To My Fellow Students
7 minute read
A little under three years ago, I was a first-year physical therapy student, and I held a human brain in my hands for the first time in gross anatomy lab. It was, by far, one of the coolest days I'd ever had. I didn't think any feeling would ever top that feeling — until I helped a college student return to her group exercise classes after a broken ankle, until I helped a retired woman learn how to walk through Target aisles after she had a brain tumor removed, and until I helped a little boy with developmental delays learn how to jump up to pop bubbles with his brothers. The only feeling that I thought that might top those feelings? The feeling that I was going to get walking across the stage to get my doctor of physical therapy degree — that is, until COVID-19 showed up and changed everyone's plans.
What a way to end our time in physical therapy school. Clinicals halted early. Abrupt or virtual goodbyes to clinical instructors, and goodbyes passed along on our behalf to patients. Graduations delayed, postponed, or cancelled altogether. No last class party, no last get-together with the professors. This one hurts more than the C we got on a neuroanatomy exam, or more than the experience of failing a practical. For those set to graduate in August or September, I'm sure the thought of potentially waiting even longer for your hard-earned degree feels nothing short of robbery. For those in programs like mine who are set to graduate this May, this is not what any of us imagined when we pictured our final clinical rotation, last semester, or graduation.
If I had to put my finger on how most of us are feeling right now, it'd be a combination of worried, lost, and defeated. We're worried about our friends and families, our grandparents, anyone we know who is considered high risk, and our friends in other disciplines who are deemed essential personnel who've been called in to work every day. We feel lost because we no longer have clinic time to fill up our days, and we've pretty much finished all our work. We feel defeated because we were pulled from clinical rotations prematurely, but mostly because this accomplishment that we've worked so hard for will no longer be celebrated as expected with our loved ones. If there's anything we need right now, it's encouragement and positivity.
Given the current state of this global pandemic it feels strange to even type this out, but congratulations are in order to all of us. We essentially have just finished seven years of higher education. We made it through all of the long days in lecture, the late nights agonizing over origins and insertions and capsular patterns, through countless labs, through drafting and sharing study guides, reading articles, presenting projects and research, and practicing and critiquing manual skills. We said hello to patients who changed our lives forever, and we also had to say goodbye as our rotations went by faster than we imagined they would. We formed friendships that will last a lifetime with our classmates, our professors, and our clinical instructors. Even though that feels overshadowed, we did it. Take a pause and hold onto that.
We're understandably devastated that a lot of us won't get the opportunity to walk across that stage and receive our diploma in front of our friends and families when we expected to. A lot of us are worried about the NPTE too. We've done everything in our control at this point to take the exam as early as possible so that we can start working right away, but that might be later than anticipated. Find something, anything, that motivates you to keep studying — we'll take the exam when we can, and when we do we'll pass it. Take a pause and hold onto that.
The field of physical therapy is more diverse now in terms of both setting and practitioner than ever before. There are so many opportunities for us out in the world — seriously, I get at least 30 LinkedIn and Indeed notifications to my email every day. There is so much more information we have to learn so that we can translate it for our patients. Each of us has the knowledge and skills to find our place in the profession. Is it scary that we'll likely be starting the job hunt in a recession? Absolutely. I don't mean to downplay that at all, we all have loans to pay off. But we'll get there. We'll get hired. And then, FINALLY, not too long from now, we'll be full-fledged physical therapists. Take a pause and hold onto that.
To the classes of 2021 and 2022: I know you're probably frustrated that your rotations and education have been affected by this too. Know that your choice to join this profession will be worth it. Don't take this time in school for granted; get the most out of it that you possibly can. Go to every review, class party, information session, APTA meeting, or conference that you can once social distancing isn't necessary anymore. School will be finished before you know it, but your profession needs you.
To the class of 2020: It may not be what we thought it would be, but it's here. Allow yourself to feel the disappointment, but also use this unforeseen free time to your advantage. Take a breath, and take a study break (be honest, you need one at this point). Do a home workout, call a friend, take a walk outside — take care of yourself, and especially now, please stay safe! Be proud of what you have accomplished and keep thinking positively, even though it's hard. Know that you deserve this moment of pause, no matter how you choose to use it. We'll get there together.
Last, but not least, to my own graduating class, Virginia Commonwealth University DPT 2020: You all have challenged me, inspired me, and helped me become the person and therapist that I am today. From our days of being stuck in Sanger's elevators, to our white coat ceremony, to our endless days and late nights spent in West Hospital basement, to all the fun we had both in and out of the classroom, to now, it's been quite a journey, and it wouldn't have been the same without any of you (and especially themed Fridays). The last three years have been unforgettable, and I cannot wait to see what we do.
Samantha "Sam" Puller is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is passionate about pediatrics and physical therapy education. You can connect with her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter to Students Regarding COVID-19
To Our Fellow Students:
We have journeyed through many classes, exams, and clinical internships in pursuit of becoming a PT or PTA. Now we are presented with our biggest challenge yet.
COVID-19 is affecting the health of people around the world and close to home. As our nation has taken steps to reduce the spread of the outbreak, it has introduced a new level of uncertainty and anxiety to our career paths: virtual classrooms, cancelled clinical rotations, and postponed graduation ceremonies, just to name a few.
In times like this, it's more important than ever to remember why we chose the profession of physical therapy, and to look for any opportunity to be a positive force in the health of society.
So what do we do now as we await answers about our futures? First, we take care of ourselves at home. Call friends to stay connected. Get physical activity (while practicing social distancing). And if you find yourself with any extra time, maybe read that book you've been putting off.
To keep up with what's going on, APTA and the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy have provided resources regarding the impact of COVID-19 on our profession and physical therapy education. Additionally, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education has issued updates to provide guidance with the present uncertainties in both didactic and clinical portions of our education. As this situation continues to evolve, check these links often to receive the most up-to-date information, and remain in close contact with your program for specific guidance on expectations and requirements.
This is a stressful time. Many of us feel unsure, uneasy, and unsettled with changed timelines and deviations from our original goals and plans.
Remember that you are not alone. Of APTA's more than 100,000 members, over 27,000 of us are students — the APTA Student Assembly — and we are in this together. We must continue to build each other up, encourage one another, and provide support where needed.
APTA's mission statement, "Building a community that advances the profession of physical therapy to improve the health of society," calls us to unite, now more than ever.
So remember that even in this time of physical distancing, we are better together. Reach out to each other on social media. Find ways to support your peers as we continue our journey to join the physical therapy profession.
Your program is your best source to answer specific questions about what this disruption means for your education, but if you have other questions or simply want a virtual hug, please reach out to us.
In your service,
The APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors
Inspired to Advocate for Our Profession
12 minute read
As students we feel that advocating for our profession and our patients is important. So much so, that as members of the APTA Student Assembly's Advocacy Project Committee, we feel that it is very important for students to find their place in advocating for our profession. We hope that our experiences will be helpful for anyone looking for a place to start.
During my second year of physical therapy school, my program had students attend Minnesota's PT Day on the Hill at the state Capitol with other students and practitioners. I was excited, but unsure of what to expect.
Remarks were given by chapter leaders and others to kick off the day. One message I remember resonating with me was from our lobbyist. He said that for everything we can do as physical therapists and physical therapist assistants we can follow a string back to this building, the Capitol, where congress people are making decisions about our profession and for our patients. Therefore, we need to make sure that we are educating our legislators on what we learn, what we do, and how we impact society, because none of them are physical therapists themselves.
When I met with both my representative and senator, I spoke up in my group to share more about our profession because I realized that it was true — we know what we do, and a lot of times our congress people do not.
It was an energizing experience to be able to speak up for our work and our patients! After leaving that day, I knew that I wanted to go to APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C., and do the same thing in our nation's capital.
Advocacy is done in all sorts of ways: talking to your legislators in person, sending them a message from your computer or phone, or educating your patients and the public on the role of physical therapy. However you do it, advocacy is an important part in our profession, as it guides the work that we do on a daily basis.
— Elizabeth Hermodson-Olsen, SPT (email@example.com), St. Catherine University
My advocacy experience started during my second year of school attending the National Advocacy Dinner in Arizona.
As part of the Arizona SSIG, it was my job to promote NAD to students and the opportunities to become involved in advocacy. Luckily for me, our NAD was held at A.T. Still University, where I attend physical therapy school.
At my first NAD, I learned about state and national opportunities students could participate in to learn about advocacy. APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum was discussed, along with priority legislation and other advocacy efforts.
As I attended more APTA events and became involved with the APTA Student Assembly, I became aware of other ways that students can increase their actions toward advocating in our profession: reaching out to legislators in passing bills, using the APTA Action app during the Flash Action Strategy, and promotion of these efforts on social media.
APTA works diligently in taking action to provide PTs and PTAs the ability to serve their patients. This cannot be done alone, which is why education about advocacy is essential to all clinicians and students. This has increased my knowledge and passion for advocacy, as it is important to understand that advocacy can lead our profession.
— Juliette Dassinger, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), A.T. Still University
My interest in advocacy began during my observation hours as a physical therapy school applicant. Physical therapists frequently expressed concerns about various issues regarding regulatory affairs, reimbursement, administrative burden, and other issues. At that point, I knew it was important for me to build the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to solving some of these issues in support of the physical therapy profession and the patients who benefit from physical therapist services.
When the Virginia Chapter offered a scholarship opportunity to attend APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum, I could not wait to start my advocacy journey. I attended the forum in Washington, D.C., in 2018 and I was immediately blown away by the display of dedication to advocacy. Throughout the conference, I attended educational sessions on regulatory affairs, student involvement in advocacy, and met with legislative staff, alongside experienced physical therapy advocates.
Following this experience, I sought additional opportunities to engage in advocacy, such as serving my class as a Virginia Physical Therapy Association representative, volunteering as an usher for the APTA House of Delegates, joining the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Students and New Professionals Advocacy Committee, and finally, organizing a National Advocacy Dinner last spring.
All of these experiences were surrounded by support from mentors in the form of peers and future colleagues. I have noticed a great inclusiveness of the advocacy community on national, state, and local levels, and I look forward to supporting students as they find their role in advocacy.
As future physical therapists, we will all find ourselves in the role of advocate in some shape or form. Advocacy can mean speaking with legislators about our value as health care professionals, utilizing the APTA Action app to advocate for specific legislation, serving on a committee within your state organization, or educating the public about our training and scope of practice, among many others. I look forward to continuing to learn in this new role on the Advocacy Project Committee, as I support students in engaging in advocacy and hosting National Advocacy Dinners!
— Sarah Strong, SPT (email@example.com), Shenandoah University
My advocacy interests began at APTA's 2019 Federal Advocacy Forum in our nation's capital.
I had applied for a scholarship through my state's student special interests group (shout out MSSIG). When it came to FAF, I had no idea what to expect, I didn't know anybody there, and I took a chance. I am so glad that I did because it opened my eyes to how hard APTA works to fight for our profession and our patients.
I also got to meet some incredible people, including students, young and seasoned professionals, physical therapy leaders, and federal legislators. I even got to meet everyone's favorite physical therapist, APTA President Sharon Dunn. Some of these individuals were initially intimidating to engage with, but once you did you could see they were just as happy to talk to you as you were to them.
Following the forum, I continued my engagement in advocacy by attending my state's National Advocacy Dinner that was held during the Missouri Physical Therapy Association's spring conference. National Advocacy Dinners are awesome ways to engage with other students and clinicians to discuss current state-level issues (also there is free food!).
My involvement with APTA has only continued to grow through attending more state and national events, engaging with my classmates about advocacy issues, and becoming a slated candidate for the APTA Student Assembly's Board of Directors. And now I am here as a member of the Student Assembly's Advocacy Project Committee, and I am only continuing to learn more.
All of these experiences have had an impact on my professional growth and a greater understanding of the field of physical therapy outside of the clinic. I encourage everyone to become involved in the profession, whether that is through advocacy, community service, leadership, research, education, or a combination of these. Feel free to reach out to those around you who you know are involved. Just ask them because there is always room at the table for you.
— Alex Henderson, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), Washington University
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, advocacy has always been a part of my life.
The Human Rights Campaign, the history of the Stonewall riots, and Columbus, Ohio's, annual pride marches have been instrumental in educating me about the importance of making your voice heard.
So when I decided to join the physical therapy profession and community, I was excited to learn that APTA had many opportunities to get involved.
My first experience with physical therapy advocacy came through the 2019 APTA National Student Conclave. I'm fortunate to be in a program that sponsors students to attend this conference every year. In addition to networking with students from all over the country, I met so many people who shared my passion for advocacy and encouraged me to get involved with initiatives that I didn't even realize existed.
Since that conference experience, I've been able to maintain those relationships with my peers through a variety of avenues. Twitter has been a game-changer for me in terms of staying connected with others in the profession and staying informed. If you haven't made a professional Twitter account (or curated what pops up in your feed) I highly recommend doing so. Every single day I find something that makes me proud and excited to continue my education and fuels my fire for professional advocacy.
Thanks to the connections I've made over the past year, I am organizing a local National Advocacy Dinner. We are planning a fun, casual happy hour with some movers-and-shakers in the profession, learning from each other, fostering connections, and developing deeper understandings of current issues affecting our profession.
I feel lucky to have caught the advocacy "bug" early on in my school career and can't wait to see what the future holds, knowing that APTA continues to grow and support my journey. If you see me at this year's Federal Advocacy Forum or APTA House of Delegates, please feel free to come say hello. I would love to get to know you and hear your story!
— Chase Kuhn, SPT (email@example.com), The Ohio State University
"Just by being here today, it means that you are a leader in your profession." It was my second day at the 2019 APTA Federal Advocacy Forum, and as I sat in a vaulted ceiling lecture hall in Washington, D.C., those words resonated with me.
At this event, I was in the company of upperclassmen physical therapy students, established clinicians, professors, and researchers. It was difficult to consider myself a leader of a profession in which I was not even legally allowed to practice yet.
As the speaker continued, he emphasized that the best way to make a connection with a government official is by sharing a personal story. With that, I settled back into my chair and was reminded of what I could contribute.
For the first time in two decades physical therapy advocacy focus shifted away from repealing the Medicare Therapy Cap. The 2019 FAF had a central theme of improving access to physical therapist services as well as the impact that physical therapy has on the opioid crisis.
By receiving a grant to attend FAF from the Florida Physical Therapy Association, I was able to better connect with legislators by sharing the story of a loved one who struggled with prescription opioid addiction. This individual could have benefited from the therapeutic techniques utilized by physical therapy. But instead, their physician prescribed opioids in response to chronic pain and, thus, sent them down a road that is extremely difficult to turn back from.
The educational informational sessions I attended, legislative meetings I spoke at, and the passionate clinicians and students I met at this event lit a fire within me that has only since grown. I took my experiences at FAF to my own state's advocacy days and felt significantly more comfortable speaking with legislative officials as a student.
Joining the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee seemed like the next natural progression. Becoming involved in advocacy as a student can seem like a daunting task — one of the missions of this project committee is to make it a little easier. I've had many students and clinicians guiding me through my advocacy journey, and I hope to do the same for any student who I come in contact with!
— Alyse Hausman, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), University of Florida
I had no idea what an impact becoming involved in professional advocacy was going to have on my life.
It was something that slowly became a part of who I am and what I hope to do with my future career.
When I first joined the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee last year, it really became an amazing resource for me. I was a part of a group of students who were so passionate about advocacy and knew the best ways to get involved.
While that was happening, my professors were also engaging my classmates and me in discussions about ways that we can move our profession forward. The answer seemed pretty clear to me: advocacy.
I had become increasingly aware of the fact that people did not know the breadth of what a physical therapist does, nor the impact that physical therapy has on patients. I decided then that I was going to take every opportunity to share who we are and what we do.
From there, my passion continued to grow. I started organizing the National Advocacy Dinner for Rhode Island and engaging my classmates, professors, clinicians, and APTA Rhode Island leadership in discussions about the importance of advocacy. I also found myself inspired to attend APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum, taking in the energy of so many amazing advocates for our profession. That led me to be an usher at the 2019 APTA House of Delegates, where I was enthralled by the process that our professional organization goes through to adopt new motions that pushes physical therapy forward. I am so thankful that this process has led me to become the chair of the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee this year, and that I get to be a part of another amazing group of students who put in so much work to advocate for our profession.
There is a place for everyone in advocacy and no effort is too small. Take every opportunity to teach the public on our education as PT and PTA students and our profession, so we can continue to help people and grow our field. Becoming involved in National Advocacy Dinners is really where it all started for me, and I feel that it is a huge opportunity for all students!
— Erin Sayles, SPT (email@example.com), University of Rhode Island
Want to get involved in professional advocacy? We'd be happy to talk to you about your interests and involvement opportunities. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any of the Advocacy Project Committee members. If you have questions about other involvement opportunities please visit our Student Involvement Guide, sign-up for APTA Engage, or send an email to email@example.com.
APTA Student Assembly Core Ambassador Applications Open
The APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors is excited to open the APTA Student Assembly Core Ambassador (CA) position applications for the upcoming term.
As of March 3, 2020, CA applications are open via the APTA Engage volunteer portal in the following states:
The application for these states will be open until March 23, 2020. CA position opportunities for those states not listed above will be posted later this year.
If you have questions please contact Kayla Harris, SPT, Vice President, APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors. Learn more about the CA position and other involvement opportunities.
Podcast: Easing the Transition From Student to Clinician
Listening Time — 46:55
Will Stokes, PT, DPT, is on a mission to prepare the future of our profession for the transition from student to professional.
In this episode, Will shared his story as once a student transitioning into a clinician, described how he prepped himself throughout his clinical rotations for his first job, and gives insight on his experience once he became a professional.
Will acknowledges the transition from student to professional can be challenging and steep, but he encourages students to ask questions, own what you don’t know or understand, and embrace the change moving into the new chapter in your career.
Here’s our conversation with Will.
Read Will's blog post, "Easing the Transition From Student to Clinician" or view more on the APTA Pulse blog.
APTA Podcasts like this one are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify, or by visiting APTA.org/Podcasts.
Attend CSM? I Vote Yes!
5 minute read
As a first-year physical therapy student who only had a semester of classes under his belt and no professional conference experience, I didn't know what to think when I first heard about the 2020 Combined Sections Meeting in Denver, Colorado.
I overheard some of the second-year students talking about how excited they were to go and learn from some of the best professionals in the field, and how they wished that they had gone during their first year. After hearing two students talk about all the great opportunities that are available at this conference, I knew that I had to go and see what CSM was all about.
The day that we got the email saying that registration was open, I jumped on my computer to secure a spot, only to realize that in order to complete the registration process, I needed to pick out what sessions, business meetings, and events I wanted to attend. At first, I didn't think that this would be too tough, but boy, was I wrong.
I opened up the session list to start the selection process and there were what seemed like hundreds of options. And to top it all off, that was just for the first day of the conference. I now fully understand why it's considered the largest physical therapy conference in the nation. Sheesh!
Two and a half weeks later (I know, maybe a little procrastination on my part), I was registered and ready to go — or so I thought. The next step was figuring out transportation and housing. Luckily, one of my fellow classmates (shout out Sarah) found an awesome and affordable Airbnb that was only a 10-minute drive to the convention center. This made travel to and from the conference very easy, thanks to Lyft and Uber. I booked my flight from Madison to Denver and let the anticipation begin.
As a group, my classmates and I wanted to get there the day before CSM started. This allowed for time to explore Denver and its surrounding areas, get some studying and homework done, and finish up any last-minute preparation for CSM. Thankfully, our program was extremely helpful and encouraging, providing us with financial assistance to attend and making it possible for us to take this time away from the classroom.
Upon arrival to the convention center the next morning, I immediately felt a mix of emotions. I was excited, nervous, and a little overwhelmed. The place was flooded with thousands of people with different backgrounds and experiences, but all with a shared passion for physical therapy and a desire for continuing education. It was inspiring! At that moment, I knew that I was in the right place.
As a student who just started physical therapy school, I was still trying to figure out where my own passions lie and what setting would be most appropriate for me. I remember thinking about whether or not I had picked the right sessions, and what if the session wasn't what I had expected. However, I quickly realized that there are no "wrong" sessions at CSM, since all the presenters are highly regarded and distinguished in their respective areas.
Coming to this realization allowed me to take full advantage of the opportunities presented. I attended sessions in a variety of areas like stroke rehabilitation, blood flow restriction training, athletes returning to sports, and many more. This truly made me appreciate the diversity within our field and encouraged me to continue to explore my options for the future.
In addition to all of the incredible sessions, CSM is a great place for networking and meeting new people. Everyone who I interacted with had a unique story and shared with me how they got to where they are today.
If you decide to attend CSM, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and talk to new people. Sign up for that SIG meeting that you're curious about or the evening social with people you don't know. You never know who you could meet and how it could potentially help you in the future when seeking out new opportunities or applying for jobs and residencies. It was definitely uncomfortable for me at first, but based on some of the people I met, I am very glad that I did it.
I can't write about my experience at CSM without mentioning the exhibit hall. If you like entering your name into raffles and collecting freebies (like a brand-new Thera Cane), this is the place to be. I swear that you could walk away from the exhibit hall with a new wardrobe, some lunch, and a backpack full of stress balls, pens, and so much more. In all seriousness though, the exhibit hall is great and not just because of what was mentioned above. There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of exhibitors to speak with. I found myself speaking with representatives from places where I was hoping to do future clinicals, recruiters for companies that I could potentially work for after graduation, and students and clinicians who were presenting their different areas of research. I even got a chance to try out some new rehabilitation technology and innovations, which was really cool!
In fact, being exposed to some of the research that my fellow colleagues were involved in made me want to get involved. As a result, I have been actively seeking out research opportunities within my program, with future goals of sharing my knowledge with someone who is in a similar situation that I was before attending CSM. Additionally, my experience at CSM helped narrow down my interests in physical therapy, plan out my clinical rotations, and kick-start my thoughts about where I could see myself after school.
So if you find yourself contemplating whether or not you should attend the next CSM, I vote yes. Should you be worried that you don't have enough experience in school? Based on the opinion of a first-year student, no. As long as you are willing to try something new and open yourself up to everything that CSM has to offer, you will come away with an unforgettable experience.
Couldn't make it to CSM 2020? Join us June 3-6, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona for APTA's NEXT Conference and Exposition. Learn more and register.
Joe Chapman, SPT, is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and serves as the
APTA student representative for his class
. You can connect with Joe via email.
6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Residency Program
1 minute read
So you want to pursue a residency, but there's various settings, locations, cultures. How do you choose? Here are 6 things to consider when choosing a residency program.
- Figure out which area of practice you are committed to first. If you are interested in more than 1, get out and practice a bit first and figure out which area you want to commit to residency training (and possibly your career).
- Think beyond clinical specialization to other career pathways/goals that you might have. Are you interested in teaching, research, leadership, etc? Then, review the program's mission and goals, as the program's mission and goals will indicate their focus. All programs must teach clinical specialization knowledge to allow residents to pass the ABPTS examination. But do they also provide teaching, research, and leadership opportunities? Their mission and goals should indicate that. If you don't like something (eg, research) and you choose a program where the mission and goals indicate research is a big part of the program, this is likely not going to be a good fit.
- Do you want to relocate? If not, then you can begin to narrow the list of programs based on your geographical location.
- What type of learner are you? Do you want to immersion within a program, meaning that a program "hires" you as resident and they provide all of the didactic, clinical, and other learning opportunities onsite? Faculty is there at all times, if you have questions or need clarification for something. Or do you prefer distant education or a part-time program?
- Review the program's faculty. Are there faculty members that you heard about who you would love to train under?
- Speak to current and past residents of the program to get their point of view. They are usually quite honest in their evaluation of the program.
Finally, while we have many different program models, an applicant can always find the right fit for them. To learn more about residency and fellowship programs or if you have additional questions please contact the APTA residency and fellowship staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education website.