Providence: A Little City Big in My Heart
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes
How did you decide what program to attend for physical therapy school?
Was it because of a personal experience? Or did you know someone who went there and loved it? Did you look at rankings?
For me, I first applied to all the in-state programs I wanted and the big names throughout the country. Then I thought about all the states I'd be up for living in, and considered applying to smaller programs within them.
Lo and behold, Rhode Island was on that list. I didn't know much about this state—well, except that it was the smallest state and that it snowed a lot.
I ended up attending the University of Rhode Island, a university located in a small state that now holds a big place in my heart.
Here are just a few reasons why I love the state of Rhode Island.
One of the first things you'll notice on your way to Providence is the Big Blue Bug. Originally built in 1980, this 58' long, 9' wide, and 4,000 pound construction is made of steel and covered with fiberglass. It was originally painted purple and as an exact replica of an eastern subterranean termite, but the sunlight soon faded it to blue. By the way, his name is Nibbles Woodaway. He's the well-known mascot for one of the pest control companies in the state.
With its quintessential New England architecture, Brown University was founded as a Baptist college in 1764, it was the third college in New England, and seventh in the country. Brown has a history of tolerance and acceptance, as they were the first university in the United States to accept students regardless of religious affiliation.
Roger Williams Park is 102 acres of land dedicated to the people of Rhode Island; this park is perfect for nature lovers. Every October there is something called the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular that I highly recommend you visit. Hundreds, if not thousands, of pumpkins are carved and placed throughout the park; it's a can't miss!
With more than 130 classic arcade games, Free Play Bar Arcade is home to games and local beer and whiskey. Take it from me, you won't regret paying Free Play a visit.
If you're a history buff and a fan of colonial architecture, Benefit Street is colonial New England. When you're walking down this street the houses and look are said to be like "stepping back in time."
Providence is a well-known port city. While in town, take a boat tour around the city with Providence River Boat Company.
Coffee – most people will point you to the nearest Dunkin', but if you want some authentic Rhode Island coffee check out Bolt Coffee, Coffee Exchange, and Dave's Coffee.
While you're in town for National Student Conclave (NSC), I hope that you can get around and see what our state has to offer, and hopefully you'll have time to see what makes this littlest state mean so much to me.
NSC is a conference for and by PT and PTA students. Join us October 11-13, 2018, for NSC in Providence, Rhode Island. NSC registration opens mid-July. Not sure what NSC is all about? Check-out highlights from NSC 2017.
Alex Dien, PT, DPT, is the 2017-2018 APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors Vice President. Connect with Alex on Twitter at: @alexander_dien.
You Are More Qualified Than You Think
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
You and I both have what it takes to become a great candidate for any doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program.
I believe that I can make this bold claim because of the work I put into it to become a qualified candidate.
As a recent undergrad from the University of Rochester (UR) with a BA in psychology, I took almost all of the prerequisites necessary for most physical therapy programs throughout my last 3 semesters as an undergrad.
I applied to 4 physical therapy programs and was accepted by one and offered an interview by another. Here's where I say I'm now on my way to physical therapy school, right? Wrong. I actually declined both schools' offers.
"But you wanted to go to physical therapy school, why would you do that?"
After getting those offers I realized that I probably needed a little more clinical exposure and base-academic knowledge to prepare me to excel in school.
Now, fortunately for me, my journey to become a PT doesn't end there. I'm actually enrolled in prerequisite classes and getting more experience in a clinic as I write this. But after an underwhelming first round of responses from physical therapy programs from across the country, my fire wasn't burned out—if anything, it got bigger.
My need to continue toward my goal of getting into a program and choosing physical therapy as the career for me grew deeper. Those rejections weren't a negative, they were the lesson and motivation I needed to pursue my passion for the physical therapy profession.
Here are 4 lessons learned thus far on my path to becoming a physical therapy student and future clinician.
Lesson 1: Navigate your career path, eyes wide open.
To find your path is to thoroughly explore careers that you are interested in, learn about related fields, and do your research about the journey needed to get there.
While your career decision isn't final—I'm sure we all know people who have changed careers at various points in life—the goal in this case is to understand what you're getting into and to make sure that it makes sense for you.
Consider what happened before I had a clear understanding of my desire to become a PT.
In undergrad I only took courses that were interesting to me personally. I never researched the entire breadth of one profession over another and what it entailed to get there. I was drifting and left indecisive.
Throughout my time at UR, I changed my major 5 times. I dropped many courses along the way and had no idea what I was working toward, and, therefore, I didn't have any goals in mind.
Now consider what happened when I decided to define my career path toward becoming a physical therapist.
I thoroughly researched the profession, what it takes to get me there, and insight on how to be successful as a future clinician. I spent time talking to mentors, friends, and family about my thoughts on this career choice, and received advice along the way.
Lesson 2: Don't let anyone or anything derail you from pursuing your goal.
Along this journey there will be doubters, naysayers, and everything in between. The workload might get menacing. There will be inconvenient aspects associated with your prerequisites. You may feel incapable of succeeding. From experience, I can tell you that none of that can stop you.
You were created with capabilities far greater than you can imagine. Believe this, even if you cannot see the fruits of your labor just yet, exercise your ability to have faith and work toward your goals, whether that's getting into physical therapy school or something else.
For me, when I committed to pursuing a DPT degree, there was a small amount of sand left in the college hourglass. Time was the least of my worries though. I viewed my impending success based on my previous successes. Through this paradigm, it seemed nearly impossible to achieve my goal.
My high school health sciences background seemed weak at best. My highest math was pre-calculus, my highest biology and chemistry were both the minimum needed to graduate, and I never took physics. Furthermore, I had very little experience with the natural sciences in college. I had never taken a collegiate biology or physics course. The last time I took general chemistry course in college was freshman year, and I barely passed it. Finally, because of all of this, most of my friends who saw me as a physical therapist admittedly carried a little doubt on my behalf.
Knowing all of this, how did I move forward? I chose to stop seeing my potential in terms of past successes or failures, and I started to believe in myself and nourish that belief. I soaked up literature and music, which reinforced this notion. I treasured the love and support of my family and it reinforced my worth. I befriended others who were also chasing difficult dreams, and we strengthened each other, like iron sharpening iron. I also embraced the notion of self-care. In other words, if you don´t nourish your body, then it cannot perform at its best every day. This is how I moved forward and started my prerequisite requirements for most physical therapy schools.
Lesson 3: See your failures as a means for greater success.
Rapper Andy Mineo said it best: "It´s win or learn, no losses." The key is to learn from your failures so that you can later meet those goals.
I had many goals, some were as simple as managing my responsibilities, sleeping enough, and mastering my prerequisite courses. I missed the mark on all of my goals at least once. Instead of continually missing these goals, I learned how to improve.
To manage my responsibilities, I learned how to pencil in meetings and appointments in my Google calendar as soon as I learned about them. As a result I became more reliable. To sleep enough, I followed the National Sleep Foundation's guidelines, and I learned that I can function on at least 6 hours of sleep a night. To master my courses I learned many things. I learned that studying with other like-minded peers is a game changer. The topics I found irrelevant were the ones my peers found integral; suddenly, I found myself doing well on tests that I was once failing. I learned how to study for other courses with the help of a tutor who taught me how to save hours of study time by emphasizing conceptual understanding over memorizing processes.
Lesson 4: Remember your original "why?".
You may know the basic, big picture reasons as to why you went down the path to become a physical therapist, but I strongly urge you to remind yourself of these reasons weekly, or even daily. Life gets difficult. School gets difficult. You´ll get discouraged, and you´ll forget why you started this journey in the first place. Times like these are when you need to remember your reasoning to keep your vision clear.
I often have to remind myself of why I'm working so hard. I remember some of my peers telling me that that I studied too much and even labeling me a "workaholic." And I'll admit I've been tempted to give up so I could have time to goof off into the sunset. Some days I gave in and procrastinated, but these times failed to define my year. What kept me focused and helped me make the most of my year was ultimately my goal and desire to become a physical therapist. Whenever I felt like quitting, I reminded myself of my original intent and it helped renew my vision and therefore my determination.
I truthfully believe that I was nowhere near the ideal DPT degree candidate when I first started this journey. Moreover, I truthfully believe that some of you reading this are way more qualified than I was at the time. So find your compass for your career path; no one else can do it for you. Then refuse to let it go. Learn from your failures so you may excel later. Finally, never forget why you are doing this and find ways to remind yourself of that.
As A.A Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh, once put it, "...You´re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." You can be a great DPT degree candidate. If I can do this, then so can you.
Joshua Klepes is a Pre-SPT student hoping to attend physical therapy school in the coming year.
A Recipe for Growth
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
If you're interested in participating in an international service project but are unsure of what to expect, listen up!
I'm Katie, a #FreshPT, who 1 year prior to sitting for the National Physical Therapy Exam, joined Move Together Inc on an international service trip to Guatemala and Honduras.
When I signed up for this trip I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I knew that it was an opportunity to combine my passion for physical therapy and service, and I couldn't pass it up.
Although international service was a novel idea for me, community service is something that was ingrained in my life at an early age. I have been consistently involved in my community at the local level and helped form an interdisciplinary service club with a classmate during my time at MGH Institute. I was motivated to help our fellow health care graduate students connect to local projects and, hopefully, cultivate a passion for service along the way.
As we immersed ourselves in this new endeavor, we were also nearing the portion of our program that required us to develop a health promotions project. These projects are student led with guidance of a mentor, and focus on identifying communities, assessing health care needs, and creating programs or interventions to assist a community in meeting their needs. This is when the idea of an international project in the city of Esquipulas, Guatemala, was first suggested, and my heart was set on making it a reality.
Over the next 4 months we researched Guatemala's history and culture, current health care infrastructure, and common health conditions. Since we were unable to meet with community representatives, we spent time brainstorming potential needs and possible solutions. Additionally, with the help of a group member who speaks fluent Spanish, we created translated worksheets with pictures of common exercises and how to perform them. Other preparations included visits to a travel medicine clinic for immunization boosters and talking to students who had participated in past service trips with Move Together. We also contacted local physical therapy clinics to donate basic supplies, like massage creams, TheraBand products, off-the-shelf braces, and used assistive devices.
Fast-forward to departure day. Scrubs, sneakers, lots of bug spray, and a book titled Spanish for the Physical Therapist were packed in my suitcase. When we first landed in Guatemala, it was a bit of culture shock. I stared out the window of our van, eyes wide with curiosity, trying to soak in all of the sights and sounds and smells of this new place. The people of Guatemala were so gracious and welcoming! They surrounded my group with love and made us feel as though we were part of their family.
Our first full day in Guatemala was a day of cultural immersion. We spent our morning touring a coffee farm, learning about the laborious process of growing coffee and the art of tasting it. Coffee is one of Guatemala's largest industries and many of the people we met on this trip make a living growing coffee beans. After seeing the process, I now have a much greater appreciation for my morning cup of joe.
After the coffee farm, we visited a local park to plant a tree. The tree was a representation of the growth of new friendships and connections we would form that week. We then went to downtown Esquipulas to tour a famous basilica and shop at the local street market. We shared most of our meals with our host family, stayed at a local orphanage, visited many local business and community centers, and even took salsa dancing lessons at a local studio. Throughout this entire experience I was able to fully indulge in the beauty and soul of the people of Esquipulas.
We began our week of treating a wide variety of conditions in different community centers. Each day we stuck to a tight schedule, most days starting at 6:00 am for breakfast at our host clinic, and ending well after sunset. Two days were spent treating patients in the very same dining room where we ate breakfast, as we transformed the space into a treatment area. On the other days, we loaded up the van and travelled an average of 2 hours to towns where we treated patients at a local school or community center.
As we pulled up to each new location, there was a line of people patiently waiting to be seen for therapy. At first, this really struck a chord with me and doubts started flooding in. I'm in a foreign country where I don't know the language, still learning how to be a PT, and the people in line are trusting me to help them. Luckily, as soon as this feeling of panic set in, it was eased away by the morning pep talk from the Move Together founders.
After a group cheer and high-fives all around, we set up our makeshift physical therapy offices of 2 folding chairs and a folding treatment table. We worked in teams made up of 2 students, a physical therapist, and a few translators. We also collaborated with our host clinic's local speech therapist and local physical therapist, as well as a few PT students from a local Guatemalan university. There was no set treatment schedule; we spent as much time as needed with each person until everyone was seen. We collected a brief history, assessed the pain, and provided hands-on treatment as well as education and exercise prescription.
I realized quickly that education was going to play a major role in this experience. Knowing that I would not see anyone for a follow-up visit, it was essential to provide them with the tools to take control of their own impairments and show them other strategies for preventing future injuries. I still remember the “physical therapy basics” that the translators taught me on that trip, which has proven helpful in my current acute care position at a local hospital.
It was really amazing how patient everyone in line was; some of them waited hours to spend time with us and were nothing but appreciative when it was finally their turn. I couldn't help but compare this to our own culture and how impatient we can sometimes be.
This entire experience really put things into perspective that many Americans, myself included, often take for granted of how fortunate we are to have access to health care when we need it, without walking miles to a clinic and waiting hours without a promise of being seen that day.
Despite the long and busy days of treating clients, there was always energy left over for another cultural activity. We visited the Mayan ruins in Honduras and a local school, where we delivered donated school supplies. We had an awesome piñata-smashing dance party with the children at the school as well. Each evening we'd sit down as a group to reflect on the day and share stories of the connections we made, while enjoying a delicious Guatemalan meal.
When I think back on this trip, it still seems hard to completely put the experience into words.
I left for Guatemala naively thinking that I was going there to help people. While I'd like to think that our service project had a positive impact on the Guatemalan community, I now realize that the experience had more of an impact on me than I could have anticipated. I remember being overwhelmed with emotions as the experience came to an end, and I often think of our last night in Guatemala as though it were yesterday.
I can still feel the warmth of the sun and the soreness in my cheeks from smiling as our entire team sat in a field of sunflowers watching the sunset over the mountains, reflecting on the incredible week we had shared. I was forever changed. I had all of these new friendships, new perspectives about the world around me, and new ideas as to how I could continue to live a life of service.
I could go on and on, but I think the only way to truly understand how meaningful an international service trip can be is to experience it for yourself.
If you've ever considered international service, or even if this is your first time hearing about it, I highly encourage you to seek out opportunities. As cliché as it sounds, stepping outside of your comfort zone is a recipe for growth. An international service trip, wherever it takes you, will allow you to grow as a person, as a future physical therapist, and it will fulfill you in a way that is impossible to describe.
Katie Burnett, PT, DPT, is a recent graduate of MGH Institute. You can connect with Katie on Twitter at: @kaitlynburnett_.