During orientation on my first day as a physical therapy student, the director of our program asked us “who in this room wants to be a mediocre physical therapist?” of course no one raised their hand, “who wants to be a great physical therapist?” every hand went up.
The last 3 years have been a whirlwind of classes, labs, late night study sessions and clinical rotations. The road to becoming a physical therapist has been both a challenge and an amazing adventure. As I reflect on my last few weeks as a student physical therapist and making the transition to becoming a doctor of physical therapy, I think about how much I learned over the last few years and, astonishingly, how much I still have to do.
So much of what I will use in the clinic has come from the past year of hands-on experience during clinical rotations. In school we learn about different injuries and pathologies and are taught how the “typical” patient will present, what their signs and symptoms will be, what clinical tests will be positive and what treatments will be best suited for them. This is the best way to teach in a school setting since there are not always patients available for students to treat, and it gives us the best general understanding of each injury. But being in the clinic and having the opportunity to treat actual patients along side many gifted practitioners, it has become clear that each patient has unique circumstances in signs, symptoms and goals.
I had the opportunity to do one of my clinical rotations at Stratton Rehabilitation and was impressed with the individualized hands-on treatment of patients. We take the time to figure out what is happening at the muscular and joint levels, as well as, talk to the patient about what their goals for rehabilitation are in order to come up with a thorough treatment plan. Some clinics and therapists can fall victim to cookie cutter treatment plans that are based on the injury and not the patient. That is not why I chose to enter physical therapy and I’m thrilled to be joining Stratton Rehabilitation where state-of-the-art treatment truly integrates with personal application.
Graduating from physical therapy school did not mark the end of being a student. Part of being a great physical therapist means keeping up with continuing education courses, learning the latest research on evidence-based practice, and constantly challenging myself to choose and apply all available treatment methods. I’m looking at this transition as a new challenge to continue learning, not to get a grade anymore, but to help my patients regain what has been lost. I have the tools and knowledge, now it’s time to get busy!