How I Lost the Most Valuable Ligament

Name: Erin Lemberger, Class of 2020

Undergrad: University of Northern Colorado

Hometown: Littleton, CO

Fun Fact: A one humped camel is called a Dromedary and a two humped camel is called a Bactrian.

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Let me just tell you about my first semester of PT school. I’ll start off by saying that PT school is a lot of work, so of course, the first semester was stressful. But regardless, there are 80 of your closest friends that make studying, adventuring, and everything that happens in between a whole lot easier. I started the semester by buying a season pass to ski all winter long and to use as a major de-stressor when school became difficult. I have been skiing since I was a little tike, so what could go wrong? I had never been hurt skiing nor seriously injured so it couldn’t possibly happen now. Here’s my advice, kids. When the mountain does not have enough snow to open up more than one run, there’s not enough snow. Just trust me.

 

So here’s how it went. I go to Arapahoe Basin (lovingly known as A Basin) with my now boyfriend, Preston, and we’re having a great time just enjoying the weather and the snow. We ski about three runs before the resort is flooded with people also trying to ski the one run that is open. We spend about 20 minutes waiting to get on the lift that will take us to the top, so the decision to get to the top, ski all the way down, and head on home is smart. I’m happily skiing along trying to keep up with Preston, but when I get to about 50 feet from the bottom, realize I’m going a little too fast. Preston is down at the bottom and I go to stop and my ski catches a patch of ice (remember the not enough snow comment?) that takes me out. I flip over backwards and roll hard, and although the details of that fall are fuzzy, I’m sure now it was a classic plant and twist. My skis don’t pop off and my right knee is screaming in pain; I can’t stand on it, so I get my first toboggan ride down the mountain to meet Preston.

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About 20 minutes before I fell. The view is pretty right?

I’m going to start this part of the story with the advice that I would not recommend getting hurt in PT school, but I want to brag about our professors for a little bit. I think I was in denial that I ruptured my ACL, so I went to Dr. Tom McPoil and asked him to check out the knee. Tom tapes me every morning for about 2 weeks while we are trying to get MRIs and doctors appointments scheduled; he was a saint. After a few days of taping, he decides Dr. Mark Reinking should check out my knee too, thus getting two amazing faculty giving me advice. You probably know what happens next: I have surgery to reconstruct my ACL with a semitendinosus/gracilis autograft (they took my hamstrings to make a new ACL). I was thankful I could do surgery over winter break. Over the month that we had off, I got time to recover and relax instead of worrying about school. I started PT off campus and then switched to seeing a PT in our faculty once the new semester got closer. Our faculty are incredible, understanding, kind, teaching, inspiring humans who are the reason I am fairly active for 5 months post-op. My PT, Nancy, is one of the many reasons I am certain that I want to go into this profession because she makes me laugh when PT for an ACL reconstruction is painful. Although I would not recommend tearing your ACL, I have gotten more perspective than I could have imagined from the process.

 

Okay, now go back. I tore my ACL. It was an absolute pain (in the knee) 90% of the time. It was hard watching my friends all ski while I was stuck at the lodge, it’s terrible that I still have pain running even though it’s normal, and I have a huge mental block doing most physical activity now, which is hard. Here’s my advice: Take care of yourself. Have fun, but within healthy limits for yourself. I recommend you also know that life simply happen. Having a positive outlook has made a huge difference for me. Sometimes you just have to see the brighter side. That all being said, I am here, I am passing, and I am chugging along just fine in PT school. So, if you do injure yourself while in school, remember that it is all doable. That’s a promise!

Here’s some other friends that are going through injuries in PT school and some advice they have for dealing with it:

Ryan Pineda, Class of 2020: Lisfranc fracture, surgery completed, in PT currently

“Find a good Netflix show to break up the studying and try not to think about

how much fun your friends are having. Also make sure to buy pass insurance for

your ski pass.”

 

Gabe Lawrence, Class of 2020: meniscal tear, surgery happening this week!

“Make sure to stay active and find something to take your mind off the injury

while you’re rehabbing. It’s easy to be lazy when you have an excuse. Just

because you‘re down a limb doesn’t mean you can’t use the other three.”

 

Jake Berndl, Class of 2020: bilateral inguinal hernia, surgery completed, progressing back to normal physical activity

“Don’t sustain a more serious injury like the above three. Put a positive spin

on your down time – catch up on studying while your classmates are out

having fun instead of studying. This way, when tests or finals roll up, you’re

prepared. Also, don’t forget to ask your surgeon the important questions…”

 

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!

How to Spend your Time before Starting Physical Therapy School

Name: Kelsie Jordan

Undergrad: Oregon State University

Hometown: Portland, OR

Fun Fact: I hiked Longs Peak the weekend before finals week (along with some other classmates – who needs to study, right?)

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Take a deep breath. Now, let it out slowly. Soak in this feeling of relief. At least for this moment, you have nothing to be stressed about – you actually are  accepted into physical therapy school. The applications are over, the interviews are complete, and you’ve survived that awful waiting period when your future was in the hands of an admissions team. Now, after what may have been a grueling process of endless pros and cons lists for some, you have finally decided which physical therapy program you are going to call your own. Doesn’t that feel amazing?

So…now what? Well, the good news is you’ve already done the hard part and this period between being admitted to PT school and actually starting is pretty much smooth sailing! Here’s what you can do to navigate this in-between time:

Study and review anatomy

Just kidding! Do not worry about reviewing anything. You’ll have the entirety of PT school to do all the studying your heart desires. You’ll also have a whole semester dedicated to learning anatomy, which will likely be much more in-depth than your undergraduate course, so looking over muscle attachments before starting school won’t give you any advantage. So please give your brain a break. Don’t review any material. Seriously. Don’t do it. Got it?

 

Graduate college

If you’re still finishing up your last year of undergrad, finish strong. Enjoy your last couple months of college, and then really enjoy your last true summer vacation. After all, you’ll have summer classes during PT school and afterward, you’ll be out in the real world!

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My mom and I at the Portland Shamrock Run 15K…it rained the entire time

Get in touch with your classmates

Most, if not all, programs have some sort of Facebook page for their incoming class. Join it! Introduce yourself, ask questions, creep on your classmates, etc. It’s always a little awkward trying to get to know people you haven’t met yet, but down the road, it’s always fun to share stories about first impressions of profile pictures with all your friends. Plus, this is a great way to find roommates, if you’re looking.

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Using extra free time to visit friends in Seattle.

Take care of logistics

Check your new school email regularly to make sure you stay in the loop by receiving all the updates and information regarding your cohort. There are probably a few compliance requirements you need to take care of, such as submitting immunization records and getting CPR certified. Also, don’t forget to apply for financial aid and scholarships – FAFSA is due on April 15th! Non-logistically, it might be a good idea to make a bucket list of things to do in your new home so that once you’re waist-deep in midterms, you don’t forget all the fun adventures you want to try.

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More hiking in Portland, just prepping for life in the Rockies.

Find housing/roommates

If you’re moving somewhere new for school, you obviously need to find somewhere to live. Again, if you’re looking to live with classmates, Facebook is a great tool. Zillow is also your best friend. Better yet, if you can swing it, try to visit the area so you can take a look at housing in person. I’ll say from personal experience that living close to campus is pretty great, but there are a lot of other factors that determine your ideal place to live. Definitely use current students as a resource because we all have varied experiences.

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A year without IM sports? Might as well join a city league team!

Sleep

Don’t set an alarm and instead sleep in on the weekends. There will be fewer opportunities for this in grad school, so sleep it up!

 

Spend time with your friends and family

If you’re moving away for school, you’re going to leave a lot of friends, family, and maybe even significant others behind. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll grow apart, but you’ll obviously have less time to spend with them. So before you move, do as many things as you can with all of those people! Maybe even plan ahead and figure out what you will do to keep in touch. Even if PT school is in the place you currently live, it does take a lot of work to balance your new schedule, new friends, new responsibilities, and new life with all the people in your old life. So make the effort to prioritize those people more than ever before you transition to grad school.

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My friends and I spent 4th of July weekend on a houseboat on Lake Billy Chinook in central Oregon.

Travel

Spend some time traveling, whether it’s to another country, another state, or just that one part of your hometown you’ve never been to before. While there are plenty of school breaks, those breaks won’t allow as much time or flexibility for travel as you have right now. Trust me, I’ve enjoyed a bunch of trips during PT school, but when there is an academic calendar to adhere to, vacation time tends to be a little more structured. Also, if you don’t feel like you have the time or money to take an extravagant trip, try to make a road trip out of your move to school. That’s what I did, and it was a blast!

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My extended family had a family reunion trip in South Carolina, so I had fun being a history nerd in Charleston

Have fun and honestly do whatever you want

Relax, take a breather, and let your brain rest (especially if you just finished undergrad). Even though there will be plenty of free time to explore and have fun during PT school, most of the time those experiences come alongside the knowledge of looming deadlines in the back of your mind, so enjoy the freedom to do what you want without anything making you feel like you need to study. Travel, sleep, drink at a beer festival, read a book, binge watch Netflix, go to a concert…If you currently have a job that you’re planning to leave right before grad school, think about leaving a few weeks early to unwind. Also, I would honestly advise that you not worry too much about saving up money – you’re already investing a lot in your education, and the couple hundred dollars that you might save by not enjoying your freedom right now won’t make much of a difference in the long run. This in-between time should be a period of rest and fun, so make that your goal.

Basically, all of that advice can be pretty much summed up into two words: do nothing.

Take care of the things you need to take care of to be compliant and financially prepared when you start school, but otherwise, just take a step back and enjoy your time however you see fit. As always, feel free to contact Erin, the Class of 2020 Admissions Representative, and I with any questions. Congratulations on finally reaching this step, and good luck in the Fall!

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“PT school, here I come!” –Me, when I finally got to Colorado.

My email address: kjordan002@regis.edu

Erin’s email address: elemberger@regis.edu

How to Rock a CSM Conference

Name: Grace-Marie Vega

Undergrad: Arizona State University

Hometown: Placentia, CA

Fun Fact: I take pub trivia very seriously!

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CSM, or the Combined Sections Meeting of APTA, is a 4-day national conference held annually,  attracting thousands of students, practitioners, and researchers in the physical therapy field. These are some things I learned from CSM 2018 in New Orleans that I hope will help you navigate through future conferences:

  1. There are so many possibilities! CSM had over 300 educational sessions over the course of three days, not including poster presentations, platform presentations, and networking events. It was a whirlwind of people, places, and free giveaways. To get the experience that you want, and to avoid option paralysis, take some time beforehand to prioritize what you really want to see! In preparation for your own national conference, download the APTA conferences app so you can add programming to your own schedule. The WiFi in the conference halls can be unreliable, so I suggest that you make a plan before you get there, and glance at the map too.

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  1. Do not underestimate your knowledge. On my first day of CSM, I chose programming with subject matter that I felt I knew well enough to discuss. It turns out that I did know it well, because I had already studied it in my coursework, and even read some of the referenced articles. Basically that program was review, and a reassurance that Regis DPT coursework incorporates current best evidence. But I could have learned new things and expanded my awareness of topics that may not get as much coverage in coursework. For the rest of the conference, I tried to pick topics that I was interested in, but not experienced in, and in doing so, I realized that I was not out of my depth. Challenge yourself, and trust that you probably know more than you think.

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  1. Use public transit! Although less convenient, it’s cheaper and arguably more fun than taxis, ubers, and car rentals. I purchased a transit pass that allowed me to utilize all local buses and trolleys. For 3 dollars a day, I rode around New Orleans with locals and CSM attendees alike, and I felt like I was experiencing the city in a much more intimate capacity. Shoutout to the good people of New Orleans who always seem willing to make conversation and give restaurant recommendations while waiting for trolleys.

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  1. Network! As a self-proclaimed hater of all networking-related activity, I urge you to do this! Allow me to make a blanket statement and say that physical therapists are friendly, kind, and wonderful people who love talking to students, sharing their knowledge, and saving lives. Asking questions in educational sessions, talking to vendors in the exhibit hall, and even making small talk with the PT sitting next to you are all ways to get more out of your CSM experience. It’s also a way to dip your toes into the ocean of job hunting. I left with business cards, new aspirations to become a travel therapist, and more free t-shirts than I care to admit.

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  1. Quality over quantity! Strike a balance between conference time and exploration time. You could easily spend your time doing nothing but CSM from dawn to dusk, and that’s awesome! But, you don’t have to do that. You can get there a day early or take a later flight out if it means you have time to wander and be inspired by a new city, new friends, or live music. Your memory of this time will likely not only include the conference, but the people you were with and the place you were in. In my opinion, when you finally get home, your heart should be full, and your feet should be sore.

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DPT School Nutrition: 4 Ways to Eat Healthy

Name: Janki Patel, Class of 2020
Hometown: Fremont, CA
Undergrad: University of California, Davis
Fun Fact: I hiked a 14er (Mount Democrat) for the first time…three days after moving from the Bay Area’s sea level.
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If you are currently enrolled in physical therapy (PT) school, or attended in your past, you can probably identify with the struggle of eating healthy, stress eating, and forgetting exercise. With one exam after another, I’ve found myself eating one snack after another. And by snack, I mean chocolate-covered espresso beans, chocolate-covered almonds, and chocolate-covered pretzels. Anytime anyone mentions “free food,” my ears perk up, eyes widen, and I suddenly feel as if I’ve been starving for centuries, instantly questioning “Where?! When?!” And, when I do finally find the time and energy to go grocery shopping, I think to myself, “I’m going to get a ton of vegetables, fruits, and healthy foods only.” Yet, I end up walking out with a handful of unhealthy items, which I justify by all the vegetables and fruits I just filled my cart with (it’s all about balance, right?!). Days later, I find myself eating all those unhealthy items first though, while the vegetables and fruits start going bad. And with more stress, I seek out the fatty, carbohydrate-heavy, sugar-loaded foods for comfort and relief. When I talk to classmates, I find many are in the same boat. It’s almost as if we could use a class about how to consistently eat healthy while in PT school…or maybe just a blog post!

We already learned that nutritious foods are better fuel sources for our brains and bodies, leading to improved energy, clearer minds, and overall better productivity. Ensuring proper nutrition takes self-discipline and motivation. Once you make it part of your everyday though, you won’t even have to think twice about it. Just like driving a car or riding a bike or remembering the direction of roll and glide for the convex-on-concave rule of arthrokinematics. It’s simply a matter of training the brain, or neuroplasticity, if you will.

1. Mindfulness

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Photo Credit: Mindfulness Words

 

Take the time to really listen to your body and thoughts in the present moment. When you find yourself reaching for a snack, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry. Is your stomach really rumbling? When was the last time you ate? If the answer is “no” and “just a half hour ago,” then try opting for a drink of water or a piece of gum to chew instead. If you start deeply craving food, ask yourself where that craving is stemming from. What’s really causing it? Hunger? Or, stress and anxiety? If it’s stress or anxiety, then first acknowledge that the true cause of your feeling is stress or anxiety. But, don’t let that acknowledgement stress you out more. Take a minute to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, rather than running to the cafeteria or kitchen. Try to then relieve the craving by simply changing your position (sitting up straighter, getting up and taking a quick walk, or stretching) or environment. I find that every time I study on the dining room table, I end up grabbing a snack shortly after I start, or I sit with one to begin with so I don’t have to get up later. With the kitchen so close by, there’s little time between my thought and action. Choose a study spot away from food sources so that you’re given more time to think twice about any craving that occurs and prevent yourself from fulfilling it.

Find more activities to relieve cravings in the moment as well, whether it’s having quick play time with your pet, reading a short article (PT in Motion has great ones!), or talking to a family member or friend for a few minutes. Essentially, we want to train the brain to think “this is my cue to grab water, take a walk, or talk to someone” instead of “this is my cue to eat” whenever it receives the signal of a craving or desire to eat that really stems from stress or anxiety rather than hunger.

2. Commit to a List

Photo Credit: Grocery List

 

This is one of my biggest challenges. I always have a few items in mind that I need to get from the grocery store, but the rest of the items in my cart end up being in-the-moment purchases. Make a solid grocery list beforehand and commit to sticking with it by grabbing only the items you need. One way to do this is to first find healthy recipes and then creating a grocery list from the ingredients. For example, I’m subscribed to New York Times Cooking, which sends me daily emails of recipes. I choose and bookmark a few healthy ones every day so that by the end of the week, I have a list of ingredients for my weekend grocery shopping trip (as well as recipes to cook for next week then!). You can go paper-and-pen style or use an app on your phone to keep track of your list.

Another way is to commit to a 5-5-5 rule. Include 5 vegetables, 5 fruits, and 5 protein items on your list every time you make a trip to the grocery store (or any other area, such as fiber or a specific vitamin, that you may not get enough of). Depending on when your next trip will be though, you may have to increase these numbers. Think of your grocery list as being a grading rubric for a class assignment or a list of topics on an exam. Just as you would ensure to cover all required items for your clinical skills check or anatomy exam, and not a single more item than you have to, commit to ensuring you cover all the items on your list, and not more, for groceries as well.

3. Avoid Justifying Unhealthy Items for Costing Less

Photo Credit: Money Fork

I know we’re all “balling on a budget,” but try to not let that be a reason you start compromising healthy foods for less nutritious ones. Order that avocado for the extra 50 cents. Don’t order that whipped cream on the frappachino simply because it comes at the same price without it. If you’re like me and are easily lured by sale items at the grocery store (who doesn’t like buy one, get one free items?!), try to take more time to practice the previous points of being mindful and committing to a list. It’s easy to fall into marketing schemes since sales make “sense” that we would be saving money. However, it does not make “sense” to feed our brains and bodies with foods that have little to no nutritious value.

This goes for restaurants as well, especially if you don’t cook at home or buy groceries often. Think back to the 5-5-5 rule when ordering still: did you have vegetables, fruits, or protein today? Create and commit to a list and find items on the menu that incorporate this “grocery list.” We’re actually lucky that our bodies already give us a grocery list of items they need for optimal functioning: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water, etc. Seek the specifics your body truly needs on the menu, just as you would seek keywords in multiple choice options on an exam question to know it’s the correct answer.

4. And Of Course, Don’t Forget to Exercise!

Photo Credit: Time for Fitness

 

This last point is more of a reminder to exercise regularly. The benefits of exercise are endless. Schedule it into your calendar as if it were a mandatory class. Additionally, any time you start to feel your energy levels plunge, try exercising rather than reaching for energy bars or sugary foods for a boost, even if it’s simply 10 minutes. If you’re in class and a craving or energy lull hits, try seated calf raises under your desk, flexing and extending your toes in your shoes, or flexing and extending your fingers and hands (set a frequency too!). Again, it’s about creating a healthy response when your brain gets these signals.

We know exercise can cause physiological changes in more than just our muscles, specifically in our metabolic pathways. Keep moving regularly and solidifying healthy eating habits and it’ll soon feel like you never had a struggle with healthy eating, stress eating, or forgetting exercise. You won’t even have to think twice about it. Just like driving a car or riding a bike or remembering the direction of roll and glide for the convex-on-concave rule of arthrokinematics. It’s simply a matter of training the brain, or neuroplasticity, if you will…these are my foods for thought. Happy nutritious eating!

Lessons Learned During the First Clinical Experience

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

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

Work schedules > school schedules

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

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Wine tasting in Sonoma!

It’s never easy, but it gets better

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

Confidence takes practice

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

Solo adventures are good for the soul

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

I enjoyed the opportunity to appreciate silence and just be.

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Support systems are necessary

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


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

“You are enough!”

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

 

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.

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

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!

 

Coming to PT School From Another Career

 

Quite a few of our classmates came to physical therapy school after 1, 2, or even 3 previous careers! Laura and Tara are academic all-stars, wonderful additions to our Class of 2018 cohort, and have some of the coolest past experiences out there.  

Name: Laura Baker, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of New Hampshire, Durham
Hometown: Seville, Ohio
Fun Fact: During college, I studied abroad in Tamil Nadu, India!

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Name: Tara Businski, Class of 2018
Undergrad: Bates College
Hometown: East Lansing, MI
Fun Fact: I have swum in 4 of the world’s 5 oceans.

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First off, tell me about yourself. 

Laura: I grew up on a small farm in Ohio. My father raised hogs and grew crops while my mom operated a strawberry business. Much to the delight of the unsuspecting customers, chaos ensued when piglets escaped from their pens and ran straight for the berry patch.

I chose UNH for my undergraduate degree because of their intriguing curriculum and to chase after the ocean and mountains. I received a resource economics degree that laid the foundation for my natural resource conservation career. After graduation, I spent a year in Queensland, Australia as an intern studying resource economics of tropical rainforest re-forestation. I chose my next job as a forest conservation activist based on running: the people of Ketchikan, Alaska informed me that there were miles of trails (and black bears and wolves were rarely problematic). So there I went–Alaska or bust! I spent the next 11 years working various conservation jobs in Alaska with the majority of my time being spent at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Juneau.

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Laura doing some plant surveying for TNC

Tara: I grew up in Michigan, went to college in Maine, then moved to Newfoundland to study biological oceanography. After 4 years of graduate school, I joined the Marine Corps to be a helicopter pilot. I stayed in that job for almost 9 years, then resigned to come to PT school.

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Tara’s Christmas in Afghanistan

When did PT first catch your eye as a future career? 

Laura: I’ve had a number of encounters with physical therapists, most resulting from mundane, physics-gone-wrong scenarios: a torn ACL here, a nagging hamstring injury there, a helluva whiplash and concussion situation, etc.

After I turned 30, I felt like I had lost the passion for working in the natural resource field; I quit my job and travelled for a year. Several months into drinking wine and picking olives in Italy, I found myself unhappy with my state of uncertainty.  I knew that physical therapy was a profession with attributes that aligned well with my values and goals: a specific and defined skill set, available work in remote areas of Alaska, and getting to support others’ well-being in a tangible way. It seemed like the perfect next step!

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Laura on the job in AK

Tara: When I was considering post-military careers, I was looking for an intellectual challenge and a consistent schedule. I had a biology degree, a Pilates teaching certificate, and a little medical background from my time as an EMT and as a search and rescue volunteer. Physical therapy seemed like a logical extension of these experiences. I’m excited about the new challenges, variety at work, and job prospects.

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Talk about a cool past career! 

Describe how you went from thinking about PT as a career and getting into PT school.

Laura: I came back to Alaska to work odd jobs and sent myself back to school for the basic sciences. I shadowed physical therapists in various settings in Anchorage and Juneau and gave myself 2 years to get accepted into PT school. If, within that time frame, I was not accepted to a program, I figured it was not meant to be and that I would return to the conservation world with new goals and intentions.

Tara: I observed in an outpatient clinic on the base where I was stationed for a handful of hours, but was unable to get very many hours due to work demands. I also took anatomy and physiology at the local community college in the evenings. After I decided on Regis for PT school, I was able to get more observation time at the naval hospital in San Diego. That experience was invaluable and has had a major impact on my interests within the PT profession.

What is an unexpected challenge in PT school?

Laura: I could not have anticipated how much I miss the relationships I had built during my time in Alaska. Also, I’m giving up years of income and will be facing a level of financial instability that makes me squeamish. However, I am completely energized by my motivated classmates, committed faculty, and opportunities that I could not have otherwise imagined!

Tara: Group work across generations. I didn’t even have dial-up internet until high school! While I am proficient with technology, messaging and social media are not as natural to me as for many of my classmates. I like meeting face-to-face much more than messaging…And how many different messaging apps do I really need, anyway? Can’t all my different groups just use the same one? Modes of communication that appear effortless to others take extra time and energy for me to work with

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Tara and Laura take a study break on their bikes

What’s an unexpected awesome part of PT school?

Laura: I am thrilled about the professional and leadership development offered within the curriculum at Regis.

Tara: Being on the puppy raising team!

 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Laura: My plan is to practice in southeast Alaska where towns are located among the islands. I cannot say if I will be in a specific clinic, providing tele-medicine, or traveling on the ferry or floatplane to treat people in remote areas. I can say that I am looking forward to settling back into life in Alaska where everyone moves just a little slower than in the big city and where patients compete to bring you their finest smoked salmon.

Tara: Denver–I don’t want to move any more! I’m interested in working with patients with neurologic health conditions so I’d like to be in a rehab center or hospital.

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Tara and Laura sip some cocktails and study for a neuro test

What pieces of advice do you have to incoming students (particularly those coming from another field)?

 

Laura: My advice to incoming “career-changer” DPT students is to practice patience with yourself and others and to recognize that your skills and experience from previous work add significant value to this field.

Tara: Beware of hubris. You bring life experience and maturity to your new profession but you’re still a novice. On the flip side, don’t sell yourself short. You may be new to PT, but have confidence in your new skills and use your life experience to improve communication with your patients and to manage time.

Also, homework sucks. However, when you think nostalgically about being able to leave work behind at the end of the day, remind yourself that school work is helping you become good at your new job. Also, it lasts less than 3 years, so you’ll get back to the real world soon (or so I believe)!

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Questions for the bloggers? Email Tara at tbusinski@regis.edu or Laura at lbaker@regis.edu.

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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How to Find Your Work-Life Balance in PT School

Name: Tom Sears, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Wheeling Jesuit University
Hometown: Moundsvill, WV
Fun Fact: I once gave a ten minute impromptu (and decidedly silly) speech about apples for an undergraduate class.

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The ultimate question for me once I found the perfect PT school (Regis) was:

How do I balance the rigors of PT school with my family, friends, and all the responsibilities that accompany everyday life?

This is the question. So, what is the (your) answer?

Well, to begin… I am fortunate enough to be blessed with a beautiful wife, a dog and cat (the cat is temperamental and bites for no apparent reason), and a house (and the lovely mortgage and maintenance that goes along with it). Oh, and my wife and I are in the process of adopting a child! And, well, I have friends and hobbies and I even like to workout on a regular basis.

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My dog Rufus’ puppy graduation

So, how does one achieve this so-called balance? The most important piece of advice I can give you is to surround yourself with a good support system. Let your friends know that your life is changing (for the better) and you will need them to be patient with you. Ask them to check in with you on how studies are going, to celebrate with you when you do find the time (celebrate that anatomy lab practical being over!), to understand when you have to turn down their invite to try line dancing at the Grizzly Rose, and to be there when you need to decompress.

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Tom plays music with his brother to de-stress

My wife has been SO supportive of my endeavor, and for me this was imperative. Be sure your spouse or significant other is forewarned of the change that’s about to take place. If you don’t have an “other,” let your family and closest friends know. They likely cannot fully appreciate what the experience is like, but have this talk…Let them know you will need them by your side. You will be in school much of the day and studying more frequently than you ever have before. You won’t always be as available as you would like. Get them on board! And perhaps best of all, be prepared to meet some truly awesome new people. These are perhaps the only people in your life that will truly understand what this experience is like. You may be amazed to see how quickly you become close with your classmates. Lean on them!

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Service learning with my classmates

The other essential part of work-life balance: develop a routine—a routine that fits with your needs. This, of course, will be difficult to determine at first. But alas my young apprentice, it will come. This may mean planning your days out to allow for your studies or for time to relax/decompress. Think forward to your assignments that are due and allot enough time to finish them.

I have talked with 2nd and 3rd years (much wiser and more experienced than I) and for a few of these folks their answer revolved around boundaries and separation. They would arrive to school at 7 AM and leave at 5 or 6 PM. During this time they would study with absolute focus. You know, the kind that doesn’t involve watching Youtube clips, posting tweets, or watching a ball game in the background (okay—guilty as charged!). And when they came home, they were with their family and friends. Truly with them. This was not my answer, but it could be yours.

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Professional Ceremony with my family

My answer was not so easily developed at first. I have a dog at home who had not been out for 8+ hours, and thus I feel the need after class to return home to let my beloved furry friend out for a long walk. I then return to my studies before joining my family for a nice conversation and an episode of Game of Thrones.

Whatever your familial and personal needs are, plan accordingly and give time to them.

The next key to work-life balance: build into your routine a time for rest. Whether you’re parking your gluteus maximus, medius (and other various muscles) in your most comfortable seat to watch the weekly Steelers game, checking out one of the local breweries with your peers, or enjoying the wondrous outdoor activities that Colorado has to offer, find the mental and physical space you need to completely unplug from schoolwork.  No matter how much time you spend on studying, you may never feel like you are as on top of the material as you would like to be. But trust me: this time will refresh your mind, reinvigorate your resolve, and ultimately help you to perform optimally in PT school.

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Fireworks night with the Colorado Rockies!

Oh ya—and there is this thing called exercise. Chances are you’re a fan (or will at least be soon). Some of my peers elect to put this on the back burner. I would strongly suggest keeping exercise in your routine. For me, blasting some 1975, John Legend, or Tool and going for a run is the perfect way to clear my mind and prepare me for a night of studying.

It is well worth an hour of your time to keep your routine, practice what you preach, and prepare your mind not just to cram, but retain the material at hand. This will bring you closer to your future success as a PT.

Your routine may take time to develop, but that’s okay. If you had all the answers to achieving optimal balance for success in your new PT career right now, you would be the first! Be steadfast in your resolve and be flexible. Prioritize your needs and you will find your answer!

Meet Maggie McKenna: Why Regis?

Name: Maggie McKenna, Class of 2019
Undergrad: University of Dayton
Hometown: LaGrange, IL
Fun Fact: I’ve been skydiving twice!

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Deciding where to go for a Doctor of Physical Therapy education is a big, life-changing decision…but also a very exciting one! Unlike some of my classmates, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for at first, so my decision process took time. In the end, though, it was Regis that caught my heart and it hasn’t let go since.

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Service Learning!

Here are a few (of many) noteworthy reasons I ultimately chose Regis:

The faculty: I remember being very impressed with the faculty on my interview day, and my admiration for them has only grown in my short time here. All are experts in their specific fields of study, in addition to being involved in many leadership positions throughout the APTA. Most notably, our professors know us as individuals and treat us as equals. They respect and listen to our insights, questions, and concerns and do their best to support us any way possible.

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On top of Breckenridge Mountain with classmates

Colorado: I am from and went to undergrad in the Midwest (Go Flyers!), and was ready for a change of place…and altitude! I traded in the gray, flat, windy Midwest (still love you, home) for three years of sunny days, mountain views, and powder-filled weekends. I was drawn to the mountains and the breathtaking playground it offers.  And when I do miss city life, downtown Denver is just a ten-minute drive away. There is something for everyone here in Colorado! I’ve been here six months and there is still so much more to see and explore—mountains and city alike!

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On top of Mt. Bierstadt!

Jesuit Values: Catholic education is very important to me (17 years and counting!), but by no means do you have to be Catholic or religious to attend Regis. I was drawn to the Catholic education and values that Regis and the Jesuit community stand for because they are ones I hope to embody both as a physical therapist and in life. Through our professors, peers, and curriculum we are encouraged to exemplify these values by caring for the whole person, providing service locally, nationally, and globally, as well as being leaders in our field, practicing with integrity, and collaborating with other professionals.

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Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park on a weekend

Regis was and is the right place for me; I absolutely love it! I chose the place that would help me be the best version of myself, and encourage you all to do the same with your exciting decision ahead. We at Regis are hopeful it will lead you here!

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Sky Pond, RMNP

Welcome, Zuma!

The newest addition to our DPT program has arrived! Zuma will be trained by our service dog team of students.  We’re looking forward to seeing her learn and grow; she has a big vest to fill!

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…Oh, and isn’t she ADORABLE?!