1 minute read
I feel like the best version of myself when I'm part of a team.
My time in high school sports and being an active member of Chi Omega sorority during my undergraduate career were key to the development of my personal and professional character. So getting to the graduate school chapter of my life without a team made me feel like I'd lost a part of who I was.
Although I had a strong support system in my loving family, incredible friends, and wonderful faculty in my physical therapy program who consistently go above for me and my peers, I felt like I was still missing the team aspect that I require to be my best self.
And that's when I found the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)—or better yet, APTA found me.
During the fall semester of my second year of physical therapy school, I was asked by a then third-year student who was serving on the Connecticut (CT) Chapter's Student Special Interest Group (SSIG) board if I would be interested in serving a leadership position for the following term. Upon being elected president of CT SSIG and diving head first into the pool that is APTA, I knew that I had found my team.
While serving my term for CT SSIG, I attended various APTA national conferences including CSM 2018, NEXT 2019, and NSC 2019, that further solidified the passion, motivation, and inspiration that comes along with being on team APTA. I had finally found the team that I needed to be a part of for the rest of my graduate studies and future career.
Since my time serving at the state level and now having the honor to serve at the national level as Nominating Committee member for the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors, I know that I have found a team that I will lean on for the entirety of my career. I am forever grateful to have been found by APTA and will continue to grow from the passion and authenticity it provides to its members.
Want to share your APTA love story? Submit it here! Haven't had such an experience or moment? We encourage you to contact William James, SPT, Director of Membership, APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors to discover APTA value and opportunities.
Kaitlyn Mital, SPT, is a student at Sacred Heart University and serves as Nominating Committee member for the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors. You can connect with Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynMitalSPT.
Best of 2019: APTA Pulse Blog and Podcast
In 2019, the APTA Pulse blog and Pulse podcast covered an array of topics including seeking more education, the value of grades, diversity and inclusion, student debt and finances, tips to ace your clinicals, caring for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and so much more.
Below is our top 9 most popular Pulse blog posts and podcast episodes in 2019. Enjoy!
Top 9 Pulse blog posts:
Top 9 Pulse podcast episodes:
Get the latest from the Pulse blog and Pulse podcast by following APTA's Student Assembly on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Interested in contributing to the Pulse blog? Sign up through APTA Engage volunteer platform. Have questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Patient as a Whole
6 minute read
As a student, textbooks and lectures tend to be the main source of learning. Tests, skills check-off lists, and exams for licensure are typically based on them. And yes, learning the facts are an imperative aspect of patient treatment. It allows a clinician to find the source of a physical ailment, offer a skilled service to treat an ailment, and get paid.
However, since becoming a clinician I have learned that effective patient treatment runs much deeper than anatomy. It is multifaceted and includes treatment of the patient as a whole: physical, emotional, advocacy, and compassion.
The foundation of patient treatment is the physical component.
It is why we go to school to become clinicians and learn from the plethora of reading assignments, lectures, exams, and anatomy labs that define education. It truly is much more effective to treat a patient who has suffered from a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) if the clinician knows what part of the brain was affected, typical characteristics that appear with that location, and techniques that are most effective to allow the brain to build new pathways. Every physical impairment has an underlying cause. Education and evidence-based practice equip a clinician to assess and treat the underlying cause.
Next is the emotional component of patient care. Mental health is more of a focus now than it has ever been in the past. As a therapist it is very important to ensure our patients’ emotional health is also being treated. Depending on the setting, this may look a little different. For higher level patients, like those who are in an outpatient setting or a skilled nursing facility recovering from a hip fracture or total knee replacement, they may know that this situation is temporary. They may experience some depression, but providing small goals such as a home exercise program, expectations, and breathing exercises may help give the patient an increased ability to see progress themselves. In other settings, especially those that involve more permanent adaptations, emotional care may expand beyond the patient. For example, in pediatrics, geriatrics, and those with brain or spinal injuries at any age, the plan of care also includes long-term changes and increased burden of care that includes family members and caregivers.
In any situation in which the burden of patient care suddenly changes, the whole family or caregiver dynamic will be affected. It also may affect how a patient behaves and interacts with those around them. Take a potential situation in an assisted living facility, for example. The care aides may approach the physical therapist and report that a new resident is irritable and continues to refuse showers. Transferring the patient to the bathroom requires 2 people because he refuses to cooperate. They may go to his room as little as possible because he does not want any help. He seems like a grumpy old man, right? This is where the emotional portion of treatments plays a huge part. What the care aides may not know is that this man recently received a Parkinson disease diagnosis, his wife of 58 years just passed away, he served in the Air Force for 35 years, and his children decided that it would be best for him to move to an assisted living facility to be closer to them and to prevent his risk of falling. This proud man just lost all control of his life, and it is causing depression, anxiety, and an overall fear of mortality. After speaking with the patient, the therapist finds out that he can actually transfer by himself. It just takes extra time due to his diagnosis. The therapist educates the staff about the best way to approach him, transfers training, personality characteristics, and allows him to have more control of his care, including what time he wants his shower. The resident is now more willing to work with staff because he is seen as a person with needs, not just an old man who has nothing more to offer the world. The family also needs to be educated about characteristics that go along with different diagnoses, plan of care needs that include possible referrals to other specialists, and possible support groups to further cope with changes. Implementing changes that affect the emotional aspect of treatment will help to improve patient progress and retention after discharge.
Advocacy is another important facet of patient care. The therapist follows a plan of care when treating a patient. Anything that impacts that plan of care is the therapist’s responsibility to document it and then follow up. For example, Mrs Jones continues to show up to her outpatient sessions with unsafe high blood pressure, Mr Roberts continues to complain of heel soreness from lying in bed too long, and Ms Smith continues to have a soaked brief every time she receives treatment. All of these situations can impact the health of the patient and their ability to participate in treatment. In Mrs Jones’ case, unsafe blood pressure can lead to a CVA. Her doctor needs to be notified, and she may need to be educated on the importance of taking blood pressure medications on time. In Mr Roberts’ case, his caregiver may need to be educated on the importance of floating heels to prevent pressure ulcers as well as the importance of him getting up and out of bed. If transferring is the issue, then transfer training will need to be completed. How about Ms Smith? How does that impact treatment? Having a soaked brief can cause skin breakdown as well as urinary tract infections that all can delay progress. If she is at a facility, care aides may need to be educated about how often to change briefs because Ms Smith cannot communicate when her brief is wet. All of these issues can cause problems for the patient, but more importantly, can be prevented. Advocating for the patient includes being truthful with the patient, educating the patient as well as any caregivers involved, and informing the appropriate clinician on the care team about concerns.
The “cherry on the top” of patient care is compassion. Compassion, as defined in the Collins English Dictionary, is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. When a patient is receiving physical therapy, they are there to get help at a time of misfortune, whether it includes pain, decreased mobility, or whatever the impairment may be. As a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant, it is our duty to show compassion and incorporate it into daily treatment. For example, a patient with vertebral compression fractures is completing supine exercises. In conversation, she mentions how her feet have been itching because they are so dry and the nurse’s aide doesn’t have the time to put lotion on. It is easy to show compassion by applying lotion during a rest break. Can this service be billed? No. Is it taught in school? No. But that patient will believe the clinician truly cares. It will lead to increased participation and a better outcome overall. Always ask, “What else do you need?” before the end of a session. It will lead to a deeper connection with the patient.
Our profession is about serving others physically, emotionally, through advocacy, and compassion. Learning the best techniques and latest research is important, but it is not the only way to impact patient treatment. Be mindful and observant of those in your care. Be ready to learn and ready to teach. It will make you a more well-rounded professional impacting the progress of patients.
Natalie Dorak, PTA
Podcast: A Nontraditional Student Perspective
Listening Time — 32:40
At age 39, Kelly Clarke became a physical therapist. Despite knowing she wanted to become a physical therapist at the age of 17, Kelly’s life and career took her down a different path. But what Kelly knew the entire time was that the profession of physical therapy was her calling.
By the time she entered physical therapy school, she was what we’re going to call in this episode a “nontraditional student”—older than most of her student peers, having explored other careers before pursuing the physical therapy profession.
In this episode, Kelly talks openly about some of the challenges of that nontraditional student experience. She also advises current and future students that they should never let a lack of encouragement be mistaken for discouragement, believing that if someone puts forward the effort that they too can enter this wonderful profession.
Here’s our conversation with Kelly.
Read Kelly's original blog post, “5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting Physical Therapy School: A Nontraditional Student Perspective,” or visit APTA’s Pulse blog for more articles like this.
APTA Podcasts like this one are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify, or by visiting APTA.org/Podcasts.
A Struggle I Would Not Change
4 minute read
I am in my 40s. I had a job for 15 years when I decided that I wanted a career change.
I looked around at the people I knew or had met.
I had a 4-year degree, but my degree was not specific enough to use as a tool for gainful employment elsewhere. I knew that I needed more education, either a master's degree or an associate's degree in a trade.
My friend and others, all physical therapists (PTs), impressed me with their skill sets in caring for my daughter with disabilities and teaching me through their work.
We talked about physical therapy, and I researched the time and cost involved for the education. The price tag was too high. I then heard about the physical therapist assistant (PTA) option. I realized that I could get similar professional enjoyment as a PT, but with a smaller price tag on the education. I also felt that I could make the same or more money than I was without the overtime at my current job.
I have a family. My wife and I had been married for 15 years when I started physical therapy school. We have 3 daughters, 1 of who is disabled.
We had a life that we were settled into, struggles and all. Now, I wanted to change things. I needed her support or it wasn't going to work. I had to have a conversation with my wife to see if this was something that we could handle. She said yes.
The prerequisites and the program course load—once accepted—would mean time away from home and money. We understood that I would go from working full-time to working part-time with extra shifts to pay tuition. It was a tall order, but she supported my dream and so did my daughters. Everyone understood that things at home might change while I worked toward becoming a PTA.
Once I began attending classes, I found myself looking at the pictures of past graduates on the walls. I needed to see if there was someone my age or close in the age group. I saw what looked like at least 1 in each class. I was happy to know that, at least historically, I was not alone as far as age was concerned.
I worked hard to maintain a presence at home. I was home with my family, but busy studying. Someone told me that it was good for my kids to see me study because it reinforced the notion when it came to their own schoolwork.
My wife had to pick up the ball on many occasions—getting the kids to school, homework, dinner, and parent–teacher conferences—due to my early class times, studying, and when it came time, clinical shifts. I did my best to help and maintain most of my duties as a parent and a spouse. I guess the good part was that I was actually home more than usual. Normally, I would be at work most days of the week. I would not see my family for days at a time except in the morning before they left for school and work. They actually had to get used to me being home while they were awake. Still, I was gone weekends when I worked my part-time shifts. And I worked holidays for extra money.
My classmates were young and smart and full of energy and plans. I had previously experienced some of their plans, but it was exciting to see the looks on their faces when talking about engagements, planning for a house, moving in with partners, and starting new relationships. All the while, my wife and I were talking about retirement plans and had done estate planning.
I was not the oldest person in my class. It was nice to not be alone in the age department. We had a few conversations about the perception of us in relation to our younger classmates. We talked about future employment and the reasons we went back to school.
I remember when I was a younger student, seeing older adults in my classes and wondering if their life took a wrong turn and now they needed to go back to school. For me, my life was actually okay before I started. I just wanted a change and felt I needed a formal education to do so.
Balancing school, work, and home can be challenging. Everything seems to be at stake. If I fail my classes, it means money wasted.
If my wife handled everything at home without any help, in addition to working full-time, she would be wiped out, and I would feel like I failed home.
If I fell asleep at work from being tired, I'd get fired and be unemployed.
I enjoyed the learning process. And my instructors and classmates were great; however, I felt like I was walking a tightrope the entire time.
It was a struggle from the beginning to the end; something that I would not change.
Waco Porter III, PTA, graduated from MO Western PTA program and now works at PRN for Life Care Centers, Encore, and Reliant Rehabilitation in the Kansas City area. He works with adults with developmental disabilities.
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.
Bottom Line, NSC Is the Conference for Students
3 minute read
National Student Conclave (NSC) is the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA's) conference "by students, for students," meaning that this conference is planned and organized by physical therapy students for the benefit of their fellow students.
This year, students from across the country gathered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for NSC where we experienced an unforgettable weekend of networking, lectures, and service opportunities.
NSC is something I'd briefly heard about throughout school, but my program put much more of an emphasis on APTA's Combined Sections Meeting (CSM), so it never occurred to me what a good opportunity going to NSC would be.
I personally opted to attend the Florida Student Conclave each year, which is similar to NSC, but on more of a local level. Throughout the 2 years attending these conclaves, I slowly got more involved with APTA, the Florida Physical Therapy Association (FPTA), and student leadership within my chapter, which helped me develop some amazing relationships with students all throughout the state. As I finally entered my third year of physical therapy school, I decided to take the plunge and attend NSC 2019 at the encouragement of my Florida #PTFam.
Despite being the only student from my program at NSC this year, I actually never felt alone the entire time I was there. I was fortunate enough to have built many great relationships with students beforehand, whether it had been in person or on social media, so I had plenty of people surrounding me. And by attending NSC I met so many students and made many more connections.
It was said a few times throughout conference weekend, that when you put a bunch of like-minded individuals together in a room, the energy in the room is palpable, and I could not agree more.
At my program, I'm considered the "APTA guy." I'm the person who either attends conferences, gets involved in APTA/FPTA events, or greatly advocates for being a member of the professional associations. At NSC, I was surrounded by people just like that and it was honestly the most refreshing experience that I didn't know I needed. I couldn't be more grateful to be able to be around my #PTFam.
Attending NSC also made me realize how much APTA values students.
The first night of conference, APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, kicked off the conference by explaining that 30% of APTA membership was made up of students and that student opinions were not only heard, but valued. She definitely put her money where her mouth was, as she spent most of the conference engaging with as many students as possible. I was fortunate enough to speak with her, and it was amazing to see the busiest person in our profession take her time to answer every question that I had with pleasure and with care and concern.
Lastly, NSC provided me with a great opportunity to get involved and give back to the local community. While at conference, I participated in the Special Olympics FUNfitness screening hosted by APTA. This event may have been one of my favorite things about this conference. I may be alone on this, but I genuinely enjoy being able to volunteer and really show what we are capable of as physical therapists. The fact that we were able to do this with the Special Olympics at the conference made this even better. The screening we performed involved multiple parts including, 5 Times Sit to Stand to assess function, Timed Up and Go, and Tandem Stance for balance and falls risk, the 2-Minute Step Test for aerobic fitness, a flexibility assessment, and, of course, the most important thing we can do: provide education. Another benefit of the screening was that it served as an opportunity to work in groups with students from across the country, at different programs, different years. All the students shared knowledge and reasoning, and the experience let us collaborate in a meaningful way. All of the athletes we screened were amazing individuals who were so appreciative that we took our time to do this. However, I feel like we were the ones who should have been grateful to them for allowing us to work with them.
Bottom line, NSC provided me with amazing opportunities to not only get involved, but also to meet some of the most incredible students nationwide. I plan on keeping each and every connection I have made thus far and look forward to continuing to build them at the next conference!
Riyad Mohamed, SPT, is a physical therapy student at the University of North Florida. He serves as director-at-large of the FPTA Student Special Interest Group. Connect with him on Twitter @riyad_mohamed.