Bringing New Life to Regis: What it’s like to become a first-time parent while in the DPT program

Featuring Alexandra Gordon and Tanner Williams

An Interview With Alexandra Gordon

Baby Clare does PT

Being a new mom while working towards my DPT was a daunting thought but the Regis support system has been incredible. There have been a handful of other women in the Regis DPT program’s history who have gone before me and walked this path, but it is a fairly rare occurrence. Both classmates and faculty have been supportive and interested in my well-being, as well as that of my daughter, Clare. It’s made a huge difference for people to be invested in how I am doing with my studies and my health, not just my baby. I’ve had a lot of support. A friend made me dinner during finals week which was wonderful, and faculty have been great when Clare needed to come to class when babysitting fell through. Everyone has been overwhelmingly positive about having a newborn in class. Even my research group has adopted her and asked to have her there when we would hold research meetings!

In terms of how having Clare has impacted my studies, it’s changed my mindset about grades mostly. I ask myself the question our professor Larissa Hoffman asks us, “Do I know it well enough?” I have new priorities now. I’m not willing to sacrifice Clare’s well-being for grades, and ultimately, I haven’t had to. I’ve come to realize that getting an A doesn’t necessarily translate to doing well for my patients in the long run so I’m trying to figure out how to balance that mindset.

Clare has brought even more compassion to my practice as a physical therapist. Whereas before she was here in my life, I thought waking up in the middle of the night would be such a chore, but once she was here and needed me, it came naturally. That has given me perspective on some aspects of physical therapy like documentation that I’m not as interested in but are for the benefit of that patient. They need to be done and I will do them because my patient needs that from me. Clare has also helped grow my empathy towards other people’s children. I was pregnant when we were discussing child abuse this past summer in Psychosocial Aspects of Healthcare and just lost it. I absolutely cannot imagine how anyone could choose to do that to another person. Clare has allowed me to put myself in the place of another parent.

Clare is also shaping my professional goals. I’m very much interested in neuro but I’m not sure how realistic pursuing that is since siblings for Clare are on the horizon. I’m still not sure where I’ll end up but right now. I’m leaning towards home health since it is a more flexible sector and would allow for me to care for my family as well as work. I also enjoy interacting with the older population and feel like it might be doing the industry a disservice not to pursue that interest. I love how honest and forthright older folks are. They’re either sweet or super grumpy, but even the grump one will open and then you’re in with them for good once you connect. I’m an old soul so I feel like it’s easier for me to connect with older generations.

Clare has been my angel baby – I’m just so grateful she sleeps through the night!

How to Be A Successful New Parent and PT Student

Written by Tanner Williams

Becoming a new dad has been the most meaningful, exciting, and joyous occasion of my life. It has also been incredibly stressful, tiring, and by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I always assumed that parenting would be both wonderful and stressful at all times, but the reality is that moments are often dominated by one emotion or the other. There are times where I’m up at 2 am before an important day at school and my daughter needs to be held; in these moments I’m incredibly tired, stressed, on the verge of breaking down emotionally and physically, and wondering what drove me to think I could handle raising a child during PT school. Then there’s moments when we’re playing together, and she’ll look up and smile at me or make cooing noises and I can’t imagine how I ever lived without her.

When I found out I was becoming a dad while in PT school, I knew I would have to develop strategies to stay successful in school while balancing being present for my newborn child. When I get home, I devote all my attention and focus on my family. This means that I need to maximize my efficiency during the day so I can still do well in school while also being present for the new and exciting moments in my daughter’s life, which is extremely important to me. I’ve listed some of the tips that have helped me succeed below and although I started using some of these after having a child, I believe they could help anyone in graduate school stay successful and maintain a healthy work-life balance:

  1. Be fully engaged and present during class

This one seems like a no-brainer, of course you should be engaged during class! What I have found is that it is easy to get distracted and lose focus in class, especially the classes that you personally might not be the most excited for. I approach every class with the mentality that this time should be fully devoted to absorbing as much information as possible. This means removing distractions like phones and staying off websites that you habitually check frequently (I’m looking at you, social media…). I close all other programs on my computer except my notes and try to write or re-write the information I think is most important as a way to stay engaged in the material. By really focusing during class, I don’t have to spend nearly as much time outside of school studying.

2. Organization is key!

I add everything to my google calendar; this includes classes, workouts, study time at the library, and meetings. This way, I know what my day will look like, and it also keeps me accountable to follow through with the things I know I should be doing, such as weekly workouts and devoted time to study. I also use my lunch breaks to either workout or hold meetings so I don’t have to worry about these responsibilities later in the day.

3. Don’t ignore your mental health

You might be thinking ‘so you go to class, workout at lunch, end class at 4, and then study for an hour before going home to help take care of a baby…where’s the free time?’ Time spent for your mental health is not wasted time, it is EXTREMELY important to remember to take care of this part of your health. This looks different to everyone and your strategies might be very different than mine. For me, working out at lunch is a mental health break. I feel better when I consistently workout and find I’m more productive when I devote my time towards this. I also devote a large portion of my weekend towards a fun family activity. This could be getting out to play disc golf, hiking, or just walking to the park or watching a movie. It’s important to take time away from the stresses of school and do something that you enjoy because you will quickly experience burnout if you don’t.

By focusing on these strategies, I’ve been able to continue to do well in school while also spending plenty of quality time with my newborn.

If you see our brave new parents, be sure to stop them in the halls and ask for fresh baby pics – it will make everyone’s day!

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