Practice What You Preach: Modeling a Lifestyle of Movement

Name: Tara Dirocco, Class of 2021

Undergraduate: UC Berkeley

Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA

Do you find yourself needing PT from being in PT school?

Is this the most you’ve sat still in a long time?

These questions consumed me on my first week of PT school. I could not handle (or believe!) all of the sitting, after being a PT aide at an aquatic center where I spent the past year moving around all day in a pool.

Feeling the ironies of my situation, knowing that a sedentary lifestyle is the reason many patients will come to see me in the future, I decided to make my PT school experience a challenge.

How much could I move in a sedentary environment?

How could I remain physical?

How could I find my own therapy, all day long?

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Standing desk set up with computer/books at eye level

With some help from biomechanist and movement advocate Katy Bowman, I hit the drawing board.

Katy Bowman notoriously says, “Don’t just sit there, but don’t just stand there either.” Stagnancy is the problem— not sitting, not standing. A lack of movement is the root of many health ailments. We sit all day, move intensely for an hour, and expect our tissues to be compliant. Poor tissues.

Movement is linked with increased productivity and just about every health benefit…so as movement experts, why isn’t movement woven into the very fabric of our learning regimen? Why aren’t we innovating every day to find new ways to help those in stagnant jobs improve their situation? Why aren’t we modeling the way?

We have a duty as physical therapists to model the way out of stagnancy and into an embodied society. Can we practice as we preach? Can we create new movement positive environments together?

We can move all day long. I dare you.

Here are my tips to all the students and human beings out there.

In class:

  1. Sit in different ways.
  2. Take your shoes off.
  3. Roll out your ankles.
  4. Stand up and take notes while standing.
  5. Do calf raises. Do calf stretches.
  6. Do squats— mini ones if you’re embarrassed.
  7. Go on a walk or climb some stairs whenever you have a break.
  8. Roll out your wrists. Stretch your wrists against the wall.
  9. Switch how you are sitting again.
  10. Cross your ankles. Uncross your ankles.
  11. Sit in a figure 4 stretch.
  12. Sit on the edge of your seat.
  13. Sit on your feet.
  14. Practice diaphragmatic breathing.

When studying:

  1. Stand! Make a fun standing desk set up out of your many textbooks.
  2. Make your computer at eye level.
  3. Lay on your belly for a while.
  4. Lay on your back and study for a while.
  5. Lay with your legs up the wall and study for a while.
  6. Lay in a hip flexor stretch and study.
  7. Perform hamstring strengthening exercises while lying on your belly.
  8. Switch the position of your legs often.
  9. Switch the arm you’re leaning on… in fact maybe don’t lean on any arm!
  10. Take movement rewards every 30 minutes.

(Please note: if you have any recent injuries, conditions, or limitations, consult with your healthcare provider team before attempting these positions, especially for a prolonged period of time)

-Tara Dirocco, 1st year student

 

How to Pass the NPTE

Name: Carol Passarelli, Class of 2018
Undergrad:
 University of Southern California (fight on)
Hometown: 
Mountain View, CA
Fun Fact: Llamas don’t have fur or hair; it’s called fiber. Pretty cool. Or warm, actually. Depends on the fiber count.

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Wow, does it feel good to write that title and have it be true! Are there countless tips and tricks out there for SPTs looking to conquer the NPTE? Absolutely. Are they as good as my tips? Um, probably. But, hopefully, this will give you some tools to help tackle the important things…like, best snacks for studying (dry ramen), my highlighter color preferences (classic yellow), and (okay, seriously now) how to work with crippling test anxiety.


 

Let’s back up to almost a year ago: the comprehensive exam. Created by faculty as the final, culminating didactic exam before you leave for 6 months of clinical rotations. Most people will say not to worry—you’ve been preparing for this the entire time you’re in PT school! And, for the most part, y’all will do just fine with it.

If you’re like me, hearing that reassurance of success only increases my anxiety. If there is going to be an exception to the high pass rate, then I know it will be me. Yes, that’s right. I had my first bout of panic attacks since undergrad during the 2 weeks prior to the exam—and a giant whopper of an anxiety attack during the first half of the test. But hey, I do well academically…it’ll work out fine, right?

I didn’t pass.

Sure—I retook it the following week and did fine. Do I know exactly why I was so irrationally terrified of that exam? Somewhat, but there are still pieces I’m fitting together. That’s test anxiety, folks.

Flash forward to today: I passed the NPTE with a delightfully solid margin, graduated from an outstanding DPT program (only slightly biased), and am employed in my dream setting and location. Groovy.

I haven’t beat test anxiety, but I found ways to manage it for the biggest exam we have to take as PTs. Here are some tips on how to conquer the NPTE and get closer to being that amazing clinician we are all going to become.


1. Settling is okay

I don’t recommend doing this when you’re looking for your lifetime partner, dream house, or—most importantly—picking your dog, but when it comes to grappling with a beast of an exam, absolutely do this. At the end of the day, if you didn’t hit your quota of pages, didn’t understand the finer intricacies of lymphedema bandaging, or can’t for the life of you remember the side effects of certain medications, my goodness. Just go to bed. Decide to learn just 1 piece of information about each topic. Allow yourself to just know the surface level facts for now. In other words: keep momentum. You don’t need to know everything perfectly.

 

2. Check your emotions at the door

This is key for me and any of you who struggle with test anxiety. For me, knowing that I hadn’t passed the comprehensive exam made my initial month of studying an emotional undertaking. It’s difficult to separate your self-worth from how you perform on tests—particularly in a grueling graduate program. Albeit this is easier said than done; try your hardest, though, to leave any feelings of self-doubt and shame outside the room. It is not shameful to have a setback. Failing does not detract from your self-worth.

Get in your happy head space before opening up the textbook! If I wasn’t in that headspace, I wouldn’t study: I ultimately decided to cultivate my confidence in my test-taking ability over gaining that extra knowledge I could have gotten during those study hours.

 

3. Redefine the word “studying”

This is just a friendly reminder that studying is RAD. We all love to learn, and those of us in a PT program get to learn some of the coolest stuff out there. So why is ‘studying’ associated in my head with ‘nooooooooooo’? This harkens back to #2, but here it is again: the times that studying sucks 100% is when I feel: 1. Guilty for not knowing something I feel like I should know 2. Ashamed that I got a question wrong, or 3. Hungry. Remember how awesome it is to learn, review, and grow as a clinician. Find that gratitude. Eat a snack.

 

4. Don’t do what your classmates do

Classic advice, but the root of it is: we are all different. If you’re like me, then talking about studying strategies with classmates is probably my #1 stress-increaser. I avoided most of my classmates’ study groups and didn’t like to talk about my studying with my CI and my clinic. Also, you do NOT have to study 30 hours a week…but maybe you do! I highly recommend doing some reflecting BEFORE jumping into that meticulous, color-coded study plan you’ve created for yourself to determine what is truly best for you. Oh, and don’t follow someone else’s study plan.

If you read the above and still are curious about study schedule particulars (this post is about ways to pass the NPTE, I guess) I studied about 30-60 minutes before my clinical, 4-5 times a week for 3 months. About a third of this time was used to review previous practice test answers. I took 8 practice tests—yes, this is a lot and yes, this is expensive—because I knew I had to practice being in the test environment more than I had to review content. I know that a couple of my classmates studied intensively for 2-3 weeks and also passed. This really is a choose-your-own-path-follow-your-dreams recommendation.

 

5. Ask. For. Help.

Quite frankly, I wish I had done this more. If you sit with a concept and can’t seem to grasp it, ask a classmate. If you need a break from studying, then ask a friend if you can unload your thoughts with them. Remember that you’re not just taking an exam. You are also working on becoming an independent practitioner, finishing a clinical, job hunting, possibly moving, adopting puppies, cleaning your bathroom, etc. Essentially, there is a lot to balance, and it is an uncertain time full of transitions. Be kind to yourself, and lean on your support network.

 

If anyone is curious about other stress-reducing tips, feel free to email me at cpassarelli@regis.edu.

Best of luck, future PTs!

 

5 Ways to Spend Your Time When You Are Not Studying…

Name: Courtney Backward

Undergrad: Oklahoma Wesleyan University

Hometown: Salina, OK

Fun Fact: I am the world’s most awkward high-five giver/receiver.

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One of my classmates once said “PT school is neither a marathon nor a sprint. It is both at the same time.” That statement resonated with me on a personal level. During my first year of PT school, I found myself drowning in homework and responsibilities. The temptation to ignore almost every other aspect of my life in order to survive school was strong. However, I found that this did not help my stress levels, and it only added to them in a negative way. Instead, I found that taking good care of my life outside of school is the foundation of taking good care of my school work as well. Sometimes taking care of yourself means…NOT STUDYING…yeah, that’s right! So, here are 5 ways to spend your time when you are not studying:

  1. Find a good hang out spot:
    • From coffee shops to book stores to the bar down the street. Find a spot you can unwind and relax. Some favorite local spots include Allegro Coffee Roasters, BookBar (if you are looking for a one-stop shop), Goldspot Brewery, and Local 46. All of these are 3-5 minutes from Regis and are just scratching the surface of the many hangout locations in the Denver area.

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  1. Exercise:
    • Whether you are a yogi, cross-fitter, avid runner, cyclist, power-lifter, or intramural sport phenom, you can find Regis DPT students covering the exercise spectrum. Joining a fitness club is a great way to connect with other people in the community. However, if you are into exercise options that are easy on the bank account, find a friend and exhaust the available free Youtube exercise videos or try out the many trail running paths nearby. If you love organized, competitive sports, Regis offers many different intramural sports. Our classes frequently compete together as a team and have won several championships (not to brag or anything…). Whatever you like to do for exercise, take advantage of opportunities and use it as a stress relieving activity.

 

 

(please enjoy the slo-mo video of Lauren’s epic trick shot)

  1. Get outside:
    • If you don’t take advantage of the outdoor activities in Colorado, you may be missing out on some serious soul medicine. From hiking to park days to outdoor festivals downtown, get out and enjoy the famous Colorado’s 300+ days of sunshine. Some enjoy tackling 14-ers over the weekends, others find beauty and excitement in the lower, half-day hikes. Some of my favorite lower hikes include: Mt. Galbraith Trail Lily Mountain Trailhead and Herman Gulch Trailhead. Our PT class loves to plan park days where we take advantage of the city parks to play volleyball, corn-hole, have a cookout, or just soak up the sun. These activities are very therapeutic and immensely enjoyable!

 

  1. Practice your creativity!
    • I often am so impressed by the creativity and talent that is displayed by many of my classmates. We have dancers, painters, poets, woodworkers, talented chefs, etc. Although my creativity is often derived from Pinterest, it is so much fun to put my creativity to work. Wine and paint nights can be a fun way to relax and unwind with friends. Some individuals enjoy improv dancing to help them to express themselves while others channel their inner “foodie” and put their chef skills to the work (I, personally, am very thankful I have friends with this talent). One thing to keep in mind when practicing creativity is to NOT get caught up in perfection. You are not being graded on this! I know this is a hard concept to understand in PT school. Just have fun with it and let your mind or body be free to run wild!
  1. Don’t think about school!!
    • School is very important. Responsibilities are very important. Becoming a capable physical therapist is very important. However, prioritizing your health and balancing your personal life is imperative. Remember that you are a multi-dimensional person and that is a beautiful thing. Take time to calm your mind. Take time to spend with your friends and family. Take time to treat yourself. We work hard at our school work, so don’t forget to work hard at other aspects of your life as well!

 

Managing Your Posture in PT School

Name: Joshua Holland

Undergrad: Idaho State University

Hometown: Centennial, Colorado

Fun fact: Before PT school, I worked at a BBQ restaurant in Missoula, MT called Notorious P.I.G.

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Last week, I was editing my Biomechanics skills video when I noticed a curly-haired DPT student in my video with fairly poor posture. I was far from excited when I realized that student was me. I knew my posture wasn’t the greatest after years of asymmetrical shoulder position from college pole vaulting and poor lifting mechanics, but I had no idea it was THAT bad! My shoulders were protracted with my head in a significantly forward position. My initial thought was, “man, I am about to be a PT soon…how am I going to teach posture when my own posture is so poor?!”

An average day for PT students involves a heavy dose of lectures, studying, and an even heavier dose of sitting. Often a PT student may be seated in lectures for 8 hours a day. By the end of the day, professors may start to notice students performing many combinations of wiggling, shifting, and slouching, with many students standing up in the back of the class.

The field of physical therapy involves movement for rehabilitation and we often hear, “exercise is good!” However, within school, sometimes we neglect our own movement in order to remain studious. The intention of this blog post is to initiate the thought of posture and provide some quick exercises that DPT students can use throughout their day. As future clinicians, we are role models to many of our patients, so it is important that we recognize our own posture and work to preserve good body mechanics within ourselves in order to have long-lasting careers and fully help our patients.

I couldn’t sleep after seeing my poor posture! So, I set out the next day to find ways to correct and maintain posture and decided to share them with you all. In this blog post, I interviewed Dr. Alice Davis, an expert on the spine, and fellow first year DPT student, Sarah Spivey, a certified pilates instructor since 2007, to provide some tricks on improving posture!

 

Question and Answer Interview with Dr. Alice Davis

Q: Often our posture is poor in class, we tend to slump over to write down our notes, what are some cues we can use in class to correct this?

A: Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and use the back of the chair to support you. You are becoming kinesthetically aware of your body in space as PT students, so try to be aware of the weight on your ischial tuberosities as you sit. Try to make each ischial tuberosity level. The overuse of repetitive poor posture is what creates problems over time, so start to realize your body position while you sit in class.

Q: While we sit in class it feels like we roll our shoulders forward and lean forward to pay closer attention or write on our devices, what are some cues to get those shoulders back with a neutral head?

A: Because you are sitting at computers for most of the days, you tend to have some upper cervical extension and increased flexion in the lower cervical spine. Imagine there is a rope going straight through your head and down to your seat, try to make that rope as straight as possible. A quick exercise you can do in class is move your shoulders up an inch, back an inch, and down an inch, then hold this for ten seconds, and relax. Try to do 10 reps for 10 seconds of this exercise.

Q: For the anatomy nerds out there, what are some of the muscles that are affected by this forward leaning posture/slumped position?

A: The upper cervical spine is extended in this forward posture position. Suboccipitals are a major component in this and often called the headache muscles because it can result in cervicogenic headache. A cervicogenic headache is when the pain begins in the back of the neck first before it goes up to the skull. This can be posture and stress related. Other muscles that play into extensor moment of the upper-cervical spine are the splenius and semispinalis muscles.

Q: Is there any other tips and tricks we can use in the classroom and out of the classroom to help with posture?

A:  

  • Foam rollers are great! You can put the foam roller vertically along your spine with the head and sacrum supported. Using your arms, do some snow angels for pectoralis major and minor.
  • If you are feeling uncomfortable and wiggly, your body is telling you to move – get up and move around.
  • Do something during lunch time. Eating is important, but try not to study if you don’t have to. Give 30 minutes during lunch for your body and mind.
  • Breathing is important. Moving the body and getting the diaphragm to move through breathing helps those muscles that support the thorax. Watch your breathing pattern, especially when you are stressed. Try to do some slow inhales and exhales.
  • Try a simple nodding of your head, as if you’re saying yes. This lengthens the longus colli and capitis muscles that can help with postural support. You can even do this when you’re driving! Rest your occiput on the headrest and perform a little nod. Try to hold the nod for 10 seconds with 10 repetitions.

 

Here are some techniques and exercises for managing posture in graduate school (or any career environment!) brought to you by our very own DPT first year, Sarah Spivey!

 

Sit on deflated Gertie ball.

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This will allow you to sit up on your ischial tuberosities (IT) to encourage a more natural lordotic curve while also eliminating the pressure on the ITs. By sitting on a relatively unstable surface you will also increase the use of your postural stabilizers. Try to incorporate five minutes per hour of sitting.

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Another technique is to use the Gertie ball between your lumbar spine and your chair. Find your ideal posture by allowing yourself to slump in your chair. Now, move into a full anterior tilt of your pelvis until you feel pressure in your lower back. Now, ease off until you feel the pressure disappear. Scoot back toward the back of your chair and place the ball at the level of the lumbar spine. The ball will help you maintain your neutral posture during sitting.

Head nods/nose circles on Gertie ball.

Lie in supine on a firm surface. Bend your knees and place your feet at the distance of your ASIS. Allow your sacrum to feel heavy and equally distributed on the floor/mat. Take a few breaths and notice if you have excessive space between your thoracic spine and the floor. If so, on an exhale, allow your t-spine to sink toward the floor. This should limit any rib flare. Place a 1/3 – ½ inflated Gertie ball (or folded towel) under your head. You should feel pressure evenly distributed near your occipital protuberance – this will insure you are lengthening your cervical extensors (especially for those of use with a forward head!). Take a few breaths and allow your head to feel heavy on the ball. Imagine a one-inch line on the ceiling and slowly trace this line down with your nose. Return to your starting position making sure to avoid moving into extension. Repeat this 8-10 times. Now draw slow circles with your nose around your one-inch line. Keep your circles small and controlled. Perform 6-8 in each direction.

Wall sit pelvic curls.

While sitting in class, if you start to feel your low back tighten up, try this stretch! Stand against a wall with your feet about 12 inches in front of the wall and hip distance apart. Try to feel contact of your sacrum, rib cage and the back of your head on the wall. You should have a very small space between your lumbar spine and the wall. As you exhale, draw your abdominals in and curl your pubic bone up toward your nose. You should feel your lumbar spine flatter against the wall. As you inhale, slowly allow your ischial tuberosities to widen until you are back in a neutral position. Repeat 10-12 times.

 Seated neck stretch – sitting on hand.

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Feeling tension in your neck during class? Scoot forward so your back is away from the chair and sit tall on your ischial tuberosities. Imagine lengthening your cervical spine and then gently tuck your chin toward your chest. Try not to flex your cervical spine! Now allow one ear to fall toward your shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the opposite side. If you would like to increase your stretch, you can sit on the hand of the side you are stretching. For example, if you are feeling the stretch on the right side, sit on your right hand. This will bring your shoulder down and away from your ear.

 

Overall, I hope  this post helped you become more aware of how important it is that we practice good posture while in school, or with any lifestyle! Do you have favorite exercises or tips to remind you to practice posture? Feel free to share with us in a comment below!

Finals Week: A Beautiful Struggle

It’s that time of the year again…

No, we’re not talking about the holidays.

It’s Finals Week, the crescendo of each physical therapy (PT) school semester.

If you haven’t experienced a finals week in PT school, then here are a few ideas of what Regis students encounter during this time each semester.

  1. …but first, Practicals Week

Gone are the days of “dead weeks” leading up to final exams. Practical Exam Week is usually the week prior to all of the written final exams. This is where the skills you have acquired over the entire semester are put to the test to see how you are able to apply them in a real-life situation. During the days leading up to these exams, you will often see students crowding into room PCH 409 to practice their skills and drill each other on the specific times to use them. Study sessions can extend late into the night for some students (Pssst…PT school secret: often these practicals require knowing information that will also be on the written final, so it’s like studying for two exams at once…now that’s a deal!)

  1. Review Sessions

It is not uncommon for faculty members to hold review sessions discussing what to expect on the final written exam. These are often a great help in refining study strategies (PT school pearl of wisdom: take advantage of these sessions!)

  1. Finals Week Schedules

Each class takes 4-5 exams the entire week, with one exam per day and each one for 2 hours. You can find last minute study sessions dispersed across Claver Hall in the hours leading up to the exams to review any lingering questions or fill any remaining knowledge gaps. And hey, after one exam is over, students have 22 hours to study for the next test…what an ample amount of time!

  1. Work-Life Balance

In the words of The Great Tom McPoil, “take a day for yourself every week.” This may be hard to remember during these challenging weeks, but still very relevant. Students usually make modifications to Tom’s “day” suggestion during finals week, and instead take a few hours to relax and meditate with various types of exercise (or naps) – whatever takes the mind off studying for a few moments.

  1. The Triumph of Completing a Semester of PT School

At the end of each finals week, you will find students celebrating another semester down and another job well done! It’s a time to look back at the terrific accomplishments with pride and relish in the fact that your hard work got you here

– Courtney Backward

Check out this video of first and second year students studying (and relaxing) for their finals!

 

Video Credit: Janki Patel

 

Chris Lew Reflects on Working With 2017 Opus Prize Winner

What is the Opus Prize? 

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

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

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

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

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

This is where Opus is different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 2017 Move Forward 5K/10K Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More photos taken by Laura are coming soon.

When Should You Take the National Physical Therapy Exam?

Name: Lindsay Mayors, PT, DPT, Graduated Class of 2017
Current Employment: Physical Therapist at KidSPOT Pediatric Therapies
Professional Goals:
to empower every child that I encounter to discover their vast abilities and reach their greatest potential, become a clinical instructor, and become a Pediatric Certified Specialist

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So, you’re a third year DPT student ready to graduate this upcoming May. The question is looming: when should you take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE): April or July? Lindsay Mayors, recent graduate, is here to give you a guide to deciding on when to take the NPTE.

Deciding when to take the NPTE is no easy task. If you are a third year student reading this and if you’re anything like I was at this time last year, your mind has felt like a teeter-totter repeatedly bouncing between April and July ever since you took the NPTE prep course at Regis. If your mind is on that teeter-totter at this point, take a deep breath and know that you do not have to make a decision right now. Now is the time to recognize all that you have accomplished in the classroom over the past two years, enjoy your last few days with your amazing classmates, embrace the uncertainties that undoubtedly come with the start of your final clinical rotations, and go out and enjoy those golden aspen leaves! Once you settle into your clinical (which, I promise, you ARE ready for), you can jump on that teeter-totter again with a clearer mindset.  The good news is that there is no right or wrong answer. It just takes a little bit of what Regis instills in us best…you guessed it…self-reflection!

There are 4 dates every year to take the NPTE; they are in January, April, July, and October.

I was one of the few in my class who chose to test in July. My fourth clinical was finally in the setting of my dreams: pediatrics! It’s a niche field of PT that is not heavily emphasized in the curriculum. For me, the thought of going home after clinic and studying for the NPTE did not stand a chance against going home and studying up on all things peds! My ultimate goal was to work in pediatrics, so I wanted to absorb all of the information I could during that rotation without spreading myself too thin between additional obligations. This decision allowed me to be fully prepared and present every day to each child; this is now something I highly attribute to the reason I was offered a position at that clinic.

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I traveled to Belize after graduation without allowing any NPTE thoughts to enter my mind.  When I returned, the 6-week journey of studying several hours/day began. Were there times over the summer that I was tired of studying and wished I had gotten it over with in April?  Of course. But were there times that I was thankful that I had un-interrupted time to study while maintaining a balanced lifestyle? Absolutely. Channeling my energy to be thankful for the process and reminding myself that it would be over in 6 weeks brought be back to my center. And those 6 weeks flew! A few days after receiving the results, I saw my very first pediatric patient independently. My mentoring PT signed off on all of my notes until my license number came through 5 weeks later. And here I am now, writing a blog post (instead of documenting on today’s PT sessions), still in disbelief that I have been a practicing PT for two months already!

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Here are some questions to consider during your decision-making process:

1. In what setting is your final clinical rotation?

 

Is it a setting in which you already have a high level of confidence, or is it a setting in which you have had minimal experience and may require additional preparation and study time?

2. What is your ideal study set-up?

Group study or individual study? Shorter bouts dispersed over a long period of time, or longer bouts concentrated in a shorter period of time? If the latter sounds better, maybe waiting until after graduation to settle into the rhythm of studying is for you.

3. What other tasks/activities/obligations do you have outside of clinical?

Research presentations, working on completing your capstone, finishing you clinical in-service presentation, family events, hobbies, weekend trips, etc. all will impact your ability to study–make sure to consider your time available from all angles.

4. Considering #2 and #3, what will set you up best to maintain a healthy life balance during your NPTE preparation?

Think about what’s realistic for you to accomplish.

5. Additional factors you may consider: travel and finances!

If you are planning on traveling after graduation, will you be able to relax and enjoy yourself if you still have to take the exam in July?

You should also consider:

  • If you want to take the exam in July, but feel it is financially necessary to begin working as soon as possible…
  • Does the state in which you plan to work allow you to practice under a provisional license while you study?
  • Does the setting in which you hope to work allow you to begin working in the time period between passing the exam and obtaining your license number? (~4-6 weeks is typical).

TIP: In general, it is more likely that a larger healthcare system will require a license number than a private practice.

The bottom line is, no matter what decision you make, there may be “the grass is greener on the other side” thoughts that arise. There may be doubts. There may be teeter-totters and remaining questions even after you decide on your test date. This is why I encourage you to consider what would be best for your own well-being. When answering the 5 questions above, consider your personal pros and cons. Reach out to your advisors, mentors, and classmates to assist you in the decision. Most importantly, make sure to have fun and create positive energies around your studies, no matter if they are for the April or July exam.

 

 

Getting Involved in PT School: Student Sports SIG

Name: Candace Townley, Class of 2018
Undergrad:
 Nebraska Wesleyan University
Graduate:
MA in Sports Performance, Regis University
Hometown:
Thornton,CO
Fun Fact:
I collect ducks: rubber ducks, stuffed ducks, all ducks.

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Candace is currently a third year at Regis. She is a certified athletic trainer, has her master’s in sports performance, and institutionalized the Student Sports Special Interest Group at Regis.

Why did you decide to come to Regis to become a physical therapist?

My journey at Regis University began in the Summer of 2013 (almost 5 years ago, eeeek!!!) when I was hired as a Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Regis University Athletic Department. I had just graduated from a small school in Nebraska, moved back home to Colorado, was going to officially pursue my master’s degree, and was assigned to the women’s volleyball and softball teams as their athletic trainer. Life officially could not have gotten any better. My next 2 years were filled with early morning conditioning sessions, mid-day treatment sessions, countless orthopedic appointments, late evening practices, nail-biting competitions, and frequent airport trips for away games. I traveled weekly, visiting different states to multiple NCAA Division II tournaments (and who can forget annual softball tournaments to Las Vegas and that trip to Europe with the volleyball team when they competed in an international world tour). My workplace’s unbelievable atmosphere made it feel less like work and more like home. I can honestly say those were some of the best times of my life. (Thus far ;))

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Although very happy with my career as an athletic trainer, the “magis” in me sought for more; I wanted to further develop an understanding of sport-specific movements and techniques to better tailor therapeutic interventions accordingly based on kinematic and kinetic, sport-specific demands. With that in mind, I decided to apply to PT school…and ended up joining the Regis DPT Class of 2018.

Fall 2015 as a DPT student was unlike the previous couple years. I had to say goodbye to my athletes, the athletic department, and to athletic training for a while. Still, though, I was excited: I was going to become a sports physical therapist.

Did you regret this career adaptation?

Initially, yes. Absolutely. Stepping away from athletic training was far harder than I ever could have imagined. I missed everything. I missed two-a-days. I missed the athletes, the coaches, the athletic department, and–especially–the atmosphere. Water bottles were replaced with books, athletic tape for highlighters, the gym and dugout for the library, and my athletic training kit traded in for a backpack big enough to carry around Portney & Watkins. During my first semester, I felt lost and as though something was missing. Instead of drowning in injury reports and insurance paperwork, I was drowning in biomechanics, anatomy, and—let’s not forget—critical inquiry (our statistics class)! So, what did I do? I scheduled a meeting with my advisor, Dr. Mark Reinking. I explained to him my concerns, sadness, and questions of whether PT school was truly for me. Mark never doubted my existence or survival in the DPT program but instead suggested that I find something that would relight the fire in my heart and remind me why I came to PT school: to excel in sports rehabilitation. We discussed inviting a speaker to come in, the Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Denver Broncos, Dustin Little, to speak to our class. That was how and when the Regis University Sports sSIG was born!

So…What is the Sports sSIG?

The Regis Student Sports Special Interest Group is a great way to stay up-to-date with current issues and hot topics in the world of sports physical therapy. We meet once a month to discuss various topics and current events. After officially starting the Regis University Sports sSIG in Spring 2016, we have welcomed guest speakers and presenters such as:

  1. Dustin Little: My Journey to the NFL: Denver Broncos Assistant Athletic Trainer & Physical Therapist
  2. Patty Panell: Differential diagnosis: The most important tool in tennis training
  3. Brian Briggs: Revo Physiotherapy Sports Lab; advanced technology in the clinic
  4. Sarah Reinking: Sports Residencies: The need to know.
  5. Lacrosse C-Spine Injury: A video and discussion of on field management
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Dr. Mark Reinking goes into the intricacies of lacrosse injuries

Where is the Sports sSIG is going?

As I will be graduating in the Spring with high hopes for the future of the Sports sSIG, I’m excited to announce that we have implemented a Sports sSIG Executive Council to serve as the oversight team for scheduling various events and organize activities for the sSIG.

Meet your new representatives: Blake Miller and Bridget End

Both Blake and Bridget are members of the Regis University Class of 2019 and have interest and ties to sports physical therapy and will serve on your Sport sSIG Executive Council.

What are some upcoming events for the Sports sSIG?

After our first year of meetings and creating an executive council, we are very excited for upcoming events and Sport sSIG meetings. Current scheduled discussions include:

  1. September 19, 12-1 pm: Teresa Schuemann: Rehab of the high level athlete
  2. Wednesday October 25, 6-7:30pm: Liz Amuchastegui: Former Regis DPT Grad: Swimming Biomechanics with supplemental lab session covering corrective swimming exercise techniques
  3. November TBD:  Jason Poole: Ultra-Endurance Runner

Anything else in the pipeline?

Whatever you guys are interested in! If there’s a crazy gruesome football injury this fall and you want to meet and discuss it with some faculty over a lunch, let’s do it! If you’re interested in circus and acrobatic physical therapy, let us know! I look forward to seeing many more of you at future meetings!

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Third year Nolan Ripple leads a lunchtime spin workout

Class of 2020: Interested in becoming the Class of 2020’s representative on Sports sSIG Executive Council? Email me at ctownley@regis.edu.

 

Staying Grounded in PT School, Method 42: Silence

Name: Blake Miller, Class of 2019
Undergrad: 
Whitworth University
Hometown: 
Missoula, MT
Fun Fact: 
I grew up 20 minutes from a ski resort but never downhill skied until moving to Colorado this year.

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It’s an age-old story: a small-town boy moves to the big city to pursue his dreams of fame and fortune, only to face trials and challenges that test him more than he’d even imagined. Alright… maybe that’s a little sensationalized, but all the parts are there. Here’s the real story: I grew up on the outskirts of Missoula, a lovely town in Western Montana where the only thing that could cause a traffic jam on the Interstate was a herd of rogue cattle. As fate would have it, I decided to venture south to the land of altitude, and more importantly, the city of the prestigious Regis University. As you’ve probably guessed, I moved here for PT school, a 3-year endeavor where excitement and challenges abound. While school has been hard (insert cliché reference to Anatomy and Neuro), there has been another large and unexpected challenge: finding silence and calm amidst the whirlwind of school and obligations.

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Missoula, MT

Growing up in an area of the country that is relatively isolated, it was easy to take the absence of noise for granted. I was guaranteed to find at least 5 mountain trails with no one else on them within 10 miles; if I was feeling lazy, I could simply walk outside and find that same noiseless environment in my backyard. But that all changed when I moved to Denver. The first hike I did was a 14er (not the brightest idea), and I was shocked by how many people could find their way to a mountain at 6:30 AM on a Tuesday. My new apartment wasn’t any better, as the sounds from the traffic were always present (in contrast, my roommate from Chicago was just happy to not hear gunshots at night anymore).

It’s amazing what happens when you lose something you take for granted. At first, I didn’t realize it had happened; I thought my newfound low-level agitation was due to my obligatory grad school coffee addiction. But, after about a month I figured it out: I had not found a single moment since moving to Denver where I had felt the silence that is only found by being alone in nature. So, I changed a few things. I began making space for myself, and as a result I slowly became less anxious, more productive, and much more present in everyday situations.

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Enjoying some solo time on Mt. Quandary

Here are my tips to help you find silence during PT school–both in nature and in everyday life:

1. Make time for yourself when you’re in nature

I’ve developed the reputation among my hiking classmates of getting 80% of the way to the top of a mountain and then flying ahead, not to be seen again until I’m sitting on the edge of the summit. While they might attribute this to my eccentric personality (fair enough), the main driver of this behavior is that there’s an uncanny stillness atop a peak that is only disturbed by the occasional chirp of a bird and, once they catch up, the laughter and musings of my friends. So, next time you go hiking, biking, or climbing, take a second for yourself to simply be still and relax in the wonder around you.

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Team picture!

2. Utilize your car time

Take one of your weekly drives and turn off the radio. I prefer to study alone, so most of my go-to coffee shops are 20 minutes away (Stella’s, Steam, Nixon’s, but that’s a whole different blog post), and assuming you don’t go there during rush hour, you’ll have a relatively peaceful drive when you turn the music off. Or, next time you make the 90-minute drive to Estes Park or Vail, try it in silence and see how it affects your mood and the way you interact with others.

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Getting some silence at Wash Park

3. Make it a daily practice

If you’re pinched for time, Regis has many good spots that are removed from the noise. If you want to watch the sunset in silence from an unobstructed view, try the chapel; if you just need a break from studying, find an empty classroom in Claver – there are plenty!

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Sky Pond

4. Become comfortable with listening to your thoughts.

I write this as finals are creeping up, and it is a common sentiment among my classmates that we feel overwhelmed and bombarded with constant thoughts that demand our attention. Instead of tuning them out, listen to them; give them the attention they deserve. One way I sort out these thoughts is to take 15 minutes every day to sit in silence in my room with all distractions, especially my phone, removed. Set a timer, and just sit in your thoughts until it goes off. These 15 minutes might feel like an eternity at first, but after making it a daily practice for several weeks I’ll bet you will find it to be a very peaceful and life-giving way to end your days.

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On the hike to Mt. Evans

5. Translate your comfort with listening to your own thoughts into comfort with listening to others.

It’s difficult to listen to others when you’re busy trying to take care of your own thoughts. Once you have sorted out yours, try using that same approach in conversation with others: listen without interrupting, and see if you are more able to actively engage in their story now that you have dealt with your own distractions.

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Up on Mt. Elbert

A quote I often come back to is this:

“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a misunderstanding.”

Of all the coping mechanisms I use to excel in school, none is as important or as beneficial for me as creating time to be alone and remove myself from all the distractions that so easily surround me. If you make time for yourself, you will create space to add time for others and school as well.

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Chasm Lake

Regis DPT Family

What Did the Class of 2019 do Over Summer Break?

Name: Kassidy Stecklein, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Kansas State University, KS
Hometown: Hays, KS
Fun Fact: I really, really enjoy tornado weather.

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Mission trips, senior trips, and retreats, oh my! (I’m from Kansas, I just had to 🙂 ) As roughly a quarter of our class journeyed through Utah, people constantly asked us why we were all together.  When we explained to them that we were simply classmates on our week off from PT school, they were thoroughly impressed that such a large group of grad students would all like each other enough to travel together. However, anyone who currently goes or went to Regis would tell you this doesn’t shock them one bit: PT school at Regis isn’t just an education—it’s also a family.

When deciding on where I wanted to go for PT school, I knew I wanted somewhere where I would not only get an incredible education, but also get a place that I could make new memories at and feel like I was at home for the next 3 years. Regis has not only provided that, but so much more. Thinking back on the first 2 semesters of school, my initial thoughts don’t go to the countless hours spent in Claver Hall drawing the different pathways of the brain or that familiar smell of the cadaver lab; they go to the numerous adventures spent with my classmates.

During the transition from the spring to summer semesters of our first year, we were given a wonderful a weeklong break. Now, the initial thought might be to spend that week prepping for the upcoming semester or catching up on the sleep missed during those last few weeks of finals…but this was not the case with our class. Our class is always up for new adventures and spending our time to the fullest.

We all love living in this beautiful state of Colorado, but since we were given a week off, why not adventure out a little farther? About 25 of my classmates and I traveled to Zion National Park in southern Utah to make some irreplaceable memories. We packed our cars to the max (and I mean every last inch) with our sleeping bags, tents, and backpacks, and we were ready to embark on our 10-hour road trip. Lucky for us, PT school teaches you how to spend 40+ hours a week with the same group of people, so 10 hours went by like a breeze!
The first stop on our adventure was Cedar City, Utah. We used this as our last little pit stop before heading all the way to Zion the next day. Despite the forecast for storms and rain, we lucked out and were able to find an awesome campsite where we all relaxed together by the fire and began to take in the beauty we would be blessed with over the next few days.

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The start of many dinners by the fire.

Starting off on our 2nd day, we only had about an hour or so drive to our final destination outside of Zion, but our first hike of the trip happened to be on the way. Our 1st hike was Kanarra Falls, which was a perfect hike for us to start off the week. Not too long of a hike, Kanarra Falls was great for getting us back into the hiking routine. It also provided a bit of an introduction to getting comfortable with hiking through water. Traveling through slot canyons, this hike consisted of many waterfalls; it even ended with a waterfall that we could go down like a slide! After the hike, we finished our road trip outside of Zion National Park.

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Our group in the middle of the slot canyons at Kanarra Falls

 

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Climbing inside the slot canyons of Kanarra Falls

When they say teamwork makes the dream work, they weren’t kidding! This was our motto for day 3, as the trek to get to Zion was an adventure in itself. We knew the roads were expected to be a little “rough,” but that was a complete understatement. Regis is great at developing leaders and team players in the PT field, and I’d say these traits were tapped into as we worked together to get Wyatt’s Subaru down the mountain in one piece. We had people picking up and moving rocks, walking beside the car to make sure it didn’t go over the edge, and I’m pretty sure at one point we were all about to pick the car up and just try to carry it down the mountain. In the end, though, we all successfully got down; this forever remains one of the best memories. We also hiked Hidden Canyon Trail that day and saw the incredibleness that is Zion for the first time.

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Everyone got out of their cars and moved rocks to get Wyatt’s Subaru safely down the mountain!

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Hiking up Hidden Canyon

Day 4 brought about one of the hikes we had all been waiting for: The Subway. Being one of Zion’s more popular hikes, there was plenty of information to tell us to start early in the morning (typically an 8-hour hike) and avoid it when the weather is rough. We like a challenge, so (of course) we slept in and waited until afternoon to start—all while having the prediction of inclement weather and possibly flash floods. Despite the circumstances, we successfully completed this 10-mile hike through the water in a little over 4 hours, and even made it back in time to return our gear that day (the workers at the store didn’t believe that we could successfully finish it that quickly, but obviously they don’t know the determination of Regis PT students). If you ever go to Zion, this hike is a MUST: you end at a series of pools that you can swim through to make it to the final waterfall destination.

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Trekking through the Subway

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Alex leading the way through the freezing pools at the end of the Subway

Day 5 was sort of our recovery day. We had our biggest hike of the trip planned for Friday, so in preparation we did a nice short hike at the Emerald Pools. We finished the day by finding our own waterfall pool to go swim at Toquerville Falls. The road to Toquerville Falls was another adventure in itself; but once again, we like a challenge, so despite advice to turn around and people telling us our cars wouldn’t make it, we defied the odds and were able to enjoy the day!

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Toquerville Falls

Day 6 was our big finale: the 18-mile hike up the West Rim to Angel’s Landing. At this point, everyone was a little beaten up, whether it was blisters, muscle soreness, or just mentally fatigued. Either way, we were determined to complete this last hike together. There is a much shorter hike up the Angel’s Landing (5 miles roundtrip), but if PT school taught us anything, it’s that the reward is so much better when you’ve worked your tail off for it. This was by far the hardest and longest hike, but if you ask any of my classmates, it was 110% worth it.

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All of us at the top of Angel’s Landing!

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Soaking in the view after 19 miles of hiking         

If coming to Regis for PT school has taught me anything, it’s that experiences, relationships, and memories are just as important as the education you receive throughout these 3 years. As much fun as the late night study sessions and practical preparations are, it is the memories made between the class times that I will cherish forever.

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If you don’t have shorts and socks tan lines, did you really hike 18 miles?

How to Avoid Burnout in PT School

 

Name: Brad Fenter, Class of 2019
Undergrad: University of Texas at Tyler, TX
Hometown: Vernon, TX
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Burnout is an interesting thing, mainly because it only happens with things that we love. No one gets burned out on things we hate or even things we just feel a little “meh” about. The concept that we no longer want to be around or indulge in something we love is very unsettling . No one has ever gotten burned out on onions; no one loves onions. We tolerate them and can even enjoy them, but love them? No. And if you’re thinking to yourself, “I love onions!” Then you’re most likely an alien trying—unsuccessfully—to assimilate with human society.

No, burnout is only possible with something we love. For me, I love Clif Bars—specifically the white chocolate macadamia flavor. If you think another flavor is better, that’s completely fine. Just know I’ll be judging you until the end of time. Unfortunately for me and my love of Clif Bars, I went on a backpacking trip a few years ago with an entire case in tow. Every day I crammed those delicious little bars in my face until, one day, I just couldn’t eat them anymore. I wanted to eat them, but I just could not do it. I was burned out.

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My sadness is palpable.

After the trip, I had just one bar left and it has stayed in my pack as a sad, dilapidated reminder of what once was. I want you to learn from my mistakes and avoid burnout. Since this is a PT blog, here are 3 ways to ensure your time in PT school does not become a macadamia Clif Bar.

1. Pace Yourself

This is most important for when you’re first starting out in PT school. That first semester you tell yourself you’re going to read all the textbooks, watch all the online videos, and take excellent notes. If you do everything at top gear, you’ll be out of gas by October. Then what will you do? There are approximately…all of the semesters left at this point. Instead, take the time to learn good study habits and you won’t have to worry when you feel a little fatigued halfway through a semester.

When we discuss long commitments, the analogy of a marathon is always used: “Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint!” When I ran my marathon, though, it took only part of 1 day and I was finished by noon. To contrast, PT school is 8 semesters—which is around 3 years—which equates to…A lot of days. A better saying would be, “Remember it’s a 3-year commitment.” It may seem long right now, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a long time. If you start with the right pacing in mind, then you will be better off. Do not be the brightest star for the first month only to flame out spectacularly for the next 32 months.

Had I paced myself a little better, Clif Bars and I would still be going steady and I would have my first love second love. My wife, of course, is my first love (as the bruise on my ribs proves after writing that previous sentence).

2. Get Involved (but not too much)

This point may seem to run counter to my previous one, but it will all make sense in the end (just like neuroscience except for the sense-making part). There are many opportunities to get involved with things outside of the main curriculum. You can run for a position as class officer, you can be a part of the puppy program, you can join a student interest group. You can go to conferences (quite handy since some of them are required, anyways) and get to know practicing PTs. All of these things are important. Getting involved in more than just schoolwork can remind you of why you started PT school in the first place.

The way I stay involved with my classmates is through Ultimate Frisbee. If there’s a pickup game going on after class, I’m there. I get to interact and stay engaged with my classmates outside of the lab or lecture hall; it’s great. I enjoy the exercise, competition, and group aspect of the whole thing. But all of those other things I listed before? I do exactly NONE of those things because I’m antisocial and don’t like new situations. Now, that may sound like the ramblings of an angry old man who wasn’t hugged enough as a child, but it is actually a larger part of my point. I have time to play a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee and enjoy a drink at the brewery afterwards. I don’t have time to attend the fellowship meeting after class, play frisbee, participate in the puppy program, volunteer to pass out flyers at commencement, and also do well on my finals.

You may be thinking, “I can do all of those things and still be successful!”

Is it possible to do? From a strictly physical standpoint, sure. If you want to end up like this:

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The point is not that all of these things are impossible. But, you will be drained by the end of each semester—just in time for finals.

3. Keep Perspective

This is, I believe, the most important point. I put it last to weed out the unworthy people who get scared of words milling about in groupings of greater than 140 characters. Now that they are gone, we can discuss the most important tool we possess to avoid burnout.

Perspective goes both directions in time. It’s important to remember the future we are working towards as practicing clinicians, but it is also important to see where we came from. If I were not in PT school I would still be plugging away at my old job with little satisfaction and a feeling that there is something more I could be doing. Anytime I feel a little down on myself, I think about how stressed I was beforehand; this serves as great motivation for the present. If you’re one of those young folks and have not had a previous career, then your perspective should be forward. Most people in life will never have the opportunity to work in such a fulfilling field as physical therapy or even get into PT school! When we zoom out from our studies, case assignments, skill checks, and lab practicals, we can see just how great we really have things.

You may be thinking, “I know this is important! But how do I actually accomplish this?” My most important tool for keeping perspective is to prioritize time for myself. Whenever a day is available, I will try to get outside and hike. Or bike. Or camp. Really, anything outside will do. Even when it’s just a weekend and there are exams on Monday, I will take a long bike ride to a coffee shop to study. That way I get to study with the addition of sunshine and exercise thrown in. If you hate all of these things for some unfathomable reason, there’s still hope for you. Maybe you like going to the movies or reading books. That’s great. Make time to do those things because if you do, you will be more successful.

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Making time for myself on a hike to Handies Park

 

For me, outdoor activities allow me to see the wider world and keep perspective on how insignificant many of the major stressors in my life really are. Regis’ DPT program is very good at pushing you to the edge and then pulling back just in time. But what happens when you feel like you’re going over the edge? What happens when you feel you’re on the road to burnout? Do you have the tools to pull back from the bleary-eyed, emotionally drained abyss? If you can pace yourself and get involved (but not too much) and keep perspective, you will be better equipped to avoid burnout. Remember, life doesn’t get easier once we are done with school, but this experience will prepare us to handle the difficulties that come our way.

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Here’s me, fellow student David Cummins, and more friends after tackling another one of life’s difficulties

 

5 Ways to Impress During Your Practical Exams

 

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

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

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

 

  1. Take deep breaths.

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

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Sky Pond hike with my classmates

 

  1. Speak slowly and confidently.

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

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

  1. Mental AND Physical Rehearsal.

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

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My first 14er, Mt. Bierstadt!

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

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

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Move Forward 5K

  1. Believe in yourself.

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

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

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

Email: aferguson002@regis.edu

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Weekend break at Grizzly Rose for some line dancing!

 

How to Conquer Time Management

Name: Sarina Tamura, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of Colorado at Boulder
Hometown: Aurora, CO
Fun Fact: I won 2nd place at the World Cup Stacking Championships in 5th grade!

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Sarina is a full-time student and competitive dancer

You dance. Why?

My life has always been an endless mixtape of dynamic tracks. Two days after graduating from CU Boulder in 2014, I started work as a full-time PT aide, travelled Europe for 3 weeks the day after moving on from that position, and returned home literally the day before I started PT school.

My childhood was no different. I was completely engulfed with dance, gymnastics, and the violin. I trained in both dance disciplines (dance styles including ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, and Irish) from age 3 until 13, then I decided to pursue gymnastics instead. I competed, coached, and judged until I tore my ACL at 17, then returned to dance, where I fell in love with hip-hop and breaking. It seems like my life is perpetually skipping from one track to the next.

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I normally hesitate to tell people that I’m a breakdancer because I feel that breakdancing has a great deal of negative stereotypes associated with it. We aren’t “hood,” we don’t live on the streets, we aren’t violent and aggressive people, and no, we don’t all spin on our heads. It’s actually quite the opposite–the hip-hop culture is all about peace, love, unity, and having fun. In fact, I’ve met some of the most influential people through the world of dance and have brothers and sisters all over the world now thanks to this culture. Dance has provided me with so many cool opportunities that I could have never imagined. For instance, I’ve opened for the Jabbawockeez, performed for the NCAA Final Four Opening Ceremony, performed at the Buell Theater, and performed/competed nationally and internationally in Japan. Not to mention, I get to travel all the time with my closest friends!

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Sarina competed in Japan over the winter break

What does your typical week look like?

I wake up at 5:30 and leave the house by 6:30. I commute to Regis from SE Aurora (roughly 45min-1hr commute) so I try to beat the morning traffic. Having a long commute is both a curse and a blessing: it forces me to get to school early and study before class, yet it’s also my ideal time to listen to music and relax. After classes, I stay at school to study until it’s time to teach and/or practice in the evening. I teach 3 days/week at 2 dance studios and teach privates some weekends (this is how I manage to fund my dance travels). I usually practice 4 days/week for 2-3 hours per session. I get home around 10 or 11, fit in some more studying, then repeat it all again the next day.

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Sarina in Downtown Denver

While being out all day sounds exhausting, it forces me to be productive. It prevents me from taking naps, watching movies, and snacking on junk food – all things I would probably do if I were home. I typically compete or perform almost every weekend (some months are busier than others). I sometimes get hired to perform at events and that brings in some extra cash, which always helps. I’m a weekend warrior in that I take short weekend trips to competitions quite often, so studying on planes have become a regular requirement. It can be exhausting, but it’s super rewarding. On weekends that I’m not out of town, I like to leave Sundays open for studying, spending time with family, or going hiking/snowboarding. While this is what my typical week looks like, I often have to make sacrifices to study (this was especially true during the rigorous 1st year!). Having a schedule is important, but you also need to be open and flexible – things don’t always go as planned.

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Sarina with some of her Class of 2018 classmates

Being in PT school has made me realize the true value of time. Having so little free time encourages me to focus primarily on the people who are most important to me, and that’s been invaluable to my quality of life. My planner is my bible. I try to plan out my days in advance so that I accomplish everything that needs to get done. This is especially important on weekends that I’ll be competing or traveling so I don’t fall behind. Mental image training has also become a skill I’ve refined over the years; on the days that I just can’t make it to the studio, I can sit and choreograph or think of new combinations as a study break. I’ve found that mental practice can often be just as effective as physical practice.

What are the biggest tips you can give to an incoming DPT student?

  1. “I don’t have time” is just not an excuse—if something is important to you, you’ll make time for it. My biggest worry going into PT school was that I wouldn’t be able to dance anymore, but that didn’t end up being true at all. In fact, I’m entering more competitions and traveling more now than I ever have! (I actually counted out of curiosity and I’ve done 34 competitions/ performances since starting PT school–10 of which were out of state and 4 of which were international!) If anything, having a life outside of PT school and having dance as an outlet to relieve stress has been a huge asset. It’s nice having an identity outside of just being a physical therapy student.
  1. Learn to say “no.” This is also advice for myself because it’s something I still struggle with. There’ve been many times I agreed to do a gig or sub classes at the studio when I shouldn’t have and broke down because I was so overwhelmed. Life is all about balance. Always ask yourself what your priorities are. If it interferes with your priorities, say no. Respect your time and take care of yourself!

Now, granted, I’ve structured my life in a way that allows me to do all of these things. I’ve put dating aside for now to pursue my passions, and I don’t have a family to take care of unlike a lot of my classmates–so I have the freedom to live the lifestyle I do while still excelling in school. I can get burnt out and frustrated, but there’s nothing a little ice cream can’t fix! 😉 Structure your life in a way that works for you. PT school is tough, but it’s definitely doable. Pursue your passions and do the things that enrich your life. In this world full of temporary things, it’s a dangerous mentality to believe there’s always next time. It’s our last few years of being a student—it’s the best time to do whatever you want, so take advantage of it! Good luck!

 

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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