I have mentioned this before, but if you are new to my page, you may not know that I am a soon-to-be physical therapist. I share more about my specific journey to physical therapy school here, so be sure to check it out. To expand on that a little bit more, I thought it was important to share about my experience in physical therapy.
To start, I decided to become a physical therapist because I wanted to help people. A very stereotypical response, I know, but it is true. I have had an overwhelming sense of wanting to help people for a long time. I just didn’t know how to go about doing it. And if I am completely honest, I was still unsure of how this would all play out even after being accepted into a physical therapy program. But it is through all my experiences in physical therapy school and out of school that I have been able to determine exactly the kind of physical therapist I want to be, and it extends far beyond the physical rehabilitation.
So how did I get there? How do I know exactly the kind of physical therapist I want to be? Well, I think it is important to give some background information about some of what my program entails.
To start, the program is a 3-year graduate level program. It consists of two full years of didactic work followed by one year in the clinic. Throughout the three years, there are four clinical experiences, or internships. My program requires the students to have one experience in acute care, which is in the hospital, and one in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. We have a choice, for the most part, to pick where would like to have the other two clinical experiences.
My first clinical experience was 5 weeks in acute care. My second experience was 6 weeks in an outpatient orthopedic clinic, and my third was 12 weeks in a different outpatient orthopedic clinic. I will be starting my fourth, and final, experience in January, which will be 14 weeks in length in inpatient rehabilitation.
After finishing my third clinical experience, I quickly realized the time spent in the clinic was incremental in helping me determine the kind of therapist I want to be. It was a challenging one, to say the least. The clinic was very busy, and there were days that we had anywhere from 16-20 patients on our schedule. Please keep in mind, I wasn’t treating all of these patients on my own. I had a clinical instructor, so we would share the caseload, but even still, it was extremely overwhelming at times. Trying to meet the productivity demands was very difficult for me, and I had a hard time managing it. And honestly, being a student physical therapist in the clinic is very difficult. Because we are students, I believe the expectations are higher than normal, which caused greater amounts of stress and anxiety, at least for me anyways.
So, what does all this mean? How has this experience helped me as I prepare to enter my final trimester of physical therapy school? To start, I realized that I want to help people beyond their physical rehabilitation, but due to certain constraints within the healthcare field, I need to find others ways of helping people that doesn’t involve me physically being in the clinic. I believe focusing on spiritual and mental health is equally as important as physical health, but we are not always able to address these things with our patients, hence the creation of my blog. It is my hope to expand my reach as a future physical therapist and help more people by creating an online presence. And believe me when I say, this was never part of my plan, but I do think it has always been part of THE plan.
This past trimester has been transformational fore me. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but there have been some big shifts over the past few months. I have put a greater focus on my spiritual and mental health. It is as if the fog has lifted. And with all of this, it has become clear to me the type of physical therapist I want to be. I am ready to take on the unconventional challenge. I never have been one to be conventional, anyways. I am a 30 something year old student, after all.