My NSC Experience: 'I will be a physical therapist'
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Seven years ago I wrote myself a note on a post-it. The note said: "I will be a physical therapist." Fast-forward to today where I am nearing the end of physical therapy school.
In the fall I remember thinking, I'd like to attend APTA's National Student Conclave (NSC) this year, but I wasn't sure that I'd be able to make it.
It would cost money that I wasn't sure if I could spare, I would have to take time off from class or clinicals that I wasn't sure that I could miss, and I likely wouldn't know anyone there.
I'll spare you the suspense; I was able to make it to NSC 2017, and I can't express how happy I am that I did.
Held in Portland, Oregon, this year, NSC was one of the most refreshing experiences of my physical therapy school career.
I haven't felt this fired up about the profession that I love since I wrote myself that post-it note 7 years ago.
I was the only person from my class who decided to go to NSC this year. Trust me, it was a bit daunting when I arrived. I saw a ton of PT and PTA students together in groups. I officially knew no one.
But here's the great thing about this conference, everyone shares at least 1 passion with you, physical therapy. And trust me, I don't use the word "passion" lightly, these students are the most energized, excited, and positive cohorts you'll ever encounter. Every stranger you talk to is just a friend you did not know you had made yet. Every group I met at the conclave was warm and welcoming to me, the lone student.
The relationships that you build do not need to end once you leave, either. Each connection made is another touch-point in our profession that you will be able to reach out to in your future. Take it from Kate Hamilton, PT, DPT, who attributes the connections she made at NSC 10 years ago to how she found her footing and connections within our profession.
Not only were the student attendees great, but the speakers were superb, and the exhibitors were all eager to inform those who made this conscious effort to further their career. Session topics ranged from information on residencies, to the day-in-the life of geriatric PTs, to traveling PTs, to financial advice, to PTs for adaptive sports, and resume reviews. And that wasn't even everything.
Aside from the excellent programming, the speakers and APTA leadership are accessible throughout the conference. You'll see APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, walking through the conference hall speaking with students. And you'll get to take a photo with the keynote speaker. This is something that doesn't happen at the other, much larger, APTA conferences. This is just another unique feature of this student-centric meeting.
My weekend at NSC showed me that there are multiple ways to get involved with APTA—more than I actually knew existed. All that it takes is you asking: "How do I get involved?" If the person you are speaking with doesn't know, they will point you in the direction of another who may be able to help you. (In this case, email the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors, and they'll get you started.)
Being active and engaged with the APTA Student Assembly is just one of those avenues. The APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors, for example, are the brightest upcoming stars in our field, each eager to change our profession for the better. Aside from other students, throughout the conference and exhibit hall you'll meet APTA staff and you'll even have access to representatives of each of APTA's specialty sections, who are happy to talk to you about your professional goals and interests.
NSC is a conference designed for and by students—seriously, students help design the conference schedule and events. There's community service events, lectures, networking mixers, and more. Not only that, but this conference is focused on the student of today and the professional of tomorrow.
There are free resume reviews, professional headshots taken, information about residencies, prepping for the board exam, and employers and recruiters all available and present at this one conference. APTA did a great job to satisfy students of all stages in their education.
As graduation approaches this December, I can confidently say that NSC 2017 refreshed my passion for physical therapy and provided me valuable insight into this transition from student to professional.
After this experience, if I could, I would make attendance mandatory for students.
NSC 2017 was hands-down one of my favorite weekends throughout my time in physical therapy school.
It taught me more about my profession than I knew existed. It provided me with resources to pursue career goals as a soon-to-be new grad.
Not only do you meet great people, but you get reinvigorated to make a change. If you are wondering if NSC is a conference you should attend, I'd say hands-down you should go. You will not regret it. The earlier you are able to attend, the more you will be able to cherish it.
Hank Havlin, SPT, is a student at Wheeling Jesuit University and will be graduating in December 2017. You can connect with Hank on Facebook.