Leadership Through Service: A Student Perspective

Name: Amber Bolen, Class of 2019 Service Representative

Undergrad: University of Oregon

Hometown: Eugene, OR

Fun Fact: In college I spontaneously gained the ability to wiggle my ears.

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Hi everyone! My name is Amber and I am the Regis DPT Class of 2019’s Service Representative. Being the service rep for my class means that I work with people and organizations in the community to plan and implement service projects for my class to participate in. I have also had the wonderful opportunity to be Regis’s PT Day of Service Representative for 2017, a title that has now been passed to Austin Adamson, the service rep for Regis’ class of 2020.

The prospect of serving others was one of the main draws for me to attend Regis University’s DPT program. One of the first questions I would ask my prospective schools was “what opportunities do you provide for students to be involved in serving the community?” Regis was by far the most equipped to answer this question. With service learning projects being embedded into almost every semester, domestic and international service opportunities through the Global Health Pathway, and countless opportunities and contacts for students to find more to be involved in, I was hooked.

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Regis DPT Class of 2019 students pose with Denver Parks and Rec employees after working hard mulching trees and raking leaves at Sloan’s Lake Park.

Before beginning my journey as my class’s service rep, I wanted to determine what my fellow classmates were really interested in. Being people who all made the conscious decision to live in Colorado for 2.5 years, outdoor projects were high on the list. In the past, I’ve organized day projects cleaning and keeping up parks surrounding Regis. For example, for PT Day of Service we worked at Berkeley Park to restore the playgrounds, repaint picnic tables, clear trash, and unearth perennial plants.

Another trip involved collaborating with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado to provide trail restoration work at the Anna Mule Trails near Georgetown, Colorado. The trail restoration project was a weekend endeavor that resulted in sore muscles, a more refined grasp on what goes into creating a trail, great food, and excellent classmate bonding time.

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Regis Class of 2019 students take a break for a photo op while they work on the Anna Mule Trail near Georgetown, CO.

Being the service rep for my class has truly been an honor and I would be remised not to reflect on what I’ve learned in the process. Here are some “pearls of wisdom” I was able to collect:

  • You don’t have to be outgoing to be a student representative, but in my case I did have to be comfortable reaching out to community partners I hadn’t met yet.
  • Sometimes what you think an individual or a community needs is not actually what they need. Our job when providing service is to listen and respond in kindness if we are to do anything tangible.
  • While direct service (working with people face-to-face) is valuable and rewarding, indirect service, such as maintaining community areas, has merits too. I can’t count how many people thanked us during our park clean ups!
  • An act of service does not have to be a huge, momentous task. Small acts of service are appreciated more than we think.
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Regis Class of 2019 and 2020 students and friends take a group photo in Berkeley Park on PT Day of Service.

The fact that so many Regis DPT students are willing and excited to take part in service projects beyond what is expected by their classes speaks volumes about the type of people that our program attracts. I have never met a group a people, students and faculty alike, that are so committed to doing more for others. Service is so inextricably linked to the curriculum, values, and culture here at Regis that it has become part of who we are. As my classes at Regis come to a close and I am getting precariously close to “real world PT,” I know that the emphasis placed on these values will make us excellent physical therapists. We have learned to be sensitive to the needs of our patients and our communities and understand that physical therapists have a unique position to advocate for and implement change on individual, community, and societal levels. My hope as we all eventually graduate is for us to take everything that we’ve learned and apply it to our own clinical practice. I hope for all of us to listen, ask questions, create connections, and take initiative to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others.

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Cleaning up trash at Berkeley Park!

Please stay tuned for PT Day of Service this year, happening in early October of this year! Look for announcements from Austin Adamson, the Regis DPT Class of 2020 Service Rep and PT Day of Service rep for 2018! If you have questions about anything involving student service at Regis, please feel free to email me at abolen@regis.edu. In addition, if you have any questions about PT Day of Service 2018, Austin’s email is aadamson001@regis.edu.

 

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!

Mental Health Wellness in DPT School

Name: Abbey Ferguson

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With all of its incredible opportunities, graduate school, especially a doctorate program, also brings a new amount of stress and anxiety. It is a pressure cooker for bringing out both the best and the worst in us, and as my first year came to a close, I found myself drowning in mental illness and anxiety. I realized I wasn’t alone as we embraced vulnerability in our summer Psychosocial Aspects of Health Care class, and many of us found the courage to admit how exhausted we were with life, finding relief in common ground.

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We are literally on a common ground 🙂

Our Psych-Soc. class was one of the many resources I began to take advantage of in order to regain mental wellness. Regis’ counseling center provided free counseling, all of the advisors had their doors open, and with time many of my classmates became close friends as we continually showed support for each other. However, there was still a nagging sense that I couldn’t pursue full wellness in our program without bringing some sort of awareness to mental health issues that permeated our program.

 

When I was 19, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. After years of treatment, bouncing in and out of recovery, I arrived at Regis ill-prepared to ward off another relapse. Being in a healthcare field is difficult as an individual trying to fight health and diet culture which often triggers eating disorder behavior. I found myself getting angry with some of the comments people would say or the culture that was fostered in the general population, and I felt helpless.

 

However, thanks to the community at Regis and within our DPT program, I was encouraged to do something about my feelings of anger and helplessness. I began to formulate an education program to advocate for those in recovery from eating disorders, and to educate the program on how to foster a less triggering environment. We had one of Regis’s counselors come and speak about the language health-care providers use and how these words can affect an individual’s perception about themselves. We also had a panel of three second-year DPT students who shared their own experiences recovering from an eating disorder in graduate school.

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I was overwhelmed by the support. As I looked out at the crowd that had showed up to my small education session, I grew misty-eyed and almost cried in front of everyone. My frustration dissipated, and  I was instead filled with pride for the program I am a part of. Fellow students asked questions, attempted to understand, and showed overwhelming empathy as the session continued. After the session, dozens of fellow DPT students came up to me, expressing similar experiences of recovery and wanting to continue the conversation. Weeks later, another DPT student came up to me at our national conference in New Orleans, excited and passionate about the topic and wanting to team up with me to advocate for mental health as well. I found it encouraging and exciting to see like-minded, future health care professionals so interested in becoming more familiar with these issues in order to properly care for individuals plagued by these illnesses.

 

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There is no question: graduate school is hard. It is intense, exhausting, and often times it feels like I am just crawling along. But, I have never been more thankful to be a part of a program that allows its students to own their mental health by advocating and educating the community.

7 Reasons You Should Take a Gap Year Before PT School

Name: Courtney Hardin, Class of 2018
Undergrad: Washington State University (GO COUGS)
Hometown: Spokane, WA
Fun Fact: I’m obsessed with my dog.

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If you’re currently reading this blog asking yourself, “Is it a good time to go to school right now? Should I take a year off before I apply? Should I even take 2?” Well, this blog is for you! I took a year off before going to PT school, and it was the best decision I could have made for my soul and–of course–for my professional career.

Here are 7 reasons why taking a year off could be the right choice for you:

1. Make Sure PT is the Right Career Choice

I didn’t have enough experience with multiple disciplines of PT, so I volunteered at an inpatient rehab facility for a few months and got a job as an outpatient PT aide. I ended up getting a lot of experience and gained a passion for PT that I didn’t have in my undergraduate pursuits.

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Halloween at the clinic

2. Polish Your Application

I needed to bump up my GPA a little before applying. So, I ended up retaking a couple of the core classes at a local college (anatomy and physiology… #amiright). Whether you need more hours in the clinic or that pre-req grade, taking a year off will help you be the best applicant possible!

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Taking some time to reflect in Peru during my year off

3. Explore

I’d always wanted to travel abroad in undergrad, so I decided to backpack through South America. I went to Peru and hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, then to a ski mountain in Chile, I toured the Wineries of rural Mendoza, cruised through Argentina by bicycle, explored the city of Buenos Aires, and hiked through Iguazu Falls. This trip changed my life and my viewpoint in so many indescribable ways. So, before you enter graduate school and a full-time PT gig, take the time to explore the world now!

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Machu Picchu!

4. Be There for Family and Friends

I wanted to spend some time with my family before heading off to grad school because hey—my family is pretty rad! If you’re considering PT school, sometimes taking a year to visit home, reconnect with friends, and get some quality family time in is key before you sign up for 3 grueling years of work.

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5. Give Your Brain a Break

I needed a break from the school books. I wanted to enjoy a good book (of my choosing), take time to run a few races, and live a bit more “stress-free” before embarking on the next school adventure. Regardless of if you take a year off or not, you will eventually get burned out in PT school from all the studying with no breaks. Many of my classmates agree that taking a year (or more!) before PT school helped delay that burnout onset.

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6. Do Some Things for YOU, not for your Application

I needed some relaxation time up at the lake cabin. If you take a year off, don’t spend every second on your PT application: have FUN!

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7. Grow as a Person

At the end of the day, I simply needed to just be me for a year.  Taking a year off doesn’t mean you’re putting your life on hold; it means that you get a whole year to find out more about yourself and fine tune what you want in life.

Without taking that time off, I wouldn’t have done all the necessary things to improve my application, my confidence, my PT experience, and—of course—my life experience. There is no specific time you have to apply! Schools don’t look at how much time you take off between undergrad and applications; they look at the person you are when you apply. And hey, if you’re ready to apply now, go for it—I know plenty of people who did that, too.  Bottom line: do what’s best for you, not what’s best for everyone else!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at chardin@regis.edu.

My Immersion Trip in Ethiopia: A Reminder About the Importance of Communication

Name: Matt Gervais, Class of 2017
Hometown: Medford, OR
Undergrad: University of Portland
Fun Fact: I actually enjoy wearing ties.
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Matt Gervais, disguised as a bottle of Sriracha sauce, ran the Move Forward 5K/10K with his classmates in the fall

Every year, the Regis University School of Physical Therapy puts on a series of immersion trips around the world as part of students’ 3rd or 4th clinical rotation. Through an application process, around 25 students in each class get selected to participate in 1 of 4 immersion experiences. This year, the options were Ethiopia (available in Fall and Spring), Peru (Fall), and Nicaragua (Spring). I applied for and was fortunately selected to go on the Fall Ethiopia trip. The experience did not disappoint!
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Regis DPT students on the Ethiopia immersion trip (from left to right): Brent Ingelman, Alexander William, Matt Gervais, Elizabeth Heckmuller, Morgan Pearson, and Amanda Morrow

Six of us students and three faculty members took part in the trip.  We students worked in several different hospitals around Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.  One other classmate and I worked in an outpatient clinic at Yekatit Twelve Hospital, a government-run hospital near the center of the city.  In Ethiopia, inpatient physical therapy and initial mobility work is far less common than it is in the US, so most PT is outpatient PT.  The Yekatit 12 clinic sees a huge variety of patients: post-stroke, spinal cord injury, low back pain, post-fracture contracture, post-burn contracture, Guillaine-Barré syndrome, and many others.  Several things jumped out to me about the clinic: the small space available (coupled with a ton of patients), the lack of clinic resources, and the positive mindsets of the patients.

img_3531The small clinic was very crowded from the time we arrived at work in the morning until the time we left the clinic at noon. Because physical therapy is not the most lucrative career in Ethiopia, many PTs only work 3-4 hours per day in the morning and work other jobs in the evening. As such, every patient with a prescription for physical therapy would come to the clinic early in the morning and wait—sometimes up to 2-3 hours—to be seen. Naturally, this meant we had very limited space to use for treatment in the clinic.

Also, the clinic lacked many resources that we take for granted in outpatient clinics in the US; we learn to expect high-low tables/mat tables, exercise equipment, private rooms, a large selection of weights, and space to do a variety of PT interventions. I believe every student on the trip learned to be significantly more creative through the process.  For example, several times we used a makeshift combination of theraband, a dumbbell, and an ankle cable attachment cuff to create a forefoot weight, along with many other techniques that can only be described as “winging it.”

In any event, we made the small space and relative lack of resources work. And, despite the shortage of space and equipment, patients managed to maintain a very positive attitude and constantly work towards their goals. These attributes, coupled with an unwavering respect for healthcare practitioners, undoubtedly contributed to improving their outcomes.

Because of our short clinic hours during the mornings, we worked with many Non-Government Organizations in the afternoons. Our work included teaching basic nutrition, basic first aid, and performing PT at several different aid organizations. We also collaborated with students from the Regis-sponsored DPT program at Addis Ababa University—the first program of its kind in the country. Between our work and simply exploring the city, it was an incredibly busy and transformative trip.

Ultimately, my greatest takeaway from our trip to Ethiopia was the importance of communication. I started the trip assuming that many of our patients would understand English, at least to some extent. My first day in the clinic disproved that assumption, though, and I had to rapidly scramble to learn basic Amharic words so I could create some form of communication with my patients. In the end, I was not very successful during my short trip, but I learned to lean more on teaching through demonstration. I was reminded that, even in patients that do speak English, you can never underestimate the value of demonstrating a task to help a patient learn.

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Beyond all else, my immersion trip to Ethiopia reminded me that communication is paramount. As PT students and future healthcare professionals, we often are focused entirely on providing the most optimal care as efficiently as possible. However, without effective communication and rapport, that optimal care will likely never be delivered effectively. This program was a tangible reminder that sometimes strong communication can trump every piece of optimal practice that research can provide. I believe I can speak for every student and faculty member on my trip in saying that the Ethiopia immersion trip was a fantastic and informative experience. I highly recommend it to anyone in the program—even if you don’t necessarily have an interest in travel. Each trip is an invaluable experience to work with populations you rarely get to work with and is a unique opportunity to hone your clinical skills, communication skills, and intercultural awareness.

Student Involvement in the Colorado APTA

The faculty at Regis strongly encourages leadership from its students because it knows that those who care enough to be the change they want to see move our profession forward. Rest assured that over the course of your time at Regis there are many opportunities, both formal and informal, to either try leadership for the first time or to grow your current skillset. One of those ways is to become involved in the Student Special Interest Group for the Colorado Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association, (CO APTA sSIG for short).

I am the current 2016-2017 Chair of the CO APTA sSIG and a third year student in the Regis DPT program, and I would like to say something to those of you considering if the Regis DPT program is right for you, to the first years are who are about to embark on their first semester, and to the second years about to experience their first clinical rotation: you can do more than you think you can.

Running for a position on the CO APTA sSIG is an amazing way to broaden your perspective on what students of Physical Therapy, both Student Physical Therapists and Student Physical Therapist Assistants, are all about. The current board has 10 positions (http://coloradophysicaltherapists.org/student-sig/), and this year we are focusing on the following areas:

  • Creating a framework-for-action for the 2017-2018 sSIG
  • Growing student involvement with the APTA across the state through education and outreach
  • Building networking opportunities amongst students as well as between students and current professionals
  • Advocating for student issues at the state and federal level
  • Fundraising

With growing communication between APTA sSIGs across the nation, this is an exciting time to be involved. Aligning the sSIG with the CO APTA Chapter’s strategic plan provides a built in way to move forward, but there is plenty of room to grow new projects.

In the spring of 2017, we will be holding elections for the 2017-2018 CO APTA sSIG board. If you are interested in pushing yourself a little further, I encourage you to run for office, to use this as an opportunity to broaden your perspective beyond the next exam, and to begin shaping the future as a leader.

 

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