Service Learning in PT School

Name: Austin Adamson, Class of 2020 Service Officer

Undergrad: Saint Louis University

Hometown: Laguna Niguel, CA

Fun fact: I recently dove with manta rays and sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef!

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As students of physical therapy, we are undertaking a career that is founded upon the ideas of service and care for others. We spend countless hours in both classrooms and clinics learning a craft that allows us to heal our patients and restore their function and participation, ultimately serving them in a life-altering way. But, for many students of Regis University, the call to serve others extends beyond the classroom. It is a part of who we are, and who we are called to be.

The young Class of 2020 has only recently begun its efforts to serve beyond the community of our school and classmates. Our first service effort began in February, in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Members of our class were generous enough to donate time and toys to Children’s Hospital Colorado to wish children and their families a happy Valentine’s Day.  Both the Van Gogh’s and the less successful artists in our class handmade over 150 cards, sending best wishes and love to remind every child that they are cared for, even through the challenging time of a hospital stay.

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These cards accompanied nearly $100 worth of toys and games that helped make the time in a hospital more enjoyable for the children being treated, their siblings, and their parents.

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Left to right: Josh H, Auburn BP, and Austin A delivering Valentine’s Day cards and toys to children at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

With the turning of the seasons and the coming of beautiful summer weather, members of our class turned to the mountains to participate in a trail building and conservation effort for National Trails Day.  On a warm Saturday, a small group of students and significant others made their way out to Hildebrand Ranch Park to volunteer with Jefferson County Open Space.  The group worked to construct a small section of new trail that will be opened in 2019, and also helped maintain an existing section of trail by cutting back overgrowth of invasive plants.

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Left to right: Meghan R, Nicole R, Emily P, Austin A, and Hannah D serving at Hildebrand Ranch Park.

Ask any Coloradan, native or otherwise, and they will tell you about the importance of trail work! As avid nature hikers, trail-runners, and mountain bikers, the Class of 2020 will continue to give back to the beautiful mountains we know and love as well as the community members who use them.

These are just a few examples of the service and work being done for others by my classmates and professors. Service is an integral part of our time here at Regis University, and is preparation for a lifetime of service as we will enter the field of physical therapy with hopes of serving our patients and empowering their lives. Some are called to service through the Jesuit Mission that is incorporated at Regis, which teaches us to be men and women for others. Some draw strength from acts of selflessness that bring joy and comfort to others. And still others enjoy building a community by meeting new people in service opportunities, and sharing experiences with one another. Regardless of the reason, the students of physical therapy at Regis University work to be engaged in both the local and global community. We are pursuing not just a degree, but the ability to shape a better world through our work!

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!

 

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

 

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!

What to Do When You Get Into PT School

 Name: Davis Ngo, Class of 2020!
Undergrad: 
University of California, San Diego
Hometown: 
San Jose, CA
Fun Fact:
My favorite animals are manatees because they’re just the chillest.11071038_10204929466588479_4501112845883243502_o.jpg

You’ve gotten into PT school! Now What?

This is it. You’ve done it. You were accepted into Regis University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

It makes sense you got into a few of your other top schools as well (who knew having choices could be so stressful?!). But now you’ve done the research, toured campuses, spoke to all pertinent parties, and finally you’ve come to your decision. A bit anticlimactic, don’t you think? The countless hours of hard work, stress, and uncertainty that lead up this pivotal moment…Funny that the culmination of all this—and the decision that would shape the course of your next 3 years (not to mention the rest of your life)—could come down to just a couple of mouse clicks.

Click.

Click.

Deep breath. What next?

Step 1: Take a moment.

There is no elaborate display, no grandiose announcement, no surprise party.

Just those tiny triumphant mouse clicks (and a hefty hole in your bank account from the deposit).

Anticlimactic? Perhaps. Fitting? Definitely.

You are the reason you’ve gotten this far. You are the one who accomplished all of this. YOU did this—it only makes sense that you get to experience this minuscule moment— all on your own.

You’ve been accepted by one of the finest DPT programs in the nation, and with your click-click of intent you’ve officially committed yourself to a fulfilling and rewarding life of service and learning in the field of physical therapy. The veil of uncertainty cast over your future has been lifted and you know exactly where you’re going to be. Take a moment to think back at all you’ve accomplished: anticlimax aside, this surely was no small feat.

You are intelligent. You are well-rounded. You are hard-working. You are determined and resilient and strong. You are exceptional. You are kind.

This is your moment. You deserve this.

Step 2: TREAT. YO. SELF.

After you’re done patting yourself on the back, here comes the time we’ve all been waiting for… In the immortal words of Tom Haverford, TREAT YOSELF!

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Take yourself shopping. Buy yourself a drink. Go on your favorite adventure. Eat your favorite meal. Take yourself to a movie. Sit in and binge watch your favorite show and, when you’ve finished that, binge watch another. Spend time with your loved ones. Have them shower you with compliments. Buy that thing you’ve always wanted to buy. Do the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Have that cake, and eat it too. At this point you might be thinking: do I really NEED all that? The answer is TREAT YOSELF. YOU ARE AMAZING.

How did I treat myself? One of the first things I did was go on the Patagucci website and buy myself an overpriced, super gaudy fleece. I call it my “treat myself” sweater, and I love it.

After that, I took some time to travel the East Coast (I had never been). I ate, drank, and danced my way around the major cities there, and experienced my first “real” winter ever. It was awful, and beautiful, and just the grandest adventure.

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Brooklyn Bridge!

I came home and decided that I wanted to spend the months before school doing the things I love most: mainly climbing, adventuring, traveling, and being with my loved ones. I put in my two weeks notice at the physical therapy clinic and hit the road.

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Soaking up the sunshine in the Mammoth, CA hot springs.

In the weeks that followed, I spent much of my time climbing and soaking up the Eastern Sierra sun in my favorite place on Earth: Bishop, California. I even got to met up with fellow DPT Class of 2020 student, Annie Govig, and took her on an adventure out in the mountains!

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Met up with Annie Govig on her spring break road trip!

I was lucky to be able to save my money while living at home so that I could take this time off. I also specifically planned to work hard during the application period so I could play hard. If you don’t have this luxury of time, I still hope you find a way to treat yoself. It only takes a few seconds to buy yourself a treat yoself sweater. That cake is just a trip to the store away. Treat. Yo. Self.

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Step 3: Back to business.

Alright, alright. We knew it couldn’t all just be fun and games. You’ve got business to attend to.

By now, you should’ve received an email (or several) from Regis Compliance with detailed information on your list of compliance tasks (shots and immunizations, background check, CPR requirement, etc). These things are important and must be done or in progress before your start date, so get started early! Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time as long as you stay on top of it.

This is also a good time to think about your financial situation and figure out how you’ll be paying for your time at Regis. Look into applying for financial aid, research loan options, calculate your budget and cost of living, etc. It’s best to stay well-informed and have some sort of budget in mind before jumping into the world of grad school loans; start thinking and planning now!

Finally, it might be a good time to start thinking about your upcoming living situation. Do you want roommates, or do you like having your own space? Where in Denver do you want to live? For those coming from out-of-state, the process of finding proper accommodations remotely may be daunting and difficult, so try to get started early to get your bearings.

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Step 4: Freak out…But only a little!

“Wait, but I’ve never lived outside of California before. What will it be like to leave my home and my comfort zone? Wait, where are my immunization records? A CPR class costs how much? Do I REALLY need a new laptop and iPad? Holy moly how much money am I going to have to borrow? I haven’t been in school full time for years; am I even ready for this? Where am I going to live? How do I find a place close to school that is also nice that is also cheap and also has great roommates? Oh my goodness; there are only six weeks left before I leave. What about all the things I wanted to do? Who will I be able to see before I leave? How will I get all this done in time? Am I just going to live out of my car? Will I even have friends? AHHHHHHHH!”

It’s okay! Cálmate! Tranquilo! Take a deep breath! It’s okay to freak out a little. Lots of big changes are about to happen and it’s natural to be anxious. Try not to stress too much, though. I know it all may seem a bit overwhelming, but try and take things as they come.

Get things done slowly, one thing at a time. Remember that you now have a whole new support system at your disposal. The counselors and administrators at Regis University are there to help you, so don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions you may have. You also have a whole list of classmates, entering and current, who are eager to help so reach out to them as well! You are not alone in this.

You’ll be okay. I promise.

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Step 5: Breathe, relax, and GET PSYCHED!

You’re about to begin a rigorous academic journey that will eventually lead you to the rest of your career in physical therapy. Soon you’ll be in school full time, five days a week—not to mention the hours spent practicing and studying outside of class and lab.

So, be kind to yourself. This is your time to relax. To breathe. To fully enjoy the calm and the free time you have before becoming a full time graduate student.

Go soak in the sweet sunshine of your last summer. Go play hard and be joyous. Spend quality time with your family and friends. Daydream about the future. Think of all the beautiful and wonderful new opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead. Connect with your new classmates. Be happy for yourself. Get psyched.

This is the beginning of the rest of your life. 

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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!