informative, the excitement of the 6-week selective on the horizon made many of us ready for classes to conclude. Once the final exam was taken we said goodbye to the chairs that formed to our bodies over the past 3 years and we said hello to Australia, Belgium, Alaska; we said hello to Pediatric and Orthopedic outpatient clinics in Alamance County; and hello to independent studies in cardiac rehab, Olympic training and rehab, and more.  The 6-week selective that the DPT program installs into our PT life schedule allows us to review, train, explore, and learn new perspectives within this field. For me personally, I went to Wasilla, Alaska and was stationed at 2 different Physical Therapy Outpatient clinics specialized in Manual Therapy. Myself and another classmate ventured out to this last frontier and picked up on PT tricks from certified manual therapists. The experience was absolutely amazing. My eyes were opened to the variety of Physical Therapy practice.

The learning never ends, though. Being in the clinic is continuously bringing new knowledge and new challenges. You quickly realize this isn’t going to be an 8-5pm career. It isn’t going to be a career in which you have time to call you doctor or plan a vacation during the day unless a patient cancels. It isn’t a career in which you can roll in at 8am and sip on coffee to get your day started. And to top it off, the headache of documentation and insurance is real. But, it is worth it. It is a line of work in which you are getting people back to their lives. You are an asset to their recovery. You get to be a doctor, a teacher, a counselor, a comedian, an encourager, and even a friend. Not a bad gig.