Farewell Tom McPoil!

Name: Thomas McPoil, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Hometown: Sacramento California

Fun fact: I like to play golf – at one point, I became a 10 handicapper

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As we approached the end of July, the Regis Physical Therapy family prepared to say goodbye to some very important members of our family. With heavy hearts, but happy smiles, we say our farewells to Tom McPoil and Marcia Smith, as they are retiring and moving on to new adventures. Following 45 years as a physical therapist, 35 years of teaching, and teaching over 1800 students in over 35 states, Tom sat down with me, and I asked for any last words of wisdom. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. How do you advise that we keep a life/work balance?

“I think it’s really hard. I think that’s going to be the hardest thing for a student to figure out. I just look at the struggles you face: you want time for your personal life and clinical care. You may have to stay late and do charting. You get home and you want a break, but you want to keep up with the literature. You are worried about debt and you are worried about loan repayment. If you can, set up a time where you can read 1 or 2 papers a week, and then maybe try to establish a couple of people that want to discuss them with you. Eventually, you have to come to grips with the incredible amount of research out there…I mean it’s almost too much. That’s where the systematic reviews come in. As a clinician you’re not going to have the time to read 27 articles, but you can read one paper that summarized 27 papers for you.”

  1. What makes the difference between a ‘good’ PT and a ‘great’ PT?

“I think that’s a hard question to address. Part of it has to be your feelings of confidence about yourself. Have confidence in yourself, you know a lot. So much is thrown at you, and so quickly, that you feel like you don’t know anything. But when you go out to clinic and you come back and talk to a first year, you realize how much you do know. I think the other thing that makes an exceptional therapist is one that will always question or ask, “what is happening? What is going on?” There is one person on your shoulder that tells you, “hey, have confidence in yourself.” But there should also be another person on the other shoulder that says, “hey, you’re still learning.” And because of that, you tend to be much more aware of things. The longer you are in clinic, the easier it is to say, “well it’s just another total knee.” You know the old ad, “it quacks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it must be a duck”…that to me is where you start to see the difference: a good therapist will just treat the patient, but the exceptional therapist is the one that says, “but really, is it a duck?” and takes the time to really look at those things. The person who is always striving to do their best is sometimes going the extra mile.”

  1. Because we are Regis, we are going to reflect a little bit. What are you taking away from your time at Regis?

“Some great memories from interacting with some great students, that’s number one. As a faculty member and physical therapist I am very, very blessed, because of the fact that the individuals who are drawn to physical therapy (I know I’m speaking in generalities) really care about helping people. And I think that’s just engrained in them. I think that as a result, they’re very interested in learning to help other people. That makes my job as a teacher and as an instructor much, much easier. I think that’s the thing that I’m taking away from Regis, and why I was really happy to come here. I love the fact that the values go beyond just getting an education. And yeah, they are Jesuit values, men and women for other, the cura personalis, the magis, all the buzzwords. But I really do think, here, as a faculty and as Regis, we really help instill that on our students and I think that as a result, the students that graduate from the Regis Physical Therapy program are better humans. I think they’re better people who are going to serve society. The thing here is the sense of community. What I’ve enjoyed as a faculty member is that I really do feel like I’m involved with a community that is very caring. They’re concerned about others. I mean, they’re taking those Jesuit values, but applying it to the whole university community. There is a sense of mission and the need for people to really help one another. One of the saddest things I had happened in my career was when we had a student die in a car accident four years ago. I tell you the afternoon we heard and I had to announced it to the second years, the response from this university was phenomenal. We had counselors down here, within an hour I was meeting with the president and the director of missions, we had a service for the students here on campus. I realize that would never have happened at any other institution I’ve ever been at. Yes, people would’ve been upset, but it’s that sense of community. Yes, we’re a part of physical therapy, but we’re all a part of Regis. That to me is the piece that I’ve really enjoyed the most, and I think we do a really good job getting our students to embrace that before they leave.”

  1. What is your biggest accomplishment as a teacher, a physical therapist, and in your personal life?

“Oh that’s a hard question to answer. Well in personal life, hopefully, I was a good husband, a good father, okay with my son-in-laws and an okay grandparent. That’s what you hope for. Ultimately, you hope that God thinks you did okay. What you really hope for is that in the really little time I had with students, I was able to install firstly knowledge that they needed to go out and be successful, but also hopefully I’ve provided some type of a good role model for them.”

  1. What are you going to do now that you’re retiring?

“I really want to do some volunteer work…that’s what I really want to do! I found out about Ignatian Volunteer Corp, which is for 55 years plus people. I’ll start out doing 8 hours a week, so I’m excited about that. I’ll like to go to Denver Health and help with the foot and ankle clinic. I’ll like to get back to playing golf and pickle ball. And I’ve got the 5 grandkids.”

  1. Where do you hope to see the profession go in 10 years?

“In the 45 years I’ve been in this profession, we’ve made huge strides. What I hope for with the profession is that we work to get increased reimbursement…I think that’s huge. We have to do more to convince the public that we are primary care providers. I hope that the future physical therapists will have direct access, that they’ll be recognized as a primary care providers for neuromusculoskeletal disorders, and that they’ll have the ability in their clinic to use diagnostic ultrasound.”

  1. Any last advice for our class?

Keep at it! Remember you have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information. Just try to balance things, and it’s not easy. Try to balance it so you don’t feel like you’re neglecting your personal life or your work.”

 

Thank you, Tom, for your dedication to the betterment of our profession. We will miss you very dearly at Regis, and we wish you all the best in your new adventure in life! Congratulations!

 

Tom also wanted to make sure that everyone knows he will have his Regis email, listed here (open forever) and it will be the best way to contact him. He will love to hear from people! tmcpoil@regis.edu

 

Written by: Pamela Soto, Class of 2019

Charting Your Clinical Education Course

Name: Josh Hubert, Class of 2019

Undergrad: Bellarmine University

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Fun-fact: I was told by a Greek reiki-master that I am a crystal baby

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Like any great exploration recorded in history, your clinical education at Regis will be a trip fueled by careful planning, curiosity, intrepid spirit, chance, and financial backing from a powerful monarch. Just kidding on the last fuel source, but the others may be necessary. I am the Clinical Education Representative for my cohort,  and I’d like to share how and why I chose my first few clinical experiences. Through my process, I hope you can draw parallels to your own clinical education journey and chart a course that is ultimately fulfilling to you and your future practice. In an effort to wring my exploration analogy dry, you may be seeking cities of gold, but much like Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, the late Spanish explorer, you may find that golden cities do not exist. There will be greater treasures on the journey itself (the Grand Canyon). Coronado was deemed a failure for his “fruitless” mission, but he and the Spanish people failed to recognize the beauty that had been found. Enjoy the journey and respect those you meet along the way. So, to continue with less figurative advice, here are the steps that led me to my decisions:

1. Assess your resources

a. Requirements/Desires

Forget ships and gold! Sit down and take inventory of available resources to direct your search, just as you would use MeSh terms when searching for relevant articles in databases. Firstly, consider your curriculum requirements to determine how and when to use your resources. You must complete an outpatient (OP) and an inpatient (IP) rotation. One of your rotations must be rural, and one must be out-of-state. However, one rotation may satisfy both the rural and out-of-state requirements. Lastly, rotations II, III and IV or III/IV combined cannot be in the same concentration area. Prioritize these requirements in such a way that aligns with your vision for future practice, which is bound to change and develop. Try to set aside time for deliberate development of your vision and allow growth to happen. Enjoy the journey. The chart below that depicts these requirements.

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b. Location

Next, consider a location with requirements and resources in mind. Is there a clinical site that happens to be in your hometown? Or a town in which you have a friend or relative? How will you get there? This can help to lower the cost of lodging and travel, which calls to mind your living situation in Denver. Based on the dates, could you create a situation that avoids the need to pay double rent while at clinical? Do you see yourself practicing in a rural setting or an IP setting? Or maybe not? Do you have a burning desire to work with a particular population? These answers help to filter out less practical locations off-the-bat.

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Bardstown, KY – the bourbon capital of the world

c. Connections

Did you develop any relationships with physical therapists before coming to Regis? Have you developed any relationships with faculty since being at Regis? Do these professionals practice in a place that you would like to practice? Talk to them and seek their counsel. If they work in an area that interests you, ask about potential or existing clinical education opportunities that they may know about. And don’t stop there. Research their suggestions for yourself. Just because you have developed a relationship does not mean they know exactly what’s best for you. Decide on your own when you feel enough information has been gathered.

d. Time

Do you have a good idea of what you want to do? If so, go with it. It may change after your first clinical, but we are fortunate to have time for reassessment. Consider a FCFS (first come first serve) or Corporate site if you have a strong sense of where you want to end up or where you don’t want to spend the majority of your clinical time. If you choose one of these sites or set one up, you are locked in. You may save yourself time required by deliberation and also open up spots in the lottery for your classmates. However, if  you are not completely sure, then consider the lottery. If a site you desire is not in contract with Regis, then explore building that bridge, under the direction of your Clinical Education advisor, and after accounting for all the sites available to you. In addition to Acadaware, there is a list of corporate companies which typically include a handful of sites in different cities both regionally and nationally. Setting up a rotation with one of these sites is much more manageable than starting from scratch, which will be more time-intensive, but worth it if you’re vision is clear.

2. Mobilize your resources

a. Plan

I save your Clinical Education Team for this step because I believe it’s helpful to come to them with an idea of your requirements in order to direct the conversation. I think we can agree that sitting down for a 30-minute meeting regarding 3-5 prioritized sites will likely be more productive than a 30-minute meeting covering the possibility of 134 potential sites. Your advisor is your second most valuable resource, after your own brain of course, and it’s a good idea to develop a relationship with your advisor that fosters open dialogue.

b. Pursue Your Choice

Time is a resource. Consider a FCFS or corporate site if it aligns with your vision. With the blessing of your advisor, commit to that site on the list or create a site of your choosing, and do it with gumption. If you go the prior route, there is not much else required of you than a commitment, but if you go the latter route, put in work. Understand that if the site agrees to host you, you will be required to go. Take initiative and offer to establish initial contact with the new site. If your advisor approves, compose a professional and compelling email to get the ball rolling. See your choice through to the end. If a site is unavailable, refresh and continue with your next choice in the same manner.

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I completed my first clinical at KORT-Bardstown, a corporate site in KY. The site was not previously an option as a first clinical site.

c. Logistics

Piggybacking off the suggestion to narrow your site options before attempting heroic feats of decision amid many options, it is easier to cross-compare the logistics of a few sites rather than 100 sites. If you have 5 sites that all meet the same criteria you’ve established for the unfolding of your vision for practice, then maybe something simple like the cost or availability of housing distinguishes one site as the preferable option. What will weather be like during your clinical? Will there be unearthly traffic on your commute in one city? Is there good food and good beer there? These things, while seemingly superficial, may help with that final step of narrowing it down, since our quality of life is important too. #happyPThappypt

d. Enjoy the ride

Map it out as carefully as you like, but uncharted territory is only chartable once you get there. In other words, there is only so much calculation you can rely on in life before you need to simply rely on curiosity and spirit. There may not be golden cities on your course, but be sure to recognize a giant canyon for what it is…graaand. The reality is that you can take all these steps along with others and still end up with a site you did not chose. In this case, gear up for an adventure and come back with a map of your own for those that follow. Embrace each moment on your adventure as a learning opportunity whether it’s what you wanted to learn or not, and respect the people who teach you. Experience is a willing teacher and learning makes the vision clear.

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My CI and I enjoying homemade mint juleps, in accordance with KY tradition.

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Sentimental cookie-cake. I’ll miss them, too.

Feel free to stop me in the hall or email me if you have any more questions about my experience: Jhubert001@regis.edu

Bonus Fun-Fact: I did a project in 7th grade on Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.

 

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.