Upcoming Event: ADVENTURE FEST!

If you love mini golf, go karts, food and craft beer, you do not want to miss the awesome event coming up this Saturday, October 8th! The Regis DPT class of 2018 is hosting Adventure Fest to raise money for our Regis graduation celebration.  It’s also an opportunity to celebrate fall, have fun with family and friends, and get to know the Class of 2019.

When: Saturday, October 8, 2016 from 10am-2pm!

Why: All proceeds from this event will go towards our end of the year bash!

Price: You can purchase one ticket for $18 or 2 tickets for $30.

Children (ages 4-15): $8; those under the age of 4 are FREE!

Tickets: sold Monday-Friday the week of Oct. 3-7th from 12-1pm in the Claver Café as well as in front of the Main Café!

You can buy your tickets with cash, check, or remotely by VENMO (@RegisDPT2018).

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This is an event for all ages and there is something to do for everyone. Each ticket includes free food, $2 craft beers, and a park bracelet that provides you unlimited access to mini golf, go karting, and rope courses! Furthermore, Regis DPT mentors and mentees can enter into a mini-golf competition together and the team with the best score wins a prize. Come out and have a great time while supporting the Regis DPT class of 2018!

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Blogger: Emily Symon, Class of 2018

 

 

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!

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.

From Practicing Clinician to APTA Employee: an Interview with Anne Reicherter

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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 Anne Reicherter PT, DPT, PhD, OCS, CHES

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What do you do at the APTA?

Anne was hired by the APTA last spring (2015) and works as a Senior Practice Specialist. In this position, she oversees the PTnow website, which provides practicing therapists with tools for evidence-based practice and includes access to current research and other clinical resources. A good portion of her workweek is dedicated to improving the services offered by PTnow* and working to facilitate access and utilization by APTA members.

Practice Specialists at the APTA are all licensed PTs and also work as consultants on whichever issues are current hot topics regarding our scope of practice. For example, dry needling is currently being discussed and spinal manipulation has been a historically important issue.  As one of the few PTs on staff at the APTA, Anne and her colleagues in the Practice Department review products created by the APTA marketing team or other departments prior to publication to ensure that they are accurate from a clinical and research perspective. She says she will sometimes look at a photo and say that “a PT wouldn’t perform that intervention,” or  that they “wouldn’t stand that far from the patient.” Another current project of Anne’s is a collaboration with APTA researchers on an article for the Journal of Health Policy and Administration about obesity. One of her other areas of focus is the importance of work-life balance within the profession.

How did you come to work at the APTA?

Anne graduated with a BS in Physical Therapy at University of Pittsburgh and then worked in a mixed inpatient and outpatient setting at a hospital. She describes that this was fairly common at the time, and that–with few exceptions–PTs were given a lot of autonomy from their referring providers, and that there was not yet a fee-for-service model at the HMO for which she worked. After ten years in that setting, she wanted to progress her career and knowledge, so she attended night school to obtain her Masters of Health Education. In subsequent years she held a variety of jobs in the educational setting (working for Howard University in DC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore) as well as in other clinical settings, including orthopedics and home health. During this time, she obtained her PhD in Educational Psychology, as well as her transitional DPT. She has also performed some educational consulting for various DPT programs.

The position at the APTA for a PT Practice Specialist opened up at the same time that Anne was searching for something more. She wanted a job that fit with her interests and values: the ability to participate in  writing and publishing, advancing the profession through APTA initiatives, and expanding her own knowledge made the job an excellent fit. She says that these meaningful components–including continuing education–were built into her practice as a new clinician (for example, if there was a “lunch and learn” on a given day, the clinicians would leave a bit early that day), as well as into her work as faculty. Today, however, there is an increased emphasis on productivity and fee-for-service; thus, there is limited time and resources allocated to the pursuit of continuing education that distinguish us as professionals. Anne described the difference between professionals and technicians: professionals design a plan of care and add value to the system with professional discernment, and technicians simply deliver a procedure. To maintain the high expectations set of PTs as professionals, most PTs today must spend time beyond their paid workweek to pursue continuing education, APTA involvement, and evidence-based practice.

Where do we plan to see change in the typical PT’s work-life balance?

Anne replied that one of the biggest initiatives currently is the push to change from a billing system with a procedural focus (for example, billing for “therapeutic exercises” x15 min or “therapeutic ultrasound” x15 min) to one based on value. Current reimbursement accounts merely for the delivery of a procedure or modality for a set unit of time, but it does not account for our clinical judgement as professionals. I’ll go more into this initiative in next week’s blog post.

Any advice for new clinicians starting out in their career?

Anne’s advice to new graduates is to consider whether a job or position allows for and encourages professional development: do they fund continuing education? Do they have on-site mentoring programs you can participate in? She also advises new graduates to not allow mentoring to be limited to colleagues within your particular clinical setting but to continue to seek out a supportive network of clinicians for support as you begin to navigate your professional career.

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*PTnow is a valuable resource for us, as new clinicians, to perform literature searches after graduation (as we’ll no longer have access to the school’s library search function) as well as to access clinical reviews, clinical practice guidelines, and clinical summaries prepared by respected experts within the field of physical therapy.

If you haven’t visited the website, you should definitely check it out: ptnow.org

 

Direct Access: Insight into Some of the Barriers and Current Initiatives

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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.

I met with Wanda Evans PT, MHS, CKTP (Senior Payment Specialist) and Elise Latawiec MPH, PT (Senior Specialist, Practice Management) who provided me with their insider understanding on this topic as well as directed me toward further resources.

Direct access physical therapy care means that a patient does not require a referral from a physician or other provider prior to a PT evaluation and/or treatment. All graduating Physical Therapists are required to have a DPT–a clinical doctorate–and, thus, they receive extensive training in the ability to recognize “red flags” and refer patients to the appropriate provider when it becomes apparent that the patient may be at risk for something more severe than musculoskeletal involvement.  Studies demonstrate that direct access decreases the time following an injury to the start of the patient’s PT care, reduces the number of visits of therapy needed and results in lower overall costs. Thus, PTs are not only appropriate for this role, but they can end up saving time, money, and patient suffering (as well as costs for the healthcare system overall).

Legislation

There are currently various types of direct access in all 50 states. Each state has jurisdiction over its own Practice Act, which is why there is some discrepancy from one state to another (state-by-state comparison). There are 18 states with unrestricted direct access—this includes Colorado! Some states require specific certification for a PT to provide direct access care, and others allow only an initial evaluation plus a set number of follow-up visits before the PT must contact the patient’s primary care provider. States with limitations in their practice act for direct access are fighting every day for legislative changes to eliminate these barriers; the APTA is aware of this and is actively assisting in these state-level legislative efforts.

However, the legal foundation is only the first step to getting patients the direct access care that we know would be beneficial. Common barriers to direct access that PTs reported in an APTA survey last year include reimbursement concerns, limitations in marketing, fear of alienating referral sources, restrictions by the PT’s employer, and lack of knowledge of state direct access laws.

Reimbursement                                      

Historically, third-party payers (ie insurance companies) have required a referral from a physician or other designated professional. Aside from Medicare/Medicaid and other federal programs like the VA or Armed Services (which have their own regulations on Direct Access), insurance policies vary by carrier and on a state-to-state basis. As the state legislation changes, the payers have been slowly adapting, with some payers more progressive than others in regards to reimbursement for direct access services. The APTA has been engaging with payers directly to eliminate the referral requirement at events such as the Insurance Forum, in comment letters, during in-person meetings, and in their day-to-day contacts. The APTA communicates this message to large employers who create their own insurance policies for their employees, as well, and are thus able to help employers set the terms of the insurance contract for their employees independently.

How can individual APTA members get involved on the reimbursement front? Each state chapter has a Reimbursement Chair.  The Chair’s responsibilities include learning as much as possible about trends with different payers in that state (and taking note if a lot of PTs have been reaching out with similar issues or complaints regarding the same payer) and assisting those therapists within their own state. The APTA nationally works in conjunction with the state chapters on payment/insurance issues and helps to connect states together when confronted with similar challenges. Patients and their advocates can also petition their Insurance Commissioner if they are inappropriately denied care or access to medically necessary services. The Insurance Commissioner advocates for consumers; s/he does not represent the insurance carrier.

Fear of alienating referral sources

Wanda and Elise described several studies in which direct access evidenced no negative impact on the physician-patient relationship. In fact, a key component of direct access is the necessity of PTs to refer patients to the appropriate provider when a patient’s symptoms and underlying pathologies are outside of our scope of practice. Given that PTs must make referrals back to other providers, it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship amongst different healthcare practitioners.

Education

A lot of concern stems from a a lack of education on the part of employers, insurers and potential patients. PTs need to demonstrate their clinical excellence to, essentially, prove that we are worthy of this responsibility, as well as to continue to educate all stakeholders on the importance and benefit of getting PT before medication/surgery. The first step for every PT is to become educated on what your state’s practice act specifically says about direct access and understand any limitations that may be in effect.  Educating patients, employers, and other healthcare practitioners is the next step. The APTA has developed many resources detailing the benefits and safety of direct access available online (more info).

Resistance to Change or Pushing for Progress?

There are some PTs who are more comfortable in the traditional referral arrangement than with unrestricted direct access. They may not want the additional responsibility, or they may simply prefer to do what they have always done.  That is okay!  Nobody is looking to force them to become direct access providers.

However, if you are one of the PTs who cares about the transition toward direct access and autonomy as a practitioner, make sure you’re an active member of the APTA! This is essential to better educate yourself, your patients, and other healthcare providers and to develop a strong voice with your state chapter and insurance agencies.

For more information on the current APTA involvement, as well as additional resources, check out its Direct Access page.

Federal Advocacy Forum: Regis DPT Student Katie Baratta Visits The Hill

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The APTA Federal Advocacy Forum is a national conference for APTA members across the country to convene in DC.   Its purpose? To educate members of Congress on the role of physical therapy in our communities, with the specific goal of gaining their support for the various legislative initiatives* that are currently being debated in Congress.

A part of my experience during my two-week APTA internship through the Regis University DPT program included the opportunity to attend the Forum. We started out listening to several guest speakers in preparation for our visits on Capitol Hill with the senators and representatives. Brad Fitch from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) presented some of the results of a survey about what types of factors impact their decision-making process.  Constituents are the citizens that a member of Congress represents, and that includes both providers and their patients. So, it is important for them to know what matters to us! Ideas for getting in touch with them are listed below.

Robert Blizzard, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, discussed the current political climate–including different scenarios for the presidential race and the outcomes’ implications. We also had the chance to listen to Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina speak. He has been a friend to PT initiatives for a long time. One of the things that has been most refreshing to me to see is that members of Congress really do care about the same issues we care about. Members on one side of the political spectrum may believe in different ways of solving those issues from their colleagues on the other side, but despite that, there is a lot of bipartisan support for the issues we care about. There were also break-out sessions that went into greater depth on key issues facing the profession from a legislative prospective.

On the third day, we embarked with fellow APTA members from Colorado to meet with staff from the offices of our senators and representatives to discuss current legislation. We thanked the members of Congress for their support on legislation they had already co-signed, and we asked for their support on further issues. The Colorado APTA members met with the offices of Colorado’s two Senators: Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and also the representatives from different districts. Diana DeGette is the representative from my district, but our group also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from many other CO districts, as well.

I’ll admit it–I was nervous, at first, to speak up in those meetings. It turns out, though, that the staff members are friendly and interested in what we have to say–even as students. It was reassuring to go as a group so that we could chime in and support one other. I felt more and more confident the more I did it! My advice to any PT or student interested in meeting with their elected official would be to review the facts of what you are going to say (and write down information you might not remember easily) so that you don’t have to waste time and energy trying to recall or look up information. Each meeting lasted approximately 10-15 minutes, and it’s surprising how quickly that time goes. Relax, be yourself, and know that nobody is going to bite your head off.   🙂

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What can I, as a student or clinician, do to support advocacy at the government level?

As a citizen in this country it is your right–and, arguably, your responsibility–to petition your lawmakers directly to share the personal impact that different legislation would have on you as a current (or future) provider on your patients’ day-to-day life. Start by downloading the APTA advocacy app which will let you know who your elected officials are and which legislative issues are currently relevant to your district/state. In terms of getting in touch with lawmakers, Brad Fitch shared with us some of the ways that we can connect with Congress on issues pertinent to the PT field:

  • write emails
  • make phone calls
  • attend town hall meetings
  • make an appointment to visit their local office in person with other PTs or on your own
  • follow your legislator on social media and respond to what they post

The more people to reach out, the more impact we can have.

If you are interested in getting more involved in the political and legislative process or have additional questions, feel free to reach out to me at kbaratta@regis.edu! 

*Key issues currently include:

  • Therapy Cap: Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act (currently max out at $1940 for speech and PT combined) HR 775 / S 539  more info
  • PT Workforce Bill: Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access (includes PTs in loan forgiveness program for healthcare providers in underserved areas) HR 2342 / S 1426 more info
  • Locum Tenens: Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (for Medicare providers to get short-term coverage for their patients when they must take a temporary leave of absence) HR 556/S 313  more info
  • Safe Play: Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act / SAFE PLAY Act (include PTs in the discussion for developing standardized concussion management guidelines) HR 4829 / S 436 more info
  • Rehabilitation Research: Enhancing the Stature and Visibility of Medical Rehabilitation Research at the NICH Act (streamlines rehabilitation research, improves coordination between different organizations) HR1631 / S 800
  • PTs Travelling with Sports Teams: Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act (include PTs along with ATs and physicians in the existing legislation extending the state license of sports medicine providers who travel with a sports team across state lines to treat a traveling team) HR 921 / S 689
  • Self-Referral: Promoting Integrity in Medicare Act (proposes removing PT as an exception to the Stark Law, ie prevents Physicians from referring Medicare patients to entities in which they have a financial interest – eg a physician-owned PT service) HR 2914
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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from 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. Check in next Tuesday for more!

APTA Tuesday: Interview with a Lobbyist

Learn more about the APTA and lobbying! Katie interviewed Michael Hurlbut, a lobbyist for the APTA.

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Michael Hurlbut, Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist

Michael’s Background

Michael Hurlbut worked for several years on Capital Hill before he came to us at the American Physical Therapy Association in 2009 as a full-time Congressional Affairs Specialist. He previously worked as a staff assistant/systems administrator for Representative Jerrold Nadler (New York’s 10th district which comprises NYC); he then worked for Representative Robert Ernest  Andrews (for New Jersey’s 1st district, including Camden, NJ) and as a legislative assistant and for Representative Louise Slaughter (New York’s 25th district). Michael has a background in sports medicine and was interested in healthcare and policy. So, when the job opened at the APTA, he felt it was a good fit for his interests and strengths.

Michael was kind enough to explain to me some of the logistics of what goes on in Washington and what it looks like on the ground. I appreciated this perspective; as a PT, this whole world is pretty foreign to me!

Some Definitions

Each congressman or congresswoman has a chief of staff and multiple staff members who listen to issues presented by either individual constituents or lobbyists that represent groups of citizens.  For example, the APTA would count as a group of constituents with similar interests. The staff team then updates their member of Congress on important issues and perspectives.

What does a lobbyist do?

The APTA currently employs three lobbyists, each of whom focuses on different issues within the field of physical therapy. Michael’s areas of specialty include post-acute care, self-referral, workers comp, and Veterans Affairs/armed services. He monitors everything relating to those issues–including bills that are being proposed, progress on relevant ongoing legislative actions, and upcoming meetings which will be held on issues pertaining to his areas of specialty (for example, the congressional committee on Veterans Affairs). In his day-to-day work, he performs research to better understand the issues, he finds data surrounding each of them, he attends hearings and talks to constituents, and he matches up each issue with the correct APTA staff member.

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Once he has all of his information, he prepares the APTA’s position on the topic. This could include creating a few talking points to be included in a conversation, or it could include a formal “Statement for the Record:” this is considered the formal stance of the APTA and must be approved by the APTA’s Executive Vice President for Public Affairs. He will set up meetings with members of the committee or other members of Congress to discuss the relevant issues.

Change in Legislation and Policy

Legislation can start in these committees and proceed out into the House or the Senate for a general vote if approved; legislation can also be proposed by the House or Senate Majority leader. Legislation with broad/bipartisan support in a committee may have a higher chance of being approved by Congress in general, but sometimes this is not the case.

Whether the bill starts in a committee or is proposed by the Majority Leader, Michael emphasizes that it is important to identify members of Congress who will be sympathetic to the issues that the APTA cares about. He notes that getting any bill through Congress is a slow process and it may take several congressional cycles to see any change. It is important to provide data, a convincing argument, and show a “grassroots” initiative–which, for us as PTs, would include individual practitioners and patients contacting our representatives and senators.  Change is typically incremental; as PTs, we can relate to that!  We are accustomed to slow, additive changes with a lot of our patients: even as patients make limited progress (or even have setbacks), we have to keep the bigger picture in mind and continue to work towards change.

Michael also points out that it is essential to recognize when it may be better to work directly with an agency (such as CMS for some of the Medicare/Medicaid issues).

How can we support legislative changes impacting our profession and our patients?

In addition to direct involvement with lawmakers (check in next week to read more about that!), we can support changes in legislation through continued APTA support with both membership dues and with donations to the PT-PAC (Physical Therapy Political Action Committee).katiepic3

PT-PAC pays for one of the Congressional Affairs Specialists (Michael or one of the other lobbyists) to attend the fundraising events for the re-election of members of Congress who have supported our initiatives in the past. Attending events is one of the most important ways to forge stronger contacts with members of Congress and their staff,  and it also increases interaction with other lobbyists who may support similar issues. APTA does not allocate PAC funds to individual candidates in hopes that they will support relevant issues. APTA member dues pay Michael’s and the other Congressional Affairs Specialists’ salaries, but the dues are not used for the PAC. So, when you pay your dues online to APTA, there’s a separate line item that asks you if you would like to donate to the PT-PAC.

The PT-PAC is among the top 10 political action committees of national health care organizations. If every APTA member donated $20, it would be the #1 healthcare PAC–that’s even bigger than the orthopedic surgeons’ organization!

If you are interested in further information or would like to donate to PT-PAC, click here.

Blogger: Katie Baratta

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My name is Katie Baratta, and I just graduated from Regis University’s 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 so much about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of posts about my experiences here at the Association.

Check in next Tuesday to learn more!

Commuting to Class: Meet Leigh Dugan

Name: Leigh Dugan

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Undergrad: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Fun Fact: My husband is in the military and we have moved 4 times in 2 years!!

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Hi, Class of 2019! Congratulations on your acceptance to the Regis DPT program; you will not regret your decision to come here. So, now that you have made the choice to make Denver, CO your home, the next step is deciding where to live. Most of you will live close by, so getting to school will not be a problem. However, there may be a few of you that do not have the luxury to live that close for whatever reason. This was the situation that I found myself in a year ago when I decided to go to Regis in the fall. My family could not relocate to Denver and I made the decision to commute from Colorado Springs each day—a 140-mile roundtrip journey on each side of an 8-5pm class day.

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Leigh, Taylor and Amanada enjoying some time off of school

I decided to write this blog post because I wish that I had been able to talk to someone to tell me that yes, it is possible and yes, it will be tough. If this is something you are trying to figure out before beginning PT school in August, here are a few tips that I would love to share with you to hopefully make your decision easier:

  1. The commute IS indeed possible and was actually quite relaxing after a long school day.
  2. Take the time during your drive to decompress. Sometimes, I would sit in absolute silence and take the time to relax and reflect on the day. It is a good excuse to truly do nothing.
  3. Be prepared to not have much of a life. When you drive for 3 hours each day, most of your free time is devoted to studying. I wish I could say that there wasn’t much work outside of school in the first year, but that is not the case. Be prepared to spend a few hours after class each day doing school work or studying.
  4. To add to the above comment, you have to really make an effort to balance fun times and studying in your free time. This is so important for anyone in PT school to ensure that you keep your sanity!
  5. Group projects can be tough to coordinate, but all of my classmates took into consideration my commute and it worked out fine.
  6. Find a good podcast that is “mindless.” After a long day of learning, you will want something that is entertaining but isn’t taxing on your mind.
  7. Waze, the traffic app, will be your best friend.
  8. You will figure out the best times to leave your house in order to dodge traffic. I really learned to take advantage of the extra time I had at school before and after class to get work done so I wouldn’t have to do it at home.
  9. It is tough to miss out on all of the fun activities after class. A lot of times, my classmates would go out to concerts or for drinks on weekends and it would be hard to miss these moments. Make an effort to still engage with your class! I never regretted spending the night on a couch so I could join in on the fun :).
  10. Do not be afraid to ask for help from your classmates. You will find that everyone in your class is on the same team and they truly want to help. I would not have survived without them!
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Brunch after second semester finals

Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions on commuting or any questions at all about Regis! Congratulations again on your acceptance to Regis!

Blogger: Leigh Dugan, ldugan@regis.edu

APTA Tuesday: Meet Katie Baratta

Meet Katie Baratta, new Regis DPT graduate! Katie participated in an American Physical Therapy Association internship in Washington, D.C. during her final year at Regis.  Check in every Tuesday this summer to hear about her experience and to learn more about the legislation and politics behind all things physical therapy.

Name: Katherine “Katie” Baratta

Undergrad: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Hometown: Boston/Belmont, MA

Fun Fact: I worked for 5 years as a transportation engineering consultant and am the second of six kids!

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Where did you do your last two clinicals?

CE III at St Joseph’s hospital in Denver, acute care, ICU, cardiac care, and CF floors.

CE IV at Denver VA primarily outpatient ortho with emphasis on manual therapy

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How did you get interested in advocacy and how has Regis furthered your interests?

I applied for the APTA internship for two reasons: one relating to learning to better serve patients I will serve as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and the second pertaining to learning more about the role of Physical Therapy as a profession in the state in which I will practice.

In regards to my future patients, I foresee myself working a significant percentage of my caseload with patients who have considerable needs, vulnerabilities, and/or economic disadvantages—that is what motivates me to put 100% effort into what I’m doing. I know I’ll do everything within my power to provide the best care I possibly can for these patients. However, I also know that there are greater systemic forces at play which can limit any effort I make as an individual practitioner. In order to address these larger issues, I have a duty to advocate as a healthcare professional. Prior to the APTA internship, I didn’t possess a solid understanding of the ways the APTA, as an organization, interfaces with the government and how the political process can be a tool for large-scale change in the healthcare arena. This internship allowed me to observe and participate in this process. It gave me a more nuanced understanding of politics: I now both understand politics in terms of government and politics in terms of group and power dynamics and how these social factors relate to getting things accomplished. So now, as a new graduate, I can bring this understanding back to my individual patients as I push for large-scale changes in the realm of availability of care, funding, and specific physical therapy services.

The second reason I was interested in this internship had to do with the role of the APTA in Massachusetts. According to the APTA state rankings, my home state (and where I eventually see myself practicing) ranked last in APTA involvement in 2014. This is an area of opportunity for the profession. Massachusetts (and Boston) is a leader in many aspects of healthcare. I saw the APTA internship as preparation for increasing the presence of the APTA and the profession of physical therapy in Massachusetts.

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Where are you heading with your career?

My path thus far in life has been winding and full of surprises, and I am sure my future will be as well!

I tremendously enjoyed my work during CE IV at the VA. I found a group of people I connected well with—both the patient population and the rehab team, overall. It was my first true manual/outpatient rotation. By the end of it, I really felt I was starting to get the hang of how to integrate manual skills with tailored exercise prescription for a patient’s short- and long-term function.

I find the role of the nervous system in pain—particularly persistent pain—to be fascinating, and I think that it’s an area that we as DPTs can serve, push the envelope, and dig deeper into understanding.  I see the solution to be very intertwined with integrating exercise, mental and emotional health, and our toolbox of manual skills.

Beyond the practice setting, I envision myself tying in some of the skills I developed in my prior career. I have an extensive background in data analysis, grant writing, and drafting reports on alternatives analysis; essentially, I have experience in demonstrating the “value” of something to decision-makers (including those who provide funding).

One of PT’s biggest issues is lack of PR. Nobody understands or sees our value. Word of mouth is clearly some of the greatest PR, particularly when attracting new patients to an outpatient clinic. But, when there are larger factors at play beyond an individual patient’s choice—when it comes down to hospital policy or insurance policy—we need to speak in the language that those controlling funding allocation understand: numbers (particularly numbers with dollar signs in front of them!).

So, I see utilizing the skills I’ve developed in my past career into my current practice and will be able to demonstrate the value of physical therapy for both patient outcomes and overall costs. There’s a tremendous need for widespread change to healthcare and to PT access and I am excited to be a part of that change!

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Tune in next week to read Katie’s take on direct access barriers and initiatives to direct access.

Taking a gap year before Regis PT school: Meet Mason Hill

Name: Mason Hill

Hometown: Tacoma, WA

Undergrad: California Lutheran University

Fun Fact: I think I have a cold.

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Congratulations are in order! You’ve completed the long and arduous process of applying to and interviewing for a position in a top-ranked physical therapy school. You should feel a genuine sense of accomplishment for being considered to be a part of the Regis DPT program.

This post is for the candidates that will unfortunately not be receiving a letter of acceptance this year.

When I first applied to PT programs I felt relatively good about my chances of acceptance. I had a strong resume and GPA, would be published in multiple scientific journals before graduation, and had just received the American Kinesiology Association Undergraduate Scholar award.

That being said, I failed to even receive an invitation to interview at my top choice, Regis University.

I did, however, gain acceptance to a program that shall remain nameless, and one which I knew very little about.  I started doing my research on the university’s staff, mission, and facilities and was not pleased with what I saw. I had been working toward PT school since I was 16, and I felt a considerable amount of pressure to accept the position.

After a long conversation with a current student of that program, I came to the conclusion that I would reject the position and reapply to my top choices the following year; it was far and away the best decision that I have ever made.

The odds are good that if you, the reader, were invited to interview at Regis, you have been accepted to some other program. I do not write this to discourage you from attending said program, but to encourage you to follow your intuition and reassure you that waiting another year and once again dealing with the dreaded PTCAS is not the end of the world. You’ve got plenty of options.

Here’s what my gap year looked like at a glance:

After crunching the numbers I decided that going to the UK for a MSc  program would not be financially feasible; so, after graduating college, I packed my bags to head home to Tacoma, WA to plot my next move. During those first few months at home I turned my attention to PT in developing countries.  After doing a bit of research into disability rates and the prevalence of physiotherapists in the developing world, I was hooked. Within a few weeks I was headed to Tijuana, where I spent the next two months volunteering in various clinics and at a school for children with special needs. During those two months I reapplied to Regis, was granted an interview, and made plans for my next trip to work for 4 months in a physiotherapy clinic in the Kingdom of Swaziland.

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When it came time to answer that all important question “what have you done to improve your application?”, I had too much material to work with. The beautiful thing is that not only was that year spent out of the classroom the most enriching and transformative time of my life, but it also enabled me to gain access to what I believe is the program that is best-suited to serve me as a student of physical therapy.

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If you are faced with a year away from academia (by choice or not), it will undoubtedly look different than mine. Just know that you can do with it whatever you like. (Personally I would suggest a bit of solo travel to a foreign country. In my opinion there is no better form of education.) However you decide to spend the next year, be sure to take the opportunity to grow as a person and future clinician.

If you have any questions about how I was able to fund my year of travel/volunteering, how to make connections and find opportunities in other countries, or anything really, feel free to contact me at hillmasond@gmail.com.

How to pick the right PT school: Meet Madeleine Sutton

Name: Madeleine Sutton

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Undergrad: Seattle University

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Last year was my year of uncertainty. I had no idea where I would be going, I had no idea if I would get into school, and I had no back up plan. I was a 20-year-old girl finishing up her undergrad degree at a small university in Seattle and applying to schools on my own. Just getting to the application process was a miracle. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I had no adviser at my undergraduate university to help me with the complicated process. I felt incredibly lost in all the paperwork and application forms. I spent a lot of time crying, if we’re being honest.

I applied to 5 schools in 5 different states. All of them felt like they could be the right choice, but I had no idea. All of them were far away from home and my entire family. The decision was enormous: I had countless spreadsheets and pro/con lists, and yet I was no closer to making a decision than when I first sent in my applications. You want tissues? I had boxes. But, who cared? It was a big deal? I wanted mooooooore. (See that Little Mermaid joke? Yeah, I went there.) It wasn’t until I went on interviews that I really started to be able to eliminate schools.

I could get all cheesy and tell you that I knew from the moment I stepped on Regis’ campus I knew it was the right place, but that’s not the total truth. I was impressed with the faculty, the campus, and the current students. The problem was that I was impressed with other schools, too. Making a decision still felt impossible.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later–when I was down to two schools to decide between–that I came closer to making a decision. I thought back to my interview days. When I went to the other school to interview, it felt like they were letting me peek in on a super-secret club. When I went to Regis, I felt like I was visiting a group of people that wanted me there. I felt like the people I saw at Regis were part of a community, not just a class. In the end, that was it. My decision was easy when it came down to a secret club versus a community. I’ll take a community any day.

My first semester at PT school was a blur of anxiety and knowledge, but I never felt alone. The second year class became our mentors: they held a get-to-know-you picnic before school started for us to meet each other and them. Our faculty checked in on us frequently just to ask how we were doing and to say hi. We have class parties and dressed up as a class for Halloween. School wasn’t easy–and I felt overwhelmed a lot–but there was always someone there to comfort me. You are never alone in the Regis family.

In August, I packed my entire life into my car and I drove 1000 miles to find my new home. I love the concept of the word “home.” So many songs have lyrics like “take me home,” or “I’ll be your home.” It means so much more than just a place where you live: it’s peace, comfort, and a feeling of safety with people who love and care for you. It’s where everything falls into place…It’s home. Regis is home.

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Madeleine and some other first years with Takia, our service puppy

How to train for Boston and survive PT school: Meet Lauren Hill

Name: Lauren Hill, Class of 2017

Hometown: Flat Rock, MI

Undergrad: Saginaw Valley State University

Fun fact: Never wears matching socks…ever.

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They’ll tell you PT school is a marathon…not a sprint.

I apparently took that a bit too literally.

I’ve run two marathons and two half-marathons since starting PT school; that’s over 2500 miles of training and racing.

Let me back up a bit:

I’m Lauren. Born and raised in Michigan. I went to Saginaw Valley State University for undergrad and double majored in Exercise Science and Psychology. That, for me, was where running really started. I walked on to our cross country/track teams back in 2008 and was—for lack of a better adjective—terrible. I’m not sure why they let me stick around…maybe for entertainment…or to make everyone else feel faster?  Well, after some frank talks with myself and a few good friends, things started to come together. I went from the track equivalent of the “12th man” to placing in the conference, nationally, and eventually becoming a two-time All-American. When I graduated, I felt lost: the last five years had been dedicated to my teammates, mileage and chasing All-American accolades.

So there I stood: two bachelor degrees in hand, PT school applications underway and no longer a delineated reason to run.  I realized I needed a new challenge.

New Goal: Run the Boston Marathon 

Why not? 

I qualified and planned to run Boston in 2015…which happened to be the week before finals of my second semester at Regis.

 Training for the Boston Marathon (or any marathon for that matter) is not a particularly easy task.  Now, add to that 40+ hours of class per week, 10 hours commuting, a significant other, 2-4 hours studying per day (and way more on weekends) and trying to get an adequate amount of sleep… As you can imagine, life got got incredibly busy very quickly. 

A typical day looked a lot like this:

6:15 Wake up, Breakfast

7-8 Commute to Regis

8-12 Lectures

12-1 Lunch break—Run 3-6 miles

1-4 Labs

4-5 Commute

5-??? Run #2–Anywhere from 3-10 more miles depending on the day, Dinner, Study ‘til bedtime

11 Bed

You learn a lot about BALANCE when training for a marathon. You also learn to say “no” to a lot of extracurricular activities:

“ Do you want to grab a beer after class?”

No, I can’t, I have to run.

Do you want to go to the mountains this weekend?”

No, I can’t, I have a long run.

“ Do you want to want to hang out tonight?”

No, I can’t, I have to get up early tomorrow and run. 

My goal for Boston was sub-2:50—an arbitrary time that I let consume me for those 16 weeks (and beyond, if we are being honest). On the outside, I had fun with training, but inside I put an overwhelming amount of pressure on myself to reach that mark.

I failed.

 3:01.

Regardless of the weather conditions, (34 degrees, head wind, pouring rain and Hypothermia by the end)….I was pissed.

I had failed.

But, after months of reflecting (and even while writing this), I have begun to see the race and the months of training as a chapter in life with a lot of little lessons learned (some the hard way).

I do my best thinking when I run, and over time have created what I call My Truths—These are things I realized about myself, running, PT school and life. Take them for what you will. This list will inevitably change, as I do, but it’s a framework that works for me today.  These 13 truths won’t change your life, but I hope you may relate or take something from at least one of them.

Lauren’s 13 Truths

  1. If it doesn’t make you happy, re-evaluate your decisions.
  2. Just because it makes everyone else happy doesn’t mean it’s for you.
  3. Places/destinations are always there…family is not.
  4. What’s monitored is managed.
  5. Be realistic with your goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  6. Morning workouts make for a more productive day.
  7. Fix problems at their root; don’t just put a Band-Aid on it.
  8. Hope is an excuse for doing nothing” – Coach Ed
  9. No matter how much you plan, there are some things you can’t control.
  10. Who you were has shaped you, but to be who you will become you must accept change.
  11. Don’t go or plan to do anything when hungry.
  12. If it’s supposed to be fun but feels like a job, you need a break.
  13. …..coffee first.

I do plan on running Boston in 2017. It seems only appropriate to finish at Regis the same way it began, only this time, I hope to bring a clearer perspective on running, life and happiness. 

Happy Strides!

– Lauren

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Candidates take interviews by a storm

Literally and figuratively.

The candidates have finished their interviews in typical Denver fashion: 60 degrees and sunny on Friday and, naturally, 30 degrees with an impending storm on Monday.

With campus closing early on Monday, the admissions team and faculty worked hard to try to get all of the candidates a thorough and holistic view of the program while also having to shorten the interview day.  The candidates were wonderful in their flexibility due to the weather!

As a first year student, this weekend brought back a lot of memories from a year ago, when I was in the decision-making process for schools.  The incredibly high caliber of student I got to interact with over this weekend reminded me largely of why I chose Regis: this programs attracts future PTs that will care for the entire person and are passionate about service and learning.  Similarly, hearing the faculty introduce themselves and discuss their passions with the candidates reminded me that, although we may call the faculty by their first names and be close with them, they are leaders on a national stage.

I think that having current students so involved in the admissions weekend accurately reflects what this program encourages: community involvement, leadership, and teaching are all essential elements to becoming a good clinician.  It was a lot of fun having the candidates in lab with us!

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To all of the candidates, best of luck!  This is an uncertain time for all of you, and I can relate to how you are feeling.  Know that the current students at Regis are here to answer any questions you may have, and we will be posting about different people’s admission experiences and decisions in the coming weeks.

Please feel free to reach out to Lindsay or myself (we are the 1st and 2nd year admissions reps. Hi.) with any thoughts/questions/concerns you may have!

 

Blogger: Carol Passarelli

 

On the interview weekend: Meet Michael Young

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Hometown: Madison, WI

Undergrad: University of Wisconsin, Madison

Fun fact: I visited 16 states in 30 days during an epic summer road trip.

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During the summer of 2014, I found myself in Denver, five hours early for a flight. It was a picturesque day: 82 degrees in the afternoon sun and even more comfortable in the shade. I saw a sign for Regis University and recognized the name as one with a PT program, so I took the nearest exit and walked around campus for the afternoon.  After wandering around the classrooms and watching part of a lacrosse practice, I felt like this was a place I could see myself spending the next three years.

Six months and many applications later, I was back at Regis—this time for an interview. I woke up early on the day and did some yoga in the room of my Airbnb. That’s not my normal routine, but I wanted to do everything in my power to calm my nerves. That morning, yoga took me to my happy place. I put on my suit, threw on my coat and started my three-block walk to campus.

This time on campus, it was cold. After living in Texas for five years, January in Denver made me remember my roots in Madison.  I had made the dangerous 6AM decision to skip my morning coffee; would I lapse into caffeine withdrawal and spend the day with a pounding headache? Or, maybe, would my pumping adrenaline take the place of that necessary stimulant? I worried about it for the next seven hours. It’s funny what really makes you nervous on interview day.

Looking back, I now realize that the interview was the easiest part of the day for me. As soon as I sat down with my interviewer, I knew that Regis was different from the other schools. My interview was a conversation about my past experiences and current hobbies in lieu of the usual discussion of GPA, prerequisite record and knowledge of the PT field. They didn’t ask why a political science major was interested in PT school; they told me how important it was to have people with diverse backgrounds integrated into the profession. They made me feel like my personality and individualism mattered.

The next 24 hours was an emotional roller coaster of second-guessing interview responses, dreaming of an aggressive interviewer who compared me to a chiropractor (gasp!) and an overwhelming feeling of relief and gratitude for the amazing day I had at Regis. As I sat at the Denver airport waiting for my 6AM outbound flight, I started daydreaming about coming back as an actual student. Regis was the school for me and I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. When I got the acceptance email, I knew my life would never be the same. Now, six months into school, I haven’t been proven wrong.

Best of luck with your interviews, candidates! I hope you feel as at home as I did.

PT School: No longer a pain in the neck

Sitting, studying, stress:  we’ve all felt tense around the shoulders and neck before.  First years, in particular, would attest to some serious cramping after so many hours of studying first semester.

Luckily, one of our second semester classes focuses on the biomechanics of the spine.  And, with that, we get to learn how to test ligaments and facilitate movement between spinal segments.

In our lab yesterday, we focused on the lower cervical spine and were trying to incorporate concepts of biomechanics with learning how to work gently and professionally with other people’s necks.

Although we had to understand the proper movement of each vertebrae, I think the most important take-away from this first exposure was learning how to be comfortable and confident when handling someone else’s head.  I think we all enjoyed taking turns getting different segments of our neck isolated; it felt like a massage after all that sitting!

Blogger: Carol Passarelli