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.

 

Student Spotlight: What is the Orthopedic Student Special Interest Group?

Name: Zach Taillie, Class of 2018
Undergrad:
State University of New York at Cortland
Hometown:
Phoenix, NY
Fun Fact:
I put BBQ sauce on everything.

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Hello!  My name is Zach and I am a third year in the program. I am also the President of the Orthopedic Student Special Interest Group (sSIG) here at Regis. In the orthopedic section we focus on manual therapy and musculoskeletal-related ailments.

When I heard about the opportunity to run for president, I knew it was a perfect fit for me.  Let’s back up a little bit to figure out why.  At the age of 15, I got hooked on weightlifting and loved working out.  In addition to that, I also grew up playing baseball, basketball, and football. I first found out about physical therapy during college after sustaining a serious dislocation of my left shoulder that resulted in a SLAP tear (if you don’t know what that is, you should apply to PT school!).  Guess that’s what I get for wrestling bears. Fast forward to the rehab I underwent after the surgery: I instantly fell in love with the mix of rehabilitation and working out.  That love has continued throughout PT school and drove me to run for the president position.  The election was a dead heat but, when the dust settled, I received 100% of the votes.  How, you might ask?  Maybe I ran unopposed, maybe I ran an awesome campaign, we’ll never really know.

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After taking over the group in the summer of 2016 I decided to adopt a new model.  Every month I reached out to an expert in our field and asked them to do a presentation for the group.  Some of the presentations from physical therapists we had this past year include:

  • Tim Noteboom: How to filter social media to find information relevant to you and who to follow
  • Chris Edmundson: Longevity as a manual therapist: How to save your hands and body
  • Stephanie Pascoe: Residency vs. Fellowship: What’s the difference and is it for me?
  • Lauren Hinrichs: Management of the wheelchair athlete: How do we keep the shoulders healthy in a wheelchair athlete?
  • Steve Short: Denver Nuggets team PT: Management of the professional athlete population

Bringing these presenters in was a lot of fun and allowed me to meet experts in a variety of fields. Given the opportunity, I would do it all the again!

Moving forward, the group has been passed down to the Class of 2019 and I look forward to hearing what they do while we are out on our final clinical rotations.  Stayed tuned on 2 more presentations coming from the Class of 2018, though!  There are also some big things coming to you soon from me and another 3rd year. Be sure to check the Regis Facebook group for an exciting update around the middle of August.  If you have any questions about orthopedic physical therapy, you can email me at ztaillie@regis.edu.

Then and now: Meet Alumna Erin McGuinn Kinsey

Erin graduated from the Regis DPT program in 2010 and is now a pediatric physical therapist for Aurora Public Schools; she also serves as a Clinical Instructor for current students. 
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Name: Erin McGuinn Kinsey, Class of 2010
Hometown: Denver (but grew up in Georgia, Alabama and Florida)
Undergrad: University of Florida (Go Gators!)

Fun Fact: I am a huge Florida Gators fan and have been to 3 National Championship games, including football and basketball (all of which they won)!

More than six years ago, I completed my PT school capstone with the theme of “balance,” which led me to my graduation from Regis University with my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2010. Every day during these past six years, I’ve held onto that philosophy of balance in both my personal and professional life. Life has definitely been a journey since then, and I am thankful for my profession, colleagues, friends, and family who have been a constant support. I always make time for my family, staying active, and traveling while dedicating myself to the children and families I serve as a physical therapist.

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My dad and me on graduation day! My parents were a huge support during my time at Regis.

As a Regis physical therapy student, I considered several areas of practice with an interest in pediatrics or orthopedics. It was when I ventured off to Ethiopia for the intercultural immersion experience that my decision was made to pursue a career in pediatrics. I have always enjoyed coaching children in gymnastics and being a nanny, but this was a new responsibility. My eyes were opened to the importance of access to timely and appropriate healthcare—especially early intervention for children. There were so many preventable and correctable impairments that would have changed the lives of these children if they had been addressed earlier in life. My passion for working with children was intensified, and I knew there was good work to be done in my future.

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Our time at Project Mercy in Ethiopia

After graduation, I decided I wanted to pursue pediatric physical therapy in Denver. I completed the Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship through JFK Partners and the University of Colorado (which is now the University of Colorado Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency Program). This opportunity gave me a variety of academic and clinical experiences, including supportive mentorship that was invaluable as a new physical therapist. I highly recommend further education after graduating, especially if you have determined an area of specialization! It is amazing how many continuing education opportunities are available now for physical therapists.  The experiences can enhance your education early on and increase your confidence in your clinical skills and decision making.

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My wedding day with my Regis girls by my side

I currently work as a pediatric physical therapist in Aurora Public Schools. My perception of the role of the physical therapist has really expanded in this setting. Access to the educational curriculum covers a broad spectrum and all aspects of a student’s school day. We are responsible for the physical access to the school environment in any scenario; this includes  getting on/off the bus, participating with peers on the playground, moving through the lunch line, evacuation plans, equipment management, gross motor skill development, and much more. I truly value providing services in the natural environment for the child.  There is something to be said for practicing the skill in the environment it is expected to be performed while directly supporting the student’s participation in his/her school life.  After spending most of my early career with the birth to three-year-old population in the home setting, the school setting has provided new challenges and learning opportunities across the school-aged lifespan. I remember in my interview with Aurora Public Schools one of my colleagues mentioned, “you will never be bored.” Now in my second year in APS, I have quickly learned this is true!

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My wonderful PT team at APS!

The beauty of being a physical therapist is that there are so many different opportunities within the profession, and you can always change your mind. People need our help whether they are young or old, active or sedentary. Get out there, find what you love, and create your balance.

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My family on vacation to Carmel Valley and Pebble Beach, CA

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein