3 Lessons I Was Not Expecting to Learn While in Physical Therapy School
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes
With only a few months left of my first year in physical therapy school, I reflected on how much I have changed since starting the program. Here is a list of 3 lessons I was not expecting to learn.
The importance of self-care
Rewind back to my first semester.
Initially, I thought the key to succeeding was balancing all my classwork and studying hard. I thought that if I kept myself in a classroom all day, studied endlessly, and repeatedly wrote out all the muscles, that I would excel in the program.
A few weeks later, I found myself overwhelmed with everything. I had a difficult time concentrating on my studies and lost motivation to continue. I was already on the road toward burnout.
Although it seems obvious now, it didn't occur to me how important it was to dedicate a few hours each week away from school. I don't mean abandon your studies, but just like you dedicate time to school and studying, you should schedule time for breaks, to do activities you enjoy, and to spend time with friends and family.
Trust me, it's possible to be a good student while also maintaining a life outside of school, you just have to make time for it.
Overcoming a bad experience
On the first day of my PT program, I had an anatomy quiz.
Although we were told beforehand about the quiz, I still ended up failing. Seeing that "F" already hanging over me, significantly dropped my excitement for school.
It would later slip even further, when I failed my first anatomy practical quiz.
When my professor noticed how defeated the class looked after taking the quiz, she gave us a short pep talk that I will never forget.
She said, "If we want to become doctors of physical therapy, we need to learn how to move away from a bad experience with a patient, and not let it define how we interact with the next patient." Of course, she was talking not only about resilience as future clinicians, but also in our current status as students.
In this case we needed to learn how to learn from the experience and persevere beyond it, moving on to focus on the next lesson or assignment.
It's okay to be frustrated, because you probably are not alone
When I was learning how to perform several hands-on skills, I was frustrated with how much I was struggling, compared to others in my class.
I saw everyone easily mastering palpation and physical examination tests, and I panicked.
Ultimately, I thought that I did not have what it took to be a physical therapist.
Thankfully, I did not give up and later learned that I wasn't alone in this frustration. Other classmates, and professionals before me, had experienced that same feeling.
This experience taught me that it is okay to ask for extra help. If these skills were easy enough to master on the first try, why would we need to be in physical therapy school in the first place?
If you put in the work, focus on your short-term and long-term career goals, and reach out to your classmates, professors, and mentors when you need a little help you'll succeed.
Physical therapy school isn't easy but if you're able to find school–life balance, demonstrate resilience and optimism, and ask for help when you need it, like me, these 3 years in school will fly by and you'll walk the stage at graduation in no time.
Jacqueline Cabuhat, SPT, is a student at Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter @JCabuhat_PT and on Instagram @studentpt_life.