It's Your Turn
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes
In order to get accepted into a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program, you need to have involvement outside of an undergraduate curriculum. We all know it because we have lived it.
Some students log numerous volunteer hours in various fields of physical therapy, others are involved in clubs and activities on campus, some dedicate countless hours to organizations in their respective communities, and I am sure there is a large number who are able to manage all of these activities and more! But my question for you go-getters and doers out there is what happens to that motivation, drive, and passion for involvement once you're accepted into your desired DPT program?
Throughout my first year in physical therapy school, I decided to focus all of my energy on school. And when I say “all,” I'm speaking literally.
At first I was fine. I had all the time in the world to focus on school without feeling the added pressure of extra obligations. Sound familiar?
I thought about applying to some things—I really did—but I just kept convincing myself of that age-old adage, I really need to focus on school right now.
Fast-forward to halfway through my first semester, I started feeling an unexplained void.
Before becoming a physical therapy student, I was so used to being involved with my community and the profession through volunteering, so used to having that outlet and source of experiential learning, that without it I was starting to become burned out, focusing only on my studies. I needed to find that spark again that led me to fall in love with physical therapy.
Once it was clear that I needed something other than school to dive into, I found myself unsure of where to start. Do you get involved at your school, in your local physical therapy community and profession, at a state or national level? I personally had no idea.
I began by researching through APTA's website for opportunities. I learned about core ambassadors, project committees, student SIGs, liaisons, and the national Board of Directors.
At first, these positions seemed so lofty and out of reach, especially for someone like me with such little experience within APTA and the profession as a whole.
Admittedly, I spent a lot of time considering these options and getting involved in the profession at a national level. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that, though I did not have much direct experience with APTA specifically, I did have valuable skills and a unique perspective to offer. What the heck, I am going to go for it.
Eventually, I applied to be on the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors (SABoD) right around this time last year and—spoiler alert—it has been one of the most valuable experiences of my physical therapy education.
The process to serve on the SABoD is just that, a process. You have interviews, there's a little public speaking (I know, not my favorite, either), you have to attend APTA's National Student Conclave, and there is an election.
With that said, everything I just mentioned sounds like a huge task, but trust me, it's not. Through the process you meet students from across the country and regardless of the result you've made connections, expanded your network, and made some neat memories, to say the least.
Throughout my time on the SABoD, I have met and worked alongside some truly amazing physical therapy students and young professionals whose love for the profession reignites my passion for physical therapy on a regular basis. These people are the motivators, inspirational leaders, and the rock stars you feed off of. Going through the SABoD elections and serving on the board is by far, the fuel that I needed to succeed as a student and as a future clinician.
Here’s what I’ll say to anyone with the slightest desire to get involved and serve the profession, take the step, whether it’s applying for the SABoD or another opportunity, and see what happens. It might jump-start your love for this profession and your chosen career just like it did for me.
So how can you get involved? Here are a few ideas:
- Follow APTA on Facebook and Twitter: That's it! Simple. It's minimal effort with an instant return of exposure to news and resources, and you've expanded your professional circle.
- Read about APTA opportunities on our website: Reading, yes, a bit more work. But if you're this far in the article, I firmly believe that you have the fortitude to do a bit more reading.
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org: What? Reach out to a random stranger? Yes, let's chat. Interested in APTA – great! Interested in puppies – still great. But even a 2-sentence email to me counts as your first dip into the endless opportunities available through APTA.
Remember, everyone in APTA at some point was new and doing their best to figure it out, and that's okay. But here’s the thing, the one thing that we have in common is we went outside of our comfort zones and took that first step. And now it’s your turn.
Ally Patterson, SPT, serves as the Secretary on the 2017-2018 APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors. You can connect with Ally via email at email@example.com.