NSC: A First Year's Perspective
6 minute read
This October, I was given the opportunity to travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to attend the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA's) 2019 National Student Conclave (NSC). This experience was eye-opening and introduced me to a variety of individuals who are passionate for furthering the profession of physical therapy. I learned much more than I had anticipated and would strongly recommend attending this conference to anyone who is able.
Attending this conference as a first-year student, I was very uncertain about what to expect.
One of the third-year students from my program was slated for an APTA Student Assembly Board position, so I saw this as a chance to support her while getting to learn more about the inner workings of APTA.
I quickly gravitated toward a group of student attendees from Florida, whom I met a couple of months prior at the Florida Physical Therapy Association Annual Assembly. Following advice given to me at a previous conference, I unofficially designated my now good friend Riyad Mohamed of the University of North Florida to be my "conference mentor." As a more experienced and heavily-involved student, he was able to explain numerous concepts and occurrences that I was not aware of going into this event. I would strongly recommend using a conference mentor for new attendees or first-year students. We hear of different conferences and events on the national level, but it may be a challenge to decipher between each of these events, especially as a first-year student, so allow me to break them down briefly.
There are 3 large conferences every year: APTA NEXT Conference & Exhibition, Combined Sections Meeting, and National Student Conclave. In addition to these conferences there are state and federal advocacy forums and APTA's House of Delegates. Each of these events offer exciting avenues for involvement within the profession, in conjunction with unique opportunities to broaden our professional networks. With that, I would like to tell you about my recent experience at APTA's 2019 NSC.
Conferences are typically comprised of a variety of interactive informational sessions, presented by industry leaders and topic experts. These sessions often will have an exhibit hall of vendors, organizations, and employers. In the exhibit hall, attendees are able to learn about new groups and organizations to become involved with, as well as potential employment opportunities postgraduation or for clinical rotations. The sessions and exhibit hall were about the only happenings I was anticipating going to ahead of this weekend. I later found that the APTA Student Assembly elections also take place at NSC each year and was given many opportunities to get to know the candidates, as well as learn of the process leading up to these elections.
The first general session at NSC started with a variety of high-energy, quick presentations from student members. We heard from APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, and keynote speaker Joanna Lohman, a former professional soccer player, who discussed the hurdles that physical therapists helped her overcome during a career-halting injury. These talks were an awesome way to begin a fantastic weekend. NSC happened to fall on Halloween this year, so in the spirit of the holiday that evening's PT Pub Night social was packed with conference attendees decked out in their Halloween costumes. The Foundation for Physical Therapy Research launched its new fundraising challenge that evening as well.
On Friday morning we had the pleasure of hearing from President Dunn in a presidential town hall. Students were able to engage with her and ask a variety of questions. It was apparent that she valued the questions and the opportunity to speak with students. Later, we heard from the APTA Student Assembly candidates and their visions for students within APTA. Following these discussions, we heard from 3 industry leaders and learned their success journeys. Among these individuals were Jimmy McKay, the founder of PT Pintcast; Shante Cofield, PT, DPT, founder of The Movement Maestro; and Josh D'Angelo, PT, DPT, one of the developers of Movement X, Move Together, and PT Day of Service.
Throughout the day, attendees meandered through the exhibit hall to learn of various postgraduate employment options as well as additional opportunities to get involved in national physical therapy organizations. The conference also provided attendees with professional services, such as free headshots and resume reviews.
As mentioned previously, another awesome component of most conferences are the informational sessions. Attendees are able to choose which sessions to attend and are provided with insight that can be difficult to find outside of these settings. Some of the lectures I attended taught me the power of advocacy, the McKinsey approach to chronic pain, and obstacles faced during interprofessional collaboration. I also learned the importance of networking, which was fortified with every interaction throughout the conference.
Beyond the many learning experiences were the opportunities to participate in community service events throughout the conference. During our dinner Friday evening, at the center of each of our tables were giant bundles of fluff and numerous unstuffed teddy bears. Attendees put together an assortment of stuffed animals for local children in need. Another service event we got to participate in was the FUNFitness Special Olympics screening. This event was extremely enjoyable and included collaborating with students from other schools to provide an array of wellness screenings to the athletes of the New Mexico Special Olympics.
Another highlight was staff interaction. NSC attendees were invited to attend a focus group with APTA staff. We gave feedback about APTA, communications efforts, membership, and more. Just another example of APTA wanting to hear from students and valuing our feedback.
Attendees also enjoyed the PT-PAC party, where we gathered outside the Rio Bravo Brewing Company to play cornhole and further strengthen the budding friendships established earlier that day.
The eventful weekend ended with the lively game-show style Knowledge Bowl, hosted by EBS Healthcare, where attendees got to test their knowledge with practice questions from the National Physical Therapy Examination. And the swearing in of our newly elected APTA Student Assembly Board. It was a great time!
I sincerely enjoyed the opportunities to learn during NSC weekend, but I am even more appreciative of the professional relationships I was able to form at this conference. It seems that the profession of physical therapy attracts passionate, welcoming, and enthusiastic individuals, as these traits were apparent in nearly every person I had the pleasure of meeting. It also was nice getting the chance to meet face-to-face with people who I had previously connected with on social media.
The connections made at these events will surely remain with me throughout my career, and the insight they have provided me has already proved to be advantageous. Without taking the leap to attend an event I knew little about, I would have lost out on building these incredible relationships and the creation of my "PT Fam." I urge everyone reading this post to seek out these opportunities, and take advantage of the numerous benefits offered. Thank you for allowing me to share my NSC experience, and I can't wait to see you in Denver this February for CSM!
Marino Bucci, SPT, is a student at the University of Central Florida. You can connect with Marino on Twitter at @MarinoJBucci.