How I Got Out of My PT School Rut
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
I never thought of myself as someone who was interested in policy or governance. The rules and rhetoric always seemed to go over my head, and I found it difficult to hold my own in a conversation. Because of this, it was quite a surprise to find myself applying for the Wisconsin student delegate scholarship. It promised a funded trip to the annual American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) House of Delegates (HOD) and the opportunity for mentorship from the Wisconsin delegation through attending meetings, house sessions, and collaborative time.
I can't quite pinpoint what made me decide to apply, but the next thing I knew I was writing my essay for the application during finals week, when a chance that procrastination could have been a factor.
But it was less about procrastination and more about the fact that I had found myself in a bit of a rut since the start of physical therapy school. Sure, I was keeping up in class and doing well on exams, but there was something missing. The feeling itself is hard to explain, but I don't believe that it is an uncommon one.
Leading up to physical therapy school it seemed as if there was a constant push to prepare yourself to be the best well-rounded student that you could be. But now that I was here, now that I had made it through my first year, it felt as if I was no longer doing all that I could to grow. I needed something more.
That something more came to me in the form of APTA's House of Delegates.
I was extremely excited for the week of HOD to arrive, but admittedly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I prepared as much as I possibly could, from reading through all 70 RC motions to sitting in on conference calls. However, nothing could have truly prepared me for the whirlwind that HOD would be. The first day was packed with candidate interviews, getting to know the Wisconsin delegates, and sitting in on the first HOD session.
There, I had an opportunity to hear President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, address the House. She spoke of the student debt crisis and the challenges that students face in order to get through physical therapy school. It dawned on me that there are people high up in this organization and our profession that care about the same things I do. These people are doing everything they can to advocate for that cause. In that rests the true beauty of governance, something that I had previously had difficulty finding.
Policy was not the only thing that sparked my interest during my time in Chicago. The opportunity to network and learn was another great HOD asset. I had the chance to sit down with a delegate and discuss the specialty of pelvic health, something I am very drawn to. She gave me earnest advice surrounding my future clinicals, where I will be immersed in the practice area more so than with the shadowing I've done.
For an experienced physical therapist to take the time to share her insight about the field to which she dedicates her time made me feel confident in my interest, and inspires me to continue to get more exposure.
HOD was an exciting, refreshing experience. That rut I was in? It doesn't exist anymore. I left with a desire to advocate for the things I care about and to push myself toward my dream of working in a profession that I love. I would encourage all students, if possible, to get involved with the HOD process. It's an experience you won't forget.
Jessica Kathe, SPT, is a student at Marquette University. You can connect with her on Instagram at @thefuturedpt.