The Rollercoaster That Is Life as a New Grad
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
I became a doctor of physical therapy approximately 7 months ago.
In that time I have learned too many lessons to count. But the biggest lesson I've learned is that there is a lot that I didn't know about being a new grad.
Sure, I'd made a resume for one of my courses. And I'd networked at professional conferences. But when exactly do you apply for jobs? And what do you talk about in an interview when you have no paid experience?
I spent so much of my time and energy during clinical rotations on learning documentation, time management, and how to be a good clinician. And I proved ready to succeed in those areas when I walked across the stage at graduation. Did I learn the difference between a health savings account and a flexible spending account? Or how to negotiate compensation? Absolutely not. Did I know how to formally reject an offer of employment? How much it actually costs to get a license? How to transition from a mind-set of studying to a mind-set of employment? Negative.
The transition from student physical therapist to doctor of physical therapy has been something I've looked forward to since seeing my acceptance letter to physical therapy school.
I've formulated career plans and professional goals, dreamt of the day I would receive my first "real" paycheck, and aspired to be the best physical therapist (PT) that I could for my patients. What I didn't realize is how difficult this time period can be. There's a rollercoaster of emotions: overly elated to graduate, but nostalgic about parting ways with classmates and excited to practice, but overwhelmed at the prospect of no longer having a clinical instructor to act as a safety net when I make mistakes. There's also the understanding that being a PT is more than clinical—it involves administrative and financial sides and mental and emotional sides too. And while we learn an absorbent amount of information in school, there are some topics that we aren't able to gain as much exposure to. That has been what I've struggled the most with, where I've made the most mistakes, and what I hope to shed light on for current and future students.
I've been a new grad for only a short period of time. While I'm still learning as I go, I am sure of this: my involvement with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has set me up with the best support system of colleagues that I could I ask for, growth opportunities that I never knew existed, and reminded me of why I love this profession.
I am incredibly humbled to be speaking at this year's 2019 APTA National Student Conclave (NSC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This conference was the catalyst to most of my incredible friendships with the #PTfam as well as the inspiration for many of the career goals previously mentioned. My intention is to provide insight on topics important to this new grad transition and ones that I wish I had known more about as a student. While no one experience can be the same, I hope to provide an overview of information and recommendations to set you up for success as you begin to think about what comes next. But most importantly, I hope to affirm that the work you're doing now in the clinic and classroom is setting you up for a career more prosperous than you can imagine. So I challenge everyone reading this piece to step outside your comfort zone, step away from school, and experience how awesome our #PTfam is at APTA NSC this fall.
Join us October 31 - November 2, 2019 in Albuquerque, NM, for NSC! Registration opens mid-July.
Bryn Hager, PT, DPT, is a 2018 graduate from Wingate University in North Carolina. During her time as a student, she held positions in the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy, Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy, North Carolina Physical Therapy Association's student special interest group, Foundation for Physical Therapy Research, and PT Pub Night. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and practices in both pediatric and adult inpatient rehab. You can connect with her on Twitter at @bryn_hager.