Thoughts of a First Year Student on Hybrid DPT Learning

By Erin Lee, Class of 2023

First, let’s just acknowledge that none of us chose to be here like this. No one decided this was a good idea or that anything “good” beyond surviving should come of this. In fact, if you’re reading this it’s safe to say that most of your plans for 2020 and possibly 2021 have been upended, or at the very least, dramatically changed.

And I want you to know that is okay, you are not alone in this experience.

My reflection is broken down into two parts – each an idea that I personally feel has helped me be successful through my first semester and be “successful” through a pandemic.

Perspective

“Is the glass half full, or half empty…or maybe it just has water in it.”

-anonymous

Sometimes, perspective means being objective and not rating an experience positive or negative, but simply that it is.

As a first year, I had the advantage of entering school mid-pandemic, not yet knowing how PT school was “traditionally” taught. And so, though some experiences were awkward and definitely not ideal, it was not as much the complete culture shock as I imagine the second and third years must’ve experienced. And honestly, transitioning from the workforce into some kind of structured organization, and a safety net mid-pandemic was a relief of sorts.

I found myself clinging to this mantra during my first semester navigating the pandemic – “we do what we can, and we do what we must.” Our class had to get through the semester; in my mind there was no other option. Well, we didn’t really HAVE to, I suppose any one of us could’ve quit or taken time off…but I think there was a shared vision to accomplish something in a time of uncertainty. That shared desire and shared adversity to simply put our heads down and survive got us through much more than we realize. We not only got through one semester on a hybrid system, we did so with only one classmate contracting COVID-19 in a cohort of 83. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but it took a ton of teamwork and coordination, and mutual participation and the cooperation of 83 people to work towards the same goal. It’s a small win in the grand scheme of things, but it’s the win we needed. A boost of energy to propel us into the upcoming semester with a larger perspective on what we can accomplish. 

Our goal is shared, and it is simple, to graduate as competent Doctors of Physical Therapy. But our bigger goal is why we all chose this profession in the first place: to help others. And if anything, this pandemic has zoomed (see what I did there) in on how we can better help on the micro level; within ourselves and amongst ourselves. Our class has come up with creative ways to stay connected online, through book clubs, running clubs, and other special interest virtual or outdoors groups. We’ve hosted group study zoom sessions. We persuaded professors to provide us additional help such as cadaver videos, deadline extensions, assignment/exam adjustments. We’ve also unified over some inside jokes and frustrations that are truly “once in a pandemic” moments.

This was not easy experience. Our class has had to have some tough conversations. There have been many tears. I found that it has been necessary to allow space to grieve. Grieve lost expectations; grieve missed experiences; grieve change. Our cohort probably will never be “as close knit” as previous classes. Chatting over zoom and slack is not the same as grabbing a beverage with a new crew of friends. Some learning and service experiences are forever missed. Some things were not ideal. Actually, most things were not ideal. This has not been fun. But like I said earlier, it has been necessary. It is what it is.

Adaptability

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

– Charles Darwin

While I do not wish this experience on any student or any human being, this is what I do know. The faculty at Regis University have been nothing short of superheroes. They fought hard to transition our first semester into a hybrid model. They preserved our cadaver lab (which is the holy grail of every PT students’ experience). They made sure to be as accessible and remain personable albeit virtually. The teaching faculty had to completely overhaul their curriculum and recreate content (to make it virtual friendly) that probably took years to create in the first place.

Our workload was intense as the school had to condense material into a shorter semester.  So, while this meant I was spending some (most) late nights listening to an AEP (audio enhanced presentation) in preparation for a class, this in turn meant double, if not triple the time requirement professors needed to put in to churn out relevant and appropriate material for our hybrid lectures. While there were some cracks in the fluidity of a hybrid model, I personally did not feel like any essential content was lost through the transition. On top of that, our school was very transparent on the COVID-19 progress within our Regis community and was clear on expectations and protocols implemented within the school and on state level. The program has been extremely proactive in its action plan for any and every COVID-19 scenario.

They say that adversity shows one’s true colors. I have seen my classmates impressively adapt to the ever-changing schedule and study situations – classroom one day, virtual the next. I have seen professors adapting to technology, being willing to try new ways of teaching and communicating.

I chose this program based on intuition, and it has been reinforced through these first few months. This is a group of people and program I can trust. If they’ve showed me anything, it is to accept the imperfect nature of humans, the unpredictability of life, and that kindness is within all of us. In my opinion, this summates to the ideas of adaptability and keeping a true perspective on life and our journey through it.

First year students in cadaver lab

One thought on “Thoughts of a First Year Student on Hybrid DPT Learning

  1. Very well written piece. Your reflections really make it more clear that it’s through the journey that we grow. Thank you for this.

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