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.

Being a Student

We’ve almost reached the dog days of summer, and that means that the class of 2016 is already about halfway through our second clinical rotation! For me personally, it’s been a great start to this rotation so far, and I’ve already learned a great deal in these three short weeks. At the same time though, I’ve also been reminded time and time again that there is a MAJOR difference between being a classroom student and a clinical student. For us PT students, being a classroom student means a full day of any combination of lecture and labs as well as a healthy dose of Facebook checking….errr I mean furious note taking! Being a classroom student also generally means a lot of time spent parked in a chair with breaks interspersed where one might eat a snack or leisurely toss the pigskin. So what then, does it look like to be a clinical student?? Well, for starters, the pace is about 100x faster, and there’s obviously less pigskin tossing. Also, whereas in class we have time to write down notes and think on them later, clinical learning often involves having to remember a lot of competing and varied information that has to be applied sometimes immediately. Treatment information has to be recalled quickly for note writing, mental checklists have to be run through, and good grief should I be concerned if my patient’s prothrombin time is high and she has a stat CT ordered (the answer to that question, coincidentally, is yes)??

Now, upon reading that description of clinical learning, you may be thinking “Gosh Luke, that sure does sound pretty crazy!” Well, while it can indeed be crazy at times, it’s also AWESOME. Don’t get me wrong, classroom learning is great and I truly do love book knowledge, but we all came to PT school to be PT’s after all, and our clinicals are where we’re starting to get a real taste of our passion for PT. Also, while I’d certainly have days where I came home exhausted from class, exhaustion has taken on a whole new meaning in a clinical world filled with long days of speed-walking down hospital corridors and rapid-fire learning. However, with that exhaustion comes an incredible sense of knowing that we as mere PT students probably had a bigger impact on someone’s day than we could possibly imagine. Thankful for this opportunity that we all have right now, and keep up the good work class of 2016!

Thinking PT School? Here Are Some Tips! – Part 2

A few months back you may remember me bringing you some tips about how to prepare for the PT school application process. Well, as promised, I’m back this month to share some more tips! Only difference is that this time around, I want to provide some advice for those of you that may be preparing to start school in just a few short months. And for those of you that are getting ready to apply, come back and read these tips once you’re getting ready to start school!

  1. This first tip is something I’ve thought about often and I can’t stress it enough; stick to the study/work method that has gotten you this far, and don’t let the methods of others make you think you’re doing it wrong. Chances are, there will be someone that studies or works more than you do. When you experience this, you may find yourself thinking “Man they must know something about an assignment that I don’t!!” I urge you, don’t worry yourself by thinking these thoughts!! Everyone has different study habits and tactics and if you’ve made it to the point of getting accepted in to a very competitive graduate field, chances are your habits and tactics are just fine! Don’t doubt yourself!!
  2. Second tip – engage in physical activity as often as you can. Here’s the irony about PT school; you’re going to learn about a lot of physical impairments that can be brought on by the one thing you’ll do probably more than any other, aka siting in a chair. Therefore, getting up and moving around and engaging in sports or workouts will make your body and your mind a lot happier! Also, an added benefit of working out that I discovered is the fact that it helps you come up with exercises and activities that you can use with your patients!
  3. Get to know your faculty members. While the faculty members that you’ll be spending a lot of time with over the next few years are no doubt your teachers, they’ll very shortly be your PT colleagues. In addition, your professors will be one of your best resources in terms of job recommendations. And last but not least, as I’ve discovered, you may just find out that your professors are more than willing to do things like play basketball with you and your classmates on a Friday afternoon!

Well I hope you’ll find these tips useful, and I encourage you to also come up with some of your own strategies for making the most out your PT school experience. For those of you about to take the plunge in August, enjoy the start of what I’m sure will be a fantastic ride!