Second Year Students Kick off “Toolkit Talks”

“Toolkit Talks” were instigated by second year students Tara Dirocco, Emily Cornelius, & Syd Knadler.

“The three of us were talking during Spring Break and reflecting on the diverse experiences and knowledge that our class has and how much we would love to learn from each other. We learn a lot in class from our professors, but we realized that there is a rich untapped resource of knowledge in our peers. So, we proposed a platform similar to TEDTalks and now we have ToolKit Talks—an opportunity to learn from our peers and add more knowledge to our ever-expanding PT toolkit.” -Emily Cornelius

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2nd Year Students Tara Dirocco, Emily Cornelius, & Syd Knadler:  Creators of “Toolkit Talks” 

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In Tara Dirocco’s session “Chill Out: Meditation to Help Get You Through,” Tara shared her background in yoga and meditation with an incredibly revitalizing “Love and Kindness Meditation.”

Jack Anderson shared inspiring insights from his favorite novel “Legacy” in his session “New Zealand All-Blacks: Using Sports to Learn About Life.”

 

 

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ira Gorman discusses healthcare policy and PT advocacy

Like most physical therapists, my passion for PT arose from the desire to empower people to achieve their greatest state of well-being and functional independence. However, as I progress in my education, I am learning that the simple goal of helping people can be far more complex in our convoluted healthcare system. Furthermore, if I want to truly serve society, I cannot simply treat individual patients. I must advocate for larger changes through public health.

To elucidate some of the confusion around healthcare,  Dr. Ira Gorman speaks today about the current healthcare system, the need for awareness and advocacy to advance public health policies, and recent changes in the practice of PT.

-Priya Subramanian, SPT- Regis University

Service Learning in PT School

Name: Austin Adamson, Class of 2020 Service Officer

Undergrad: Saint Louis University

Hometown: Laguna Niguel, CA

Fun fact: I recently dove with manta rays and sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef!

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As students of physical therapy, we are undertaking a career that is founded upon the ideas of service and care for others. We spend countless hours in both classrooms and clinics learning a craft that allows us to heal our patients and restore their function and participation, ultimately serving them in a life-altering way. But, for many students of Regis University, the call to serve others extends beyond the classroom. It is a part of who we are, and who we are called to be.

The young Class of 2020 has only recently begun its efforts to serve beyond the community of our school and classmates. Our first service effort began in February, in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Members of our class were generous enough to donate time and toys to Children’s Hospital Colorado to wish children and their families a happy Valentine’s Day.  Both the Van Gogh’s and the less successful artists in our class handmade over 150 cards, sending best wishes and love to remind every child that they are cared for, even through the challenging time of a hospital stay.

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These cards accompanied nearly $100 worth of toys and games that helped make the time in a hospital more enjoyable for the children being treated, their siblings, and their parents.

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Left to right: Josh H, Auburn BP, and Austin A delivering Valentine’s Day cards and toys to children at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

With the turning of the seasons and the coming of beautiful summer weather, members of our class turned to the mountains to participate in a trail building and conservation effort for National Trails Day.  On a warm Saturday, a small group of students and significant others made their way out to Hildebrand Ranch Park to volunteer with Jefferson County Open Space.  The group worked to construct a small section of new trail that will be opened in 2019, and also helped maintain an existing section of trail by cutting back overgrowth of invasive plants.

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Left to right: Meghan R, Nicole R, Emily P, Austin A, and Hannah D serving at Hildebrand Ranch Park.

Ask any Coloradan, native or otherwise, and they will tell you about the importance of trail work! As avid nature hikers, trail-runners, and mountain bikers, the Class of 2020 will continue to give back to the beautiful mountains we know and love as well as the community members who use them.

These are just a few examples of the service and work being done for others by my classmates and professors. Service is an integral part of our time here at Regis University, and is preparation for a lifetime of service as we will enter the field of physical therapy with hopes of serving our patients and empowering their lives. Some are called to service through the Jesuit Mission that is incorporated at Regis, which teaches us to be men and women for others. Some draw strength from acts of selflessness that bring joy and comfort to others. And still others enjoy building a community by meeting new people in service opportunities, and sharing experiences with one another. Regardless of the reason, the students of physical therapy at Regis University work to be engaged in both the local and global community. We are pursuing not just a degree, but the ability to shape a better world through our work!

Lessons Learned During the First Clinical Experience

Name: Kelsie Jordan, Class of 2019
Hometown: Portland, OR
Undergrad: Oregon State University
Fun Fact: I spent the summer of 2014 studying in Salamanca, Spain.
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When I tell people I was in California for my first clinical rotation, everyone’s minds seem to jump to the flashy big cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco. Sorry guys, I wasn’t lying on the beach or treating the movie stars; I was working more in the realm of Middle of Nowhere, CA in a small town called Orland. If you’ve ever driven to or from Oregon along I-5, you’ve probably driven right past it without ever even knowing it existed, as I actually have multiple times. I have lived in or near major cities all my life, so I had no idea what to expect from working in a rural setting. I was worried I was going to be bored, and that being away from everyone I know would make me lonely. But Orland, with its farmers, high school football, and Dollar General stores, turned out to be the best place I could have been for my first clinical.
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Welcome to Orland!

Here are just a few things I learned along the way:

Work schedules > school schedules

I’m not going to lie, clinicals are exhausting. Being on my feet all day, both literally and figuratively, drained the life out of me, especially in that first week. The good news is, I immediately discovered how great it is to come home at the end of a long, demanding day and have nothing–and I mean nothing–to worry about. After a year straight of exams, projects, and endless studying, I forgot how nice it was to have a mellow evening without feeling guilty about procrastinating. My clinical instructor (CI) once asked me what I generally do after work and I had to laugh; my nightly routine was pretty much eat dinner, drink an occasional glass of wine, and re-watch early episodes of Game of Thrones. Call me lazy, but I look at it as taking advantage of the free time I never get to have during school.

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Wine tasting in Sonoma!

It’s never easy, but it gets better

As barely a second year student going into this rotation, I was pretty much inexperienced in every sense of being a physical therapist. Even the skills I was most familiar with had a different feel to them when working with real patients instead of practicing on healthy classmates. Luckily, my CI was an amazing teacher. He did a great job of layering on responsibilities for me so I always felt challenged but never felt thrown into the deep end. After an observation-heavy first week, I was tasked with doing the subjective interview portion of every evaluation and taking over the exercises for a couple patients. At the time, that honestly made me nervous and it felt like a lot of independence. But fast forward to my final week: I had somewhere around 10 patients all to myself, I was flying solo on pretty much every lower extremity and back evaluation, I was completing all documentation, and I had discharged three of my patients. We had a packed 8-5 schedule and it was never easy because my CI always gave me more to do before I got fully comfortable. It was demanding, I made a lot of mistakes, and being challenged every day sometimes made me feel like I wasn’t improving or I shouldn’t still be struggling. But looking back at what was difficult for me in that very first week compared to what I was able to do by the end, it’s easy to see how much I learned and improved!

Confidence takes practice

I have always struggled with my outward displays of confidence in patient interactions because I get nervous and tend to doubt myself. I’ve always been told, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” but that’s a lot easier said than done; I guess I just don’t know how to fake confidence. Instead, my confidence builds gradually as I experience success and overcome challenges. And that’s exactly what happened during my clinical. From prescribing and teaching exercises on my own to completing several full evaluations in Spanish, I was definitely challenged, but I was also successful. Sure, I felt like I didn’t quite know what I was doing half the time, but I learned to not dwell on mistakes and to push myself out of my comfort zone. Most importantly, I gained confidence in my own knowledge and abilities, and I now feel more prepared to take on the rest of PT school. If there’s anything I learned from my clinical, it’s that I am capable of doing far more than I ever thought I was.

Solo adventures are good for the soul

I’m usually go go go from one thing to the next for fear of missing out on any fun, so being alone in a rural area was definitely a change of pace.  Although I was lucky enough to reunite with some college friends during trips to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, I actually probably spent more time alone over the six weeks of clinicals than I did throughout the entire first year of PT school. It allowed a lot of time for self-reflection I didn’t even realize I needed. I was itching to get out and explore, and my weekend adventures were definitely worth all the miles I put on my car: I took my first solo camping trip, discovered a National Park I had never even heard of, and hiked upwards of 35 miles by myself. Of course I missed my friends and my normal crew of camping/hiking buddies, but I learned how to embrace time alone without being lonely.

I enjoyed the opportunity to appreciate silence and just be.

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Support systems are necessary

As a class, we spend so much of our lives together throughout the year that, I have to admit, it was oddly nice to be away from everyone. No, I’m not saying I was sick of my classmates, but those 6+ weeks apart allowed me to actually miss my friends. And, although I already said I enjoyed my time alone, man did I miss them. When you go from sharing all of your time together to none of it, all while you’re being thrown into a new situation, there’s a lot to catch up on after just one day! I did my best to reach out to my friends here and there to see how their clinicals were going, and sometimes those check-ins turned into 2-hour phone conversations. Shout out to the two friends who kept up a group text with me every single day–we practically shared a play-by-play of our clinical experiences, from funny patient stories to weekend plans. Knowing everyone else was having similar challenges was reassuring, and receiving daily encouragement and sharing my accomplishments kept me excited to keep learning.


In a rural setting, a physical therapist needs to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, as my CI once told me. As a result, I got to see a little bit of everything. Sure, there were quite a few back, shoulder, and knee injuries, but I also did some detective work with more neural issues, and I got to observe several vertigo treatments as well. I absolutely loved being in Orland, not only for the varied learning experiences, but also for the people and the small town charm. I found out the correct way to pronounce almond is “am-end” (according to Northern California farmers), and I even joined in on the tradition of wearing blue on Fridays in support of the high school football team.

“You are enough!”

That’s what we were told in our final pre-clinical prep session over the summer, and it turns out it’s true! At first it was easy to think,“I’m just a student” and feel as though I had to run every thought and decision by my CI. However, as he let me become more independent, I realized even as a student, I really did have enough knowledge and skill to make a difference in patients’ lives all on my own. Now, when people ask me how my clinical went, I have nothing but good things to say. I was pushed into recognizing how much I was capable of, and humbled into realizing how much more I still have to learn. Although it was a short period of time, those six weeks were like a refresh button to help me overcome the burnout I had experienced after a year in the classroom, and allowed me to come back to Regis ready to keep expanding my knowledge base before I head back into the real world again.

 

Chris Lew Reflects on Working With 2017 Opus Prize Winner

What is the Opus Prize? 

The Opus Prize is an annual faith-based humanitarian award that is designed to recognize and celebrate those people bringing creative solutions to the world’s most difficult problems. The award partners with Catholic universities, although recipients can be of any faith (Excerpt from Crux.).

Mercy Sister Marilyn Lacey received the Opus Prize from Regis, the host for 2017. Chris Lew, 3rd year Regis DPT student, assisted in her work in Haiti for displaced women and children as an Opus Student Scholar. Here is his reflection about his experience in Haiti, initially published in the Jesuit Journal of Higher Education.

Name: Chris Lew, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of Portland
Hometown: Eugene, OR
Fun Fact: I have a whistle reminiscent of various fairy tale soundtracks…or so I’m told.

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Throughout my life I’ve had many opportunities for international travel – from travel abroad to Granada and London, a Fulbright scholarship to Madrid, and a service-learning immersion trip to Nicaragua, I have always considered myself blessed to be able to travel the world, experience different cultures, and see the world from a different perspective. Nevertheless, my time performing a site assessment in Haiti at Mercy Beyond Borders (MBB) for the Opus Prize was a unique and eye-opening experience.

MBB was founded more than 30 years ago by Sister Marilyn with the vision that education, especially of women, is the key to overcoming the widespread corruption and poverty that has consumed Haiti and South Sudan. Through my research of the Opus Prize, I understood this site assessment was different from the typical trip to an underserved community. From the initial interview to the final trip preparations, it was made very clear that the purpose of these trips was not to do; rather, the intention was to be, to see, and to experience. It was this aspect of the Opus Prize that interested me most in the organization and its mission. There is a plethora of groups in developing and underserved areas that perform charity work such as building houses and providing medical goods and services. While this service work provides a certain degree of benefit to the community, I have always been somewhat hesitant of this type of altruism because it generally fails to provide long-term, sustainable change to an underlying societal problem. What happens when the volunteers leave and no one is left to provide the necessary medical services? What happens when a fire destroys a new house and there are no resources to build a new one? This traditional type of charity work seems to be a superficial bandage over a much deeper, wider wound.

This is where Opus is different.

The Opus Prize Foundation emphasizes six values that it seeks in the recipient of the Prize. The one that stands out to me most is Sustainable Change. Rather than focusing on a top-down, government-focused approach to solve global issues, Opus intentionally sponsors and supports organizations directed towards community development and cooperation. Opus understands that the resolution of profound societal problems and corruption is ultimately driven internally, not externally. As such, the Prize acknowledges individuals who are addressing the root of social issues and are striving for change that is pioneered locally.

With this in mind, I embarked on my site assessment trip to Haiti with a very different perspective and intention than my previous international travels. The first stop on our trip was in Ft. Lauderdale, FL , where we met Sr. Marilyn, who lives in California and operates MBB in both Haiti and South Sudan. She introduced us to her story and illuminated details of the work she does with MBB. Her work in Haiti revolves around empowerment and opportunity for girls and women. Extreme poverty and corruption of the educational system prevent most children from obtaining a basic education. Most primary schools are private and, as such, require tuition as well as uniforms and books. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school or can only afford to send one child. In the latter case, most families opt to send boys rather than girls because males typically have greater opportunity for success than females in Haiti. As a result, most girls in Haiti only receive up to a 1st or 2nd grade level education. Sr. Marilyn and MBB attempt to ameliorate this disparity by providing secondary school scholarships, leadership development opportunities, and a safe and supportive living environment for girls who demonstrate academic potential. Additionally, MBB provides vocational and literacy training for young adult mothers and older women to develop skills such as reading, writing, computer skills, and baking. These skills provide women with greater independence and self-sufficiency and can even allow them to earn money through both formal and informal work.

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The following morning we took a short early morning flight from Ft. Lauderdale and landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The contrast between our departure and arrival city–only a quick two-hour flight apart–was profound. Destitution was apparent on our short drive from the airport out of the city. Litter filled the streets and empty plots of land and stray animals ran largely unmonitored throughout the city. Sr. Marilyn explained that, due to political and financial reasons, much of the rubble from the 2010 earthquake was never adequately disposed of in many of the poorer areas of the capital. As a result, many parts of the city appear recently destroyed even though the earthquake was seven years ago.

Our initial stay in Port-au-Prince was short as our first destination was Gros Morne, about a five-hour drive north of the city. Gros Morne, a town of about 35,000 people, is the community that MBB primarily serves in Haiti. Following the earthquake in 2010, Sr. Marilyn noticed that many relief efforts developed in Port-au-Prince but much fewer resources made their way out of the city and into the more rural parts of the country. She understood that her vision for MBB in Haiti had its limitations and saw the most potential for change in a smaller community.

Our time spent in Gros Morne and the surrounding area was quick but powerful. To gain insight into the MBB’s operations and its community impact, we met with several partners and individuals associated with the organization. We were able to meet several of the girls who are a part of the educational program as well as their families and see the personal impact that MBB has on their lives and their future. We interviewed the principal of a primary school that hosts several of the MBB students; he had high praise for the organization, stating that many, if not all, of the students would be unable to afford their school dues if it wasn’t for the support of MBB. On our final day in Gros Morne we also met with Sr. Jackie, a missionary sister who has worked in Haiti for almost two decades. She provided insight into the corruption in the Haitian political and educational systems. She explained that the private school system is largely unregulated, meaning almost anyone can start a school. This inhibits children from receiving a high-quality education and prevents those students who have the potential to succeed academically from actually achieving success. Overall, these interviews and personal interactions further highlighted the need for an organization like MBB in Haiti.

Sr. Marilyn embodies the spirit of the Opus Prize and models many of the Opus values, including Sustainable Change, Faith, and a Life of Service. She understands that long-term transformation is driven from within, not purely from her work, and this is what directs her vision for MBB. Through empowerment and leadership training of the girls she sponsors, employment opportunities for the local people, and a conscious effort to have Haitian and South Sudanese representation on her Board of Directors, she demonstrates a continued commitment to sustainable change in these countries. A woman humble in both stature and personality, she demonstrates her love and passion for her work in Haiti and South Sudan through her relentless work. I was most impressed by her ability to understand the needs of the communities she works with, while also maintaining a realistic expectation of how many people one person and one organization such as MBB can effectively impact. Although her work may be relatively small in the scope of the vast corruption and poverty in Haiti and South Sudan, her heart is big, and it shines through in both her actions and words.

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The 2017 Move Forward 5K/10K Race

Name: Laura Baker, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of New Hampshire, Durham
Hometown: Seville, Ohio
Fun Fact: I spent a year as an intern for the School for Field Studies in Queensland, Australia! I drove students around on the “wrong” side of the road, went on bird counting outings at 3 am, pet boa constrictors with professional herpetologists, went diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and raised lots and lots of seedlings in a rainforest nursery.

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On the cool, rainy morning of September 16th, a group of 160 racers participated in the 2017 Move Forward 5k/10k Race at Regis University. This race, hosted by the students of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, has been an annual event for 15 years. The event serves as a fundraiser for Canine Companions for Independence and the Foundation for Physical Therapy.

This year, a particular hiccup early in the planning stages for the race gave us a challenge. Changes in city park regulations caused a significant course change towards Berkeley Lake Park rather than the usual course through Rocky Mountain Lake Park. The racers took to the starting line in Boettcher Commons at Regis. Upon hearing the go command from the 2017 race director, Ryan Bourdo, they ran through the Berkeley neighborhood and around Berkeley Lake. The sun came out as they raced back up the big hill to Regis. The 10k racers turned just shy of the finish line and raced the route a second time.

We appreciate all of the racers who ran this new (hilly!) course and the Denver Police Department who kept the racers and community members safe at every intersection. After their run/walk, participants and family members enjoyed barbecue and a beer garden and activities including volleyball, yoga, and Bungee Bootcamp.

A committed group of DPT students, faculty, and Regis staff supported this undertaking. The DPT Class of 2018 will be passing on the baton to the Class of 2019 to take the Move Forward race and to make it their own. Each person listed below worked with many individuals, including students in the DPT Class of 2019, toward creating a successful event:

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Ryan Bourdo served as the 2017 race director, fearless leader, and created a marketing presence.

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Rachel Maass worked hard to gather sponsors while Becca Brunson performed community outreach and organized the first aid response.

Ryan Tollis was our website and registration wizard who worked to make the registration process smooth and accessible.

Amy Renslo spent many hours planning out the post-race activities while Taylor Skelton played a key role making for a fun day all around.

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Bri Henggeler provided volunteer coordination with support from Tara Businski who wrangled many volunteers as course marshals, including Regis University baseball team and alumni from Duke University.

The design and course lay-out was done by myself; with Miranda Paasche planning and organizing the course set up for race-day.

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Claire Molenaar, Brett Barnes and Michael Lofboom ensured that water stations were well stocked and ran smoothly.

Our announcer, Michael Young, was a hit. Although Michael is on his way to becoming a physical therapist, he was so good at announcing that he ought to ponder this activity as a second job!

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We also wish to thank our impromptu photographer, James Liaw; and bicycle leads for the racers, Chris Lew and Christian Quijano, for their time and willingness help.

Part of the success of this race can be attributed to those who provided advice and administrative support from the DPT faculty and staff, including Alice Davis, Faun Lee, and Gemma Hoeppner. We also want to thank all staff from Regis who helped us prepare for race day including individuals from Physical Plant, RU Parking, Events Services, Campus Security, and Student Activities. Finally, we wish to thank all of our sponsors as we couldn’t have this event without you!

More photos taken by Laura are coming soon.

10 Tips to Get You Into PT School

So, you’ve decided you want to be a physical therapist? Congratulations! That means you’ve decided to pursue pretty much the best career the world can offer. Unfortunately, the idea of actually applying to PT school can be pretty daunting, but I’m here to help! Hopefully I can make the process a little easier by passing on a few pieces of advice I found helpful back in my application days. These are either things I wish I had known when I was applying or tips I heard firsthand from professors, PT’s, previous students, etc. I hope they’ll be useful for you as well:

1. Think about what you want out of a school

One of the most difficult parts of applying to PT school is figuring out how you’re even going to start narrowing down the 220-something schools to just a handful that you are interested in. Before you dive in, make a list of characteristics you want your school to have. Some things to consider might be:

  • Location
  • Cost of tuition
  • Class size
  • Research opportunities
  • International opportunities
  • Clinical schedule/requirements
  • APTA Involvement
  • And many more!

Do some research and don’t apply to any schools that don’t fit ALL your criteria. If you want a large class, don’t apply to a school that will only admit 20 students. If you don’t want to move to Texas, don’t even look at the schools in Texas. Also, make sure you know why you are applying to each school—If you can’t explain specifically what jumps out to you about a particular school, you probably shouldn’t be applying there. The PT school application is just as much about you figuring out which is the right school for you as it is about each school figuring out who is best for them.

Some first years at the top of Estes Cone in October–funny how long ago that seems now!

2. Be honest with yourself as an applicant

Be a well-rounded applicant! Know where your weaknesses are and make up for them by being strong elsewhere. For example, if you don’t have the highest GPA, then you should take the time to study for that pesky GRE to boost your academic profile. Don’t make excuses about your weaknesses, but instead be able to articulate what you’ve done to overcome those setbacks. Find other ways to strengthen your application outside of academics: volunteer, get observation hours in a variety of PT settings, take extra time on your essays, or rack up some more extracurricular activities. Here are a few more things you can do if you feel like you might not stand out next to someone with a 4.0 who was president of 17 different clubs:

  • Apply to schools that conduct interviews so you can sell yourself in person.
  • Do a little extra research to find the schools that are going to look at you as more of a whole person rather than primarily emphasizing GPA and GRE scores.
  • Apply to schools with less applicant volume so you have less competition.
  • Look at the school’s acceptance statistics (e.g. what percent of in-state vs. out-of-state applicants they accept) to see what your chances are of getting in.

Survivor contestants and Jeff Probst: we take Halloween very seriously.

3. Don’t apply to too many schools

It might seem like applying to 20 different schools is playing it safe, but here’s the catch: not only does it take a lot of time to complete all those supplemental applications, but every school comes with a fee of its own and you have to pay to send your GRE scores to each one. Think about it: say you get into all 20 schools. You are probably seriously considering less than half of them, so you’ve already wasted time and money by just submitting an application to the schools you don’t really want to go to. My point is, only apply to schools you know you can see yourself at. You also need to take into account the cost of visiting each school, which brings me to my next piece of advice.

A post-finals ski trip to celebrate surviving our first semester!

4. Visit a school before you make a decision

The best way to get a feel for your fit in a DPT program is to go to the school and see it for yourself. You can email current students and professors all you want, but it’s not the same as actually seeing the campus and talking to those people in person. You would hate to show up for your first day of class and realize you don’t want to be there! On the flip side, you might be on the fence about a certain program and then fall in love with it once you’re there. If a school requires an interview, obviously you have to visit. That’s how I knew I wanted to go to Regis – everything about the interview day made me feel welcome, and I felt a better connection with the program than I had with either of the other two schools I had already visited. I had also gotten accepted into a program that didn’t have interviews, but when I visited the school on my own time, I realized I did not see myself there at all. So even if you get accepted to a school that doesn’t do interviews, you should definitely take the time to visit on your own before choosing it.

Trekking up waterfalls on the Subway hike during our summer break trip to Zion National Park

5. Location matters

You may be thinking, “PT school is only 3 years, so I don’t really care where I live as long as I’ll be at a good school.” Although location might not be a top priority for everyone, it’s still something to consider. Remember that PT school is hard, so you are going to need a sanity break every once in a while. That means you want to be in a location you know you would enjoy when you need to escape all the studying. (For me, and for a lot of us at Regis, having the mountains nearby is perfect.) Moral of the story: make sure wherever you end up, you have access to something you like to do for fun.

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Some of the first years took our service dog-in-training, Zuma, to Estes Park this summer!

6. Rankings DON’T matter

While it might feel pretty cool to get into the top ranked PT school in the nation, remember that every accredited program is going to teach you the skills you need to be a good physical therapist. Sure, you should look at academic statistics such as first-time pass rates, but what else about the school stands out to you? (See tip #1.) Don’t feel bad about yourself if you are not applying to super highly ranked schools—they will all ultimately get you to where you want to be! 

Trampoline parks aren’t just for little kids’ birthday parties

7. Student debt is real

They say ignorance is bliss, but you wouldn’t want to ignore all your loans until graduation and then find out you’ve racked up a ton of debt. This is, by no means, a lesson in finance, but you do need be realistic with yourself. Consider the cost of attendance of the schools you are applying to and figure out this will affect your financial planning. Also, try to have a basic understanding of how financial aid works so you are prepared to manage it while you’re still in school. That being said, you should still go with your gut when choosing schools and don’t base your decision on money alone. Remember, your education is an investment for you to pursue a profession for which you are passionate.

Giving snowshoeing a try at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

8. Don’t procrastinate

This seems self-explanatory, but coming from personal experience, it is really easy to put things off and end up submitting your applications a little too close to the deadline for comfort. Give your references plenty of time to write their recommendations, but more importantly, give yourself more than enough time to write your essays and personal statement. Know the individual requirements for each school so you aren’t scrambling to get things together at the last minute. If you’re like me and you can never seem to kick the bad habit of procrastination, make your applications like homework or a job. Set aside a few times per week to work on them, and assign yourself deadlines (that you will actually stick to—be realistic and make manageable goals!) to hold yourself accountable.

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And that’s a wrap on semester 2!

9. Be able to explain why you want to be a physical therapist

Your personal statement is one of the most important aspects of your application. It is every admissions team’s snapshot into who you are as a person. Before you start, you should write a mini essay about exactly why you want to be a PT (this was a requirement for me in an undergrad class, but I would recommend doing it because it was extremely helpful). Go below the surface-level answer, of “I want to help people” and instead make it personal: add your own anecdotes, style, and voice. Also make sure your reasoning isn’t too general; describe specifically why you were drawn to PT, and don’t allow the same reasons to be applicable to other careers. Make it clear that you understand what a PT does! It’ll be challenging, but once you are able to put all that into words, you will be able to transfer a lot of it to your real personal statement, no matter the prompt. Then you should get it proofread as much as possible. Ask a PT, your favorite professor, your high school English teacher, your neighbor’s son’s girlfriend’s uncle—whomever you think would provide good feedback and help you make your statement as strong as possible.

Learning new skills at the APTA Colorado Chapter’s spring conference

10. Take a risk and be adventurous!

Finally, this is my own personal piece of advice. The closest PT school to my home in Portland is only 19 miles away. The closest school I actually applied to is a whopping 996 miles away. Why? Don’t get me wrong, I love the Pacific Northwest and I by no means wanted to “get out.” It’s just that I stayed in Oregon for undergrad (go Beavs) and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try somewhere entirely new for a change. Maybe that mindset isn’t for everyone, but whether you’re coming straight from undergrad or starting a whole new career, taking on PT school is life-changing no matter how close you are to home. It was definitely scary moving away from all my friends and family, but I love having this new home with new friends and new hobbies all separate from that other part of my life. So just consider stepping a little further outside of what you’re comfortable with; it might be fun to take on a little extra risk and you will be all the more stronger for it.

Taking in the views at our campsite in Zion National Park

I hope these tips ease some application anxiety and help you feel a little more prepared for the fun that is PTCAS. If you stay organized and keep this advice in mind as you tackle your applications, the whole process will be a lot less stressful. Good luck!

Kelsie Jordan graduated from Oregon State University and is currently finishing her first year at Regis. Kelsie loves to line dance, the outdoors, and is the admissions representative for the Class of 2019.

 

 

 

5 Ways to Impress During Your Practical Exams

 

Name: Abbey Ferguson, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Westmont College, CA
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Fun Fact: I absolutely love to dance! If any of you out there are dancers in need of a new dance studio here in Denver, I can definitely hook you up!

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Lab practicals are often the most terrifying and anxiety-provoking parts of physical therapy school. It is the chance for you to show your skills as a developing clinician in the most realistic setting possible, and they’re some of the only opportunities we get to practice being in the clinic before we get there. As a student who has only been in PT school for two semesters, I especially feel this weight due to our lack of clinical experience so far. However, while it may sound daunting, I have grown to love practical exams. As crazy as it sounds, I find it exciting to walk out of an interaction with a faculty member and feel like I could possibly interact with a real patient in a professional and capable way. While it took me a few exams to get there, I think I have found some ways that have made the tests manageable and exciting rather than threatening. I hope that these tips help, and always feel free to email me if you have more questions!

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We finished our first year of PT school! Class of 2019 Cinco De Mayo party

 

  1. Take deep breaths.

Prior to taking a practical exam, you will be given a time slot and an assigned room where you will perform your skill for a faculty grader. These time allotments begin at relatively short periods of 20-40 minutes, but as you take more classes, these can last for up to an hour or more. I’ve found that, to calm myself down before entering the exam room, taking the time to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths to simply slow my heart rate and clear my head is extremely helpful. For some reason, many of us students all cluster outside the rooms before our assigned times and stress each other out about the unknowns of the exam, and this not only invokes fear, but it makes us question our own abilities that we have developed. By simply pausing for a couple seconds before entering the room, I am able to remind myself that I am capable enough to perform well.

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Sky Pond hike with my classmates

 

  1. Speak slowly and confidently.

As you enter the exam room you are often given a case study or a patient problem to solve, and you only have a few moments to think through a solution and then employ your plan of care. This rushed feeling can lead to stumbling over words and key phrases that need to be communicated with the grader to show them you have reasonable rationale behind your interventions. What I often do is continue to take deep breaths and think through exactly what I am going to say prior to saying it. A skill I learned when I was in high school drama class was to speak my lines in a ridiculously slow manner. While the words sounded incredibly slow to my anxious brain, what was actually communicated to the audience was a line that in a normal, even pace. Because our brains are trying to process so much at once, by consciously thinking about slowing down words and thoughts, it can come across to the grader that you are confident in what you are saying. By instilling confidence in your grader, you are much more likely to get positive reviews. You have the knowledge from the classes to perform the skill well, so show them that you believe in yourself!

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At our Welcome BBQ the first weekend, I met my twin, Sari!

  1. Mental AND Physical Rehearsal.

I am the kind of student who does not love to practice the same skill over and over again prior to an exam. It often becomes monotonous and boring, and I feel like I start making new mistakes every time I practice. HOWEVER, I am convinced that the more you physically practice, the more automatic the skill becomes, and the less likely you are to fumble through your skill during the exam. As reluctant as I was to practice, I was very fortunate to have fellow students who convinced me that practicing was vital to performing well, and I believe it made a difference during the exams. But this does not mean that mental practice can not be helpful as well. I found that by taking the time to sit with the material and rehearse in my head what I would say and do during the skill, I was still able to feel more confident than if I had done no sort of practice once I entered the exam. These skills can feel tedious, but I think that is the point of physical therapy school! As the skills become automatic (after they are practiced correctly), we can be more confident in a clinical setting that the interventions we are performing are done well and will benefit our patients.

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My first 14er, Mt. Bierstadt!

  1. See your grader as a human, not an intimidating figure.

Perhaps it is just because I haven’t been in graduate school for that long, but I was honestly scared of my graders prior to actually being in a practical exam. Performing skills in front of experienced clinicians can be intimidating, and it becomes easy to expect them to be hyper-critical and harsh. But this misconception was debunked fairly quickly. Yes, our graders and professors are incredibly smart and know what they are doing, but they are also humans who believe in you and want you to do your best. By entering an exam setting with the mindset that your grader is there to support you and make you the best PT you can be, the fear and anxiety will be eased.

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Move Forward 5K

  1. Believe in yourself.

Confidence and believing in yourself may seem intuitive, but it really can make the difference when you are entering the exams. I know I tend to get pretty down on myself when it seems like an overwhelming amount of information is being thrown at us. However, I have realized I must have confidence in my program and professors that they have taught me well and I am prepared to show my skills in a practical exam. If you have practiced, studied, and listened in class, you know what you need to know to excel, and you can trust in yourself and in your abilities.

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Rocking our 90’s cartoon costumes for the annual Halloween contest

While these tips don’t stop my pits from sweating profusely prior to a practical, they have helped me get excited for the opportunity to show off what I have been trained to do. It keeps me from becoming overwhelmed and allows me to perform as best as I can, which is all I can really ask of myself. You will all be successful, and I’m sure you will find more strategies to add to this short list of how to survive practical exams. When you discover new things that help you, let me know, because I will always take the extra help:)

Email: aferguson002@regis.edu

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Weekend break at Grizzly Rose for some line dancing!

 

April Recap: National Advocacy Dinner

Name: Grace-Marie Vega, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Arizona State University
Hometown: Placentia, California
Fun Fact: One time, I drove a fire truck.

image1.JPGIf you were there on April 12, 2017, you hardly need me to recount the evening to you, but if you were not, here’s what you missed at this year’s Denver National Advocacy Dinner. First, allow me to set the scene. Room 210 of Claver hall, around dusk. As you walk into the room, you are immediately impressed by the free pizza AND La Croix. You look around and realize you are in the company of well-dressed professionals, esteemed professors, and the most promising physical therapy students in all of North America. You are here partially to avoid yet another night of diligent and thorough studying, but in a truer, more important sense, to get a handle on professional advocacy and how you as a student can become involved.

***

The evening opened with an introduction from Dr. Ira Gorman. “Politics: you can’t ignore it, because it won’t ignore you!” And of course, he is right. Advocacy is inherently and perhaps lamentably inextricable from policy. Dr. Gorman went on to explain that in physical therapy, advocacy happens on different levels: at the level of the patient, the professional, the professional organization, and the healthcare environment as a whole. All of these levels are effected by legislation, and legislation can be effected by you. Dr. Gorman outlined political advocacy in a sequence of steps to follow.

First, you must arm yourself with knowledge. This can mean simply being aware of your professional organization, local government officials, and media you can utilize or connect with. The next step is research. This involves investigation of the issue you’re interested in, typically in the form of reading into the specifics and history of proposed legislation, and knowing a little about allies and opponents of that legislation. Then comes implementation. This means taking political action, possibly in the form of writing letters to or visiting elected officials, getting patient testimony, or connecting with legislative staff. The last step is reflection. Ultimately, healthcare reform will not happen by itself. It is up to you to be part of the creation of a system that best serves you and your patients. Your vote and your participation in democracy absolutely matters.

After Dr. Gorman’s talk, Dr. Hope Yasbin, Federal Affairs Liaison for the Colorado chapter of the APTA, talked to us about her own experiences in advocacy. Dr. Yasmin gave us the run down on a few of the biggest issues currently effecting our profession, including:

  • Repeal of the Medicare Therapy Cap: an arbitrary dollar amount limiting outpatient physical therapy and speech therapy coverage.
  • The PT Workforce Bill: which would incentivize PTs to build careers in underserved areas by offering loan forgiveness.
  • The SAFE PLAY Act: which sets up school districts with concussion education for young athletes.
  • The #ChoosePT campaign: an initiative to combat the prescription opioid epidemic.

If you would like more information on any of these topics, you might consider checking out the APTA action center webpage, and downloading the APTA Action app.

Following Dr. Yasmin was Regis’ own Ryan Tollis, a second year student and government affairs committee member. Ryan was chosen to attend this year’s Federal Advocacy Forum, a 2-day adventure/visit to Washington DC during which students, physical therapists, and lobbyists represent our profession and meet with elected officials. By Ryan’s account, it was a whirlwind of networking, briefing, and nonstop political action. Attending events like this is an awesome way to get involved, but there are other ways too.  You can:

To wrap up what was, by all accounts, a thoroughly informative and enjoyable evening, Dr. Cameron MacDonald reminded us that advocacy that best serves the public is when professionals in every field are practicing at the top of their scope. It is our right and duty to be bold in the development of our profession, and to take ownership of the skills we work hard to learn in order to offer the best service we can to our patients. In summation, physical therapy has grown to be what it is today due to the efforts of our professional organization, and the advocacy of many therapists before us. The future of our profession will depend on the work we do to advance it.

***

By the end of the evening, you are very satisfied with the food (obviously), but even more so with yourself, for leaving as a more informed person than you were when you arrived. You tell yourself you will definitely be coming back next year, and you will be bringing all your friends.

Thanks to everyone who attended!

Special thanks to:

Speakers: Dr. Ira Gorman, Dr. Cameron MacDonald, and Dr. Hope Yasbin

Coordinators: Carol Passarelli and Ryan Tollis

Team: Kiki Anderton, Brianna Henggeler, Rachel Maass, Katie Ragle, Grace-Marie Vega

Funding: Dave Law and the Graduate Student Council, Dr. Mark Reinking and the Regis School of Physical Therapy

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Regis DPT gear sale: order before October 30th!

It’s that time of the year: the fall clothing order is here! The Class of 2018 will take orders until October 30th, so now is the time to get your Regis DPT swag.

http://regisdpt.wixsite.com/clothingorder/shop

We have water bottles, wine glasses, hats, shirts and sweaters that will all be emblazoned with the Regis DPT logo upon ordering.  Whether you’re preparing for the winter season or looking for gift ideas, we recommend you check out the list and order before October 30th!

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6 Weeks into PT School: Meet Kelsie Jordan

Name: Kelsie Jordan, Class of 2019
Hometown: Portland, OR
Undergrad: Oregon State University
Fun Fact: I spent the summer of 2014 studying in Salamanca, Spain.

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If I had to describe the first few weeks of PT school in one word, it would probably be “overwhelming.” I don’t even mean that in a negative way— so many of the experiences I’ve had so far have been amazing—but I would definitely not say it’s been easy. My classmates and I have been overwhelmed with both the excitement and nervousness to finally start this next part of our lives: in the past month, we’ve been introduced to a new school, new people, new homes, new habits, and—of course—with the amount of information we’ve received since the first day of classes.  More than anything else, though, I’ve been overwhelmed by all the new opportunities at my disposal and all the great people I get to spend the next three years with.

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Free concerts and NFL kick off!

You’d think that having a class of 81 people would make getting to know everyone difficult, but it’s been quite the opposite at Regis. It turns out that when you spend roughly 40+ hours per week with the same people who are in the exact same boat, you get to know a lot about each other in a very short amount of time. Of course, I obviously don’t know absolutely everyone well at this point, but it’s still easy to forget that we all met less than two months ago. Before deciding on Regis, I was a little apprehensive about having such a large class compared to other DPT programs; now that I’m here, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The biggest piece of advice I’ve heard time and time again from the second and third year students is to take time for myself and have fun outside of school. I’ve definitely taken that advice to heart!   Perhaps that means I should be spending more of my free time studying, but hey, at least I’m having fun, right? I’ve managed to leave plenty of time for hiking, camping, sporting events, concerts, Netflix, and IM sports—and I’ve been having a blast! Being a successful student is all about maintaining balance between work and play, so those mental health breaks are important to me for keeping my brain from being overloaded.

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Hiking Horsetooth Mountain in Fort Collins

So exploring Colorado has been the easy part of transitioning to Regis—I mean, what’s not to love? Starting school again, on the other hand…I only took one year off between graduation and PT school, but it still took some transition time to remember how to take notes and study. Fortunately for me, a lot of the material so far has been familiar information from undergrad, though it’s definitely more intense. One of the aspects of the Regis DPT program that I really appreciate is the collaborative atmosphere.  Anyone—students and faculty alike—with a little more expertise in a certain area has been doing their best to share that information by providing extra resources, study sessions, etc. It also helps that we’ve all been embraced right into the Regis DPT community by the second and third years, and I definitely get the sense that the faculty genuinely care about our success in school and in our future careers.

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We’re official! Our new PT supplies after the Professional Ceremony

We’re now six weeks into PT school and sometimes I still have these moments where I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s crazy to think back to this time last year when I still hadn’t even submitted my first PTCAS application, and now here I am: a student physical therapist. Overall, it feels like I’ve adjusted well to my new home in Denver as well as the grad student life—despite the overwhelming moments. Now that we’re through our first round of exams, it’s probably a safe bet that our “honeymoon phase” has come to a close and we have an increasingly busy schedule looming ahead. I’m still developing responsible study habits and I have a lot to learn about how to be a successful student, but I look forward to the upcoming opportunities for service, leadership, and classmate bonding that the rest of the semester will bring!

Flat Stanley Goes to Clinical

Name: Nicole Darragh, Class of 2017

Hometown: Columbus, OH

Undergrad: Regis University

Fun Fact: I think kale is totally overrated.

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The Class of 2017 recently returned from their second clinical rotations with a plethora of new knowledge and stories to share.  Some students even had a visitor along the way: Flat Stanley.  Flat Stanley is a small paper figurine that keeps students connected outside of the classroom.  Students take a photo of Flat Stanley completing an activity, learning a new technique, or going to a cool new location, and share those photos with their classmates through social media.  This helped us learn a little bit about each rotation, and keep in touch with our classmates.

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Pictured: Sarah Campbell ’17 with Flat Stanley on her first day of clinical (PC: Sarah Campbell)

Flat Stanley traveled to a wide variety of locations across the country including California, Wyoming, Kentucky, and even Alaska!  Along the way, Flat Stanley learned new documentation systems, new techniques in the clinics, and went on a lot of hikes.  Really, what Flat Stanley is trying to tell you is that while you’re on your clinical rotation, don’t forget to take the time to explore your new surroundings!

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Flat Stanley reviews Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) while at clinic in Chico, CA (PC: Adam Engelsgjerd)

 

Clinical rotations work in a variety of ways.  The first is the lottery option; students choose ten clinical sites from a large list compiled by the clinical education faculty, and rank them in order from 1-10.  Once the lottery is generated, students are placed at a site.  The second is the first come, first serve option; students can choose a site before the lottery begins that they are particularly interested in, and request to be placed at that site before it is taken.  The third is the set-up option: students are allowed to contact a clinical site that is not affiliated with Regis and set up a clinical rotation with them if they are interested.  When rotations get closer, you’ll learn more specifics about how they work, requirements, etc.

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Flat Stanley’s meet up at Devil’s Tower outside of Gillette, WY (PC: Amanda Morrow)

 

Throughout the clinical process, it is important to know that you might not always end up in Denver, and you’ll have to try something new!  Wherever you do end up, make sure to enjoy your free time.  Clinical can sometimes be very overwhelming, and it is crucial to take time for yourself, whether that be exploring your new surroundings, trying a local restaurant, or binging on Netflix.  And if the thought of being gone for six, eight, or twelve weeks scares you a little, all of us will tell you that the time flies by so quickly.  There isn’t much time to be bored!

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Flat Stanley goes sandboarding in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado (PC: Lauren Hill)

 

If you have any further questions about clinical rotations–or other places Flat Stanley and/or students traveled–please feel free to contact me at darra608@regis.edu!  Also, I would recommend reading the post below called “Class of 2017 DPT Student Lindsay Mayors Reflects on Her Clinical Rotation.” (https://regisdpt.org/2016/05/27/class-of-2017-dpt-student-lindsay-mayors-reflects-on-her-clinical-rotation/)

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Flat Stanley helps out with some end-of-the-day documentation (PC: Amy Medlock)

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Flat Stanley enjoying a nice Moscow Mule after a long week at clinical (PC: Amy Medlock)

 

 

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Flat Stanley joins Lauren Hill and Jenna Carlson to run the Bolder Boulder race (PC: Lauren Hill)

Cover PC: David Cummins, Class of 2019

 

How to Have Fun in PT School

Name: Connor Longacre, Class of 2018

Undergrad: Colorado State University

Hometown: Wyomissing, PA

Fun Fact: I am a huge of soccer, though I haven’t formally played since I was 11.

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“It’s fun to have fun but you have to know how.” (Dr. Seuss, DPT)

Many of you reading this may think of the classroom as a no-nonsense place of learning. Those who distract others with joking and laughter are often unwelcome in such environments.

Hear me out, though.

If, in my time as a Student Physical Therapist, I choose to spend every hour of class, every day, for three years, as a solemn study machine, then what do I expect my career after PT school to look like? I would probably know as much as the dictionary, with the interpersonal skills of … well, a dictionary. Don’t get me wrong. School is serious. Working with patients is serious. Physical therapists must know how to be professional and serious. However, having fun is also an essential part of being a PT. From becoming friendly with our patients to creating engaging ways to make exercises more enjoyable, there is an occupational requirement to be fun-loving, which is why fun belongs in the classroom.

So, how does Regis University put the “fun” back in the fundamentals? Long story short, it doesn’t. All the university can do is give us (the students) time, space, and some freedom. It is not the professor’s job to bring in a beach ball or play funny YouTube videos. Adding the element of fun to academia is the sole responsibility of the student. When done well, it can be seamless—and even educational.

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At the risk of sounding as arrogant as I probably am, I’ve included some tips on how even you can have fun in the classroom:

  1. Learn to love where you are. If you’re in PT school, then the prospect of learning about PT things should be pretty darn exciting. Stay excited. Stay motivated. Learn to dwell on the details like they are the difference between being a good PT and a great PT (because they are).
  2. Find time to unwind. Everyone’s brain candle burns at a different speed. Some people can sit in class for 8 hours attentively, but when they get home, they’re spent. Other students may need to get up and walk around every hour, maybe chit-chat a little between lectures, but will buckle down during independent study. Give your brain time to rest.
  3. Get moving. Hours on hours of lectures can put you into a comatose-like state. Get up and walk around when given the chance. Personally, I like to kick a soccer ball around at breaks.
  4. Finally, get to know those lovely people you call classmates. Play intramural sports, go out to a brewery, maybe even hit a weekend camping trip. Warning: spending time with people may lead to smiling, laughing, inside jokes, and friendships. Friends make class fun.

There you have it, folks, a helpful-ish guide on how to have fun in PT School.

*Shoot, I should have added “write blog post” to the list of ways to have fun.

 

 

Regis DPT Students Plan the Move Forward 5K/10K

Name: Ryan Bourdo, Class of 2018

Hometown: Corvallis, Oregon

Undergrad: University of Oregon

Fun Fact: I ran a 4K snow shoe race once.

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Race day is always the best. It is the culmination of months of training—immediately followed by the chance to take a well-deserved day, week, or month off from running. The atmosphere is always amazing, too. Everyone is still a little groggy from being up way too early for the weekend, but there is still a palpable excitement; the people next to you on the starting line are instant friends because you all share a common goal: finish the race. And that feeling you get after finishing? Incredible. No matter how tough a race is for me, I am always energetic and talkative afterwards. I have been fortunate enough to run some fun races in the last few years, and I want to bring some of that same excitement to Move Forward.

The Move Forward 5K/10K Race (September 17, 2016) is arguably THE most important event of the year for Regis University’s School of Physical Therapy. I argue this because I am the co-director of the race this year, and this is my blog post. Move Forward is a special event for me. It is a chance to help my school share what we know to be the best ways to live healthy lives. I firmly believe anyone can complete a 5K with practice, motivation, and a little help if needed. More than anything, what I want for people to get out of Move Forward this year is to have a good time and learn a little about taking care of themselves.

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Some of the Class of 2018 after the 2015 Move Forward Race

The idea behind this event is to get people to think about their health, get moving, and live better. For those already signed up, make sure to get to the race early to get your grab bags! We will have bagels, bananas, and coffee for those needing an extra boost in the morning. Several of our classmates will also lead group stretching as well. And then we are off! Music will be blaring, water stations will be flowing, people will be cheering. Whether you are running or walking, we will make sure you have a good time. Make sure to stay after the race, too, because we are planning a lot of post-race greatness. Not only will we have burgers, hot dogs, and beer (not the healthiest, we know, but you deserve it) but we are planning a lot of activities, as well. Informational booths will be there to help guide you in taking care of yourself through exercise, nutrition, and general wellness. We also hope to have some yoga and/or Zumba classes after the race. And, because we want this to be a family event, we are looking for fun activities for kids, tool. Check out our website for updates as our race schedule finalizes: https://moveforward5k10k.racedirector.com.

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Not only will this race be a great way to learn about how to stay healthy, but all of the proceeds will go to Canine for Companions and the Foundation for Physical Therapy. Canine for Companions is especially meaningful to us at Regis because we have an annual team of students that assists in raising a dog before it starts training to become a fully-fledged service dog. The Foundation for Physical Therapy is also a great cause; it helps support research in physical therapy. If you have not signed up for the race yet and I have thoroughly convinced you of how awesome this event will be, you can register here: https://moveforward5k10k.racedirector.com/registration-1.

Again, the race will be held on September 17, 2016 and begins at 9:00am.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me directly at rbourdo@regis.edu.

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Many Ryans running

Ryan Bourdo graduated The University of Oregon with B.S. Degrees in Biology and Human Physiology in 2010. Originally thinking of medical school (never mind the fact that medical school rejected him twice), he soon fell in love with physical therapy, thanks to an amazing therapist in Portland, Vince Blaney, MSPT. Vince showed him everything he originally wanted to be as a physician: using anatomy and physiology to help those with injuries. He soon worked as a physical therapist aide for two years and is currently at Regis University completing a Doctor of Physical Therapy. In his free time, Ryan likes to run, hike, and cook. You can find Ryan at www.ryanbourdo.com, or on Twitter @RyanBourdo

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Physical Therapy Classification and Payment System: a Discussion with Lindsay Still

 

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from the Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of essays about my experiences here at the Association.

Interview with Lindsay Still, Senior Payment Specialist

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I talked with Lindsay Still, a Senior Payment Specialist, and she explained the current state of the PTCPS.  Read a summary of our interview below!

Overview

The Physical Therapy Classification and Payment System (PTCPS) is an ongoing initiative that was developed as an alternative to the current, fee-for-service codes—ones that easily fail to capture the true value of what PTs do—and instead particularly account for the complexity and skill of clinical expertise required for patients with more involved presentations. It also incorporates the use of standardized outcome measures. PTCPS would include a single CPT (Current Procedural Technology) code for the entire treatment session versus the assortment of 15-minute unit codes that we’re used to today.

The system has gone through multiple iterations in the past several years, and was developed by the APTA in collaboration with a specialty work group within the AMA (American Medical Association) involving members from the professional organizations of OTs, massage therapists, athletic trainers, speech-language pathologists, chiropractors, psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists, physiatrists, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, osteopathic physicians, and representatives of CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).

Structure of the new coding system

Under the new system, there would be three new evaluation codes that puts a patient into an initial category of lower, moderate, or higher complexity. Certain documentation criteria (e.g. under patient history, presentation, or plan of care) would determine which of the three eval codes you would select. For example, the number of comorbidities for a given patient would play a role in the eval code selection. There would also be a single code for any re-eval visit.

As currently structured, the proposed PTCPS would also incorporate five treatment codes, based on the overall complexity of the patient’s presentation and treatments. These codes, much like our current CPT code for evals (97001 Physical Therapy Evaluation), would not have a set time frame or number of units associated with it. However, treatment billed under the lowest complexity code would likely be much shorter than a treatment session under the highest complexity code, and the reimbursements would reflect this fact.

Implementation

In 2014, pilot testing of the new system was performed with PTs using the new system to code/bill for hypothetical patients, as well as using the new system to code the treatments of actual patients previously coded with the existing system. This testing occurred in various care settings. Overall, the clinicians were very consistent in their ability to categorize patients with the new initial eval codes. However, for the intervention codes, the pilot clinicians were only able to consistently categorize those patients with the least complex and most complex presentations. There was significant disagreement between PTs in regards to cases that fell within the different “moderate” treatment categories.

The definitions and valuation of the proposed eval codes were reviewed and approved by the RUC (Relative Value Scale Update Committee) and will now require CMS approval. Lindsay is hopeful that CMS will accept the new eval codes, as they will be budget-neutral. In August of 2016, CMS will release the 2017 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule; this should include the new PT evaluation and reevaluation codes. The new codes will go live on January 1, 2017. PTs will have three brand-new CPT codes to replace the current 97001 Physical Therapy Evaluation. The APTA will provide training and support to clinicians during the time leading up to the release of the new eval codes.

Impediments to the impending treatment code change

The new treatment codes will require further review and refinement, given their inconsistency of use during the pilot testing. This will likely be an interactive process, and not without controversy from the perspective of payers (insurance companies). In the meantime, the RUC has requested a “backup plan” to address ten CPT codes commonly used by PTs which have been identified as “potentially misvalued codes,” most of which PTs probably use frequently:

  • 97032 attended electrical stimulation
  • 97035 ultrasound
  • 97110 therapeutic exercise
  • 97112 neuromuscular reeducation
  • 97113 aquatic therapy with therapeutic exercise
  • 97116 gait training
  • 97140 manual therapy
  • 97530 therapeutic activities
  • 97535 self care home management training
  • G0283 unattended electrical stimulation (non-wound)

These codes are flagged  because they represent a high reimbursement rate and have not been assessed since 1994.

As a result, the APTA is currently redirecting efforts to provide replacements to those 10 codes rather than waiting for the codes to be reevaluated for us. The new treatment codes the APTA envisions to replace them with would be procedure-based: you would still bill in 15-minute increments. However, they would be streamlined; there would be fewer codes, and the codes would reflect the types of treatment PTs currently perform in practice (as opposed to focusing on what treatments PTs may have historically performed).

Future of the proposed treatment codes

The more general patient- and value-based treatment codes initially envisioned by the APTA are still in the works, but Lindsay foresees a longer process before fruition: it will require all parties to agree on a coding system that accurately and cost-effectively describes the type of treatments that PTs perform for patients. This includes the third-party payers who generally prefer the current setup of treatment codes based on billable units. The current coding system is easy to monitor for abuse or overuse of treatments.

I asked Lindsay if she saw outcome measures as one way of giving insurance companies some power to track the value of treatments under the proposed system. While they wouldn’t be able to screen specific procedures in the same way that they are able to under the current system, they would be able to, for example, monitor whether the progress of a “low complexity” patient was lagging behind what would be expected given that patient’s presentation.

She agreed that this could work in theory, but felt that we still have a long way to go in terms of standardization of outcome data across the spectrum of patient presentation. This is one of the reasons the PT Outcomes Registry will be so important! These two issues truly are intertwined in the future of value-based billing for PT services.

For more information, visit: http://www.apta.org/PTCPS and check out the Timeline for payment reform.