A Spark Spreads
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
The course of your days, weeks, and months can often unfold in ways that you might never expect.
Deciding to move from a career in the nonprofit sector to a career in physical therapy was certainly an unexpected turn in my life. However, this big transition led me to a profession that I identify with deeply.
While applying to physical therapy programs nationwide, I was inspired by the values and vision of APTA, as I incorporated them into my admission essays. And while I had yet to press the submit button, I already felt a sense of belonging within the profession.
For each program that I considered, I asked about their level of engagement with APTA; getting involved was a priority for me.
Flash forward. The first year as a physical therapy student is completed, and, wow, what an incredible whirlwind it was.
I have my first clinical under my belt, and I've become comfortable imagining myself as a full-fledged clinician. However, my clinical experience was less challenging than I had hoped it would be and I often left each day feeling uninspired.
I found myself craving passionate professionals dedicated to excellence, who could fuel my interests and guide me.
Eventually, I remembered my desire to seek a program with a strong connection with APTA. It was then that I decided to register for APTA's National Student Conclave (NSC) conference, hoping that this would reignite my enthusiasm for the profession I was entering.
A fire lit
As the fall semester started, my excitement for NSC sparked a sense of curiosity in a few of my classmates. They decided to register and join me on the short trip from Boston to Rhode Island for NSC 2018.
Our small group of 4 didn't know what to expect at our first physical therapy conference, but at the very least, we knew that we would connect with like-minded peers.
Now, having experienced NSC I can confidently say that our expectations were far exceeded; we became engulfed in a world of passionate presenters and spirited students.
I had to know more about becoming involved, so I put on my networking hat and sure enough, one thing led to another.
I met an array of students who hold APTA leadership and volunteer positions, all of whom had nothing but good things to say about their experiences. These energetic students fueled the flame inside me to commit to APTA involvement and get my classmates engaged too.
Having caught the "conference bug" my enthusiasm was overflowing, and I couldn't wait to get back to school in Boston and get to work.
The spark spreads
Upon returning from NSC, my classmates and I shared our great experiences with our peers.
We conveyed excitement about the interesting educational sessions that we attended. We spoke of how much we learned about different sections and special interest groups within APTA. We talked about all of the cool stuff we got while browsing the exhibit hall. We expressed how refreshing it was to connect with students from across the country, who are experiencing similar things and feeling the same way we are as PT and PTA students.
All the while, we encouraged our peers to attend APTA conferences in the future and reminded them that the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in Washington, DC, was right around the corner. Students in my cohort said that they would entertain the idea of attending CSM if it were more affordable and didn't overlap with the start of the semester. That was the motivation we needed to ask our university faculty if they would consider adjusting our schedule and offer a stipend for those who hoped to attend CSM 2019.
During a meeting with our department chair, she told us how thrilled she was with our enthusiasm and that she had been waiting for this kind of interest from students. Within a week, she had agreed to offer students a stipend for CSM and delayed our semester start by 1 week to encourage our attendance.
Needless to say, we were floored!
With our university's support, my classmates and I didn't hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity to attend CSM in January 2019.
The sheer momentum immediately reminded me of something Cynthia Zadai, PT, DPT, FAPTA, said during a panel discussion at NSC: "You can do your best on your own, then you need more people to answer the questions; you have to reach critical mass." With all of the pieces falling into place, it was time to figure out how to keep the fire lit.
Maintain the momentum
Dedicated to a future where students can depend on stipends from our school to attend APTA conferences and events, I have committed to creating leadership initiatives at my university to ensure that these opportunities for engagement are available.
I truly believe that every student should experience the fullness of what APTA has to offer PT and PTA students.
From the start of my physical therapy journey, I knew that APTA involvement was important to me. I am so grateful to be playing an important role in my program's increased commitment to the professional community that is APTA.
I am ever so delighted that my classmates will experience APTA with eyes wide open at CSM in January. I can't wait to introduce them to the #PTfam in person, and see them catch the conference bug just like I did.
Watch out DC, here we come and we're rolling deep!
Join us January 23-26, 2019 for CSM 2019 in Washington, DC. Learn more and register at www.apta.org/CSM.
Melissa Patrick, SPT, is a student at Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts. You can connect with Melissa on Twitter at @MPatrickSPT.