Farewell Marcia Smith!

Name: Marcia Smith, PT, Ph.D.

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As we sadly said farewell at the end of the summer to another beloved faculty member, Marcia Smith, who has been with us at Regis for 20 years, second-year student Meg Kates made sure to catch some of her words of wisdom before her retirement! Read the interview below for Marcia’s amazing journey as a PT, educator, and advocator.

How did your journey with physical therapy begin?

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I read a story in a Reader’s Digest publication called Karen, which was the story of a young woman growing up with cerebral palsy in the late 1930s. At the time in history, many of those individuals lived in group facilities for people with disabilities. I remember, in the story, Karen learning how to walk with the help of a physical therapist. My interest was further reinforced in 8th grade, when I saw a television show called Route 66. In the show, main character came down with an illness and had to be hospitalized, and, I remember, a physical therapist helped him get well. Lastly, the gentleman who became the head of the Rehabilitation Center in Grand Junction moved across the street from me. I had lots of opportunities to talk to him and watch him. So, I had lots of opportunities for physical therapy to be reinforced as the career I wanted to pursue.

I graduated with by Bachelor’s in physical therapy from CU, and then I moved to upstate New York, where my husband went to law school. A Bachelor’s degree was all that was really available at the time, unless a person wanted to teach, in which case he or she got a Master’s degree. I had never met a physical therapist with a Ph.D. at the time. I lived in Ithaca for 3 years, and then I moved back Colorado in 1972. There were zero positions open in the state, so I worked vacation relief at nursing homes. Colorado has been saturated a long time. Eventually I got a call from the head therapist at Denver Health, who had heard I was looking for a job and asked me if I would like to interview…I said yes! I was hired and it was the weird, the wild, and the wonderful. At Denver Health, therapists are assigned to teams, so I worked in the Amputee Brace Clinic for 6 months. Then, I did hand therapy. Then, I rotated onto the Neuro-/Neurosurgery team. After that, I told everyone they could rotate around me because I was not going to leave that team.

Starting out, did you always know that you wanted to pursue neuro-focused PT?

No, in fact, I thought I wanted to be a pediatric therapist. In New York, I worked at Tompkins County Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for 2 years. That was a wonderful opportunity. I would see a patient who had an acute stroke and I would get to follow them from acute care to rehab to outpatient. I had the opportunity to fill the spot of a physical therapist on maternity-leave at the Special Children’s Center, which was a freestanding outpatient school in Ithaca. Interestingly, the head of the Special Children’s Center had her Ph.D. in Education and her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology. And she had cerebral palsy. In fact, she was one of the people in the book “Karen.” It was a full circle moment for me. I worked with this woman in the pediatric setting for 8 months before I moved back to Denver where, like I said, there were no pediatric positions. There were hardly any positions, but it was at Denver Health where I decided neuro is what I really wanted to do.

 

Can you tell me more about your experience with Ranchos Los Amigos?

When I was at Denver Health, I felt like I needed to know so much more. I expressed these feeling to my husband and he encouraged me to apply to universities for a Master’s degree. I was admitted to a program for clinical specialization at Rancho Los Amigos, where I learned at a couple of years. The first year was mostly class work, and the second year was all clinical specialization. We rotated between specialties, and I chose traumatic brain injury, stroke, TBI children, GB, and it just goes on like that.

 

What advice would you to someone who want to get into a specific specialty of work?

When I was finishing my Master’s, I can remember a classmate saying to me, “If there are no openings, I will just go do anything.”

And I can remember saying, “I won’t. I refuse. If I can’t be a neuro therapist, I will flip burgers!

So, my advice is to find a place you want to be and stick with it. Secondly, try to pick your final clinical rotation in a setting where you know you would like to practice. Lastly, don’t disregard what you have learned based on the setting you are in. For example, I have used my musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary skills in practice with my patients with stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Always be searching for opportunities to use a wide breadth of skills and never putting people into a “box.”

 

What do you think is the next step for the career of physical therapy?

I think that we will always need educators. So, if you’re interested in that route, be considering in what subject you would like to get your Ph.D.

There are other things I worry about. I worry about the cost of education, and the loans that people have to take out. I see how physical therapists are reimbursed in Colorado and nationwide, and it’s hideous. So, I see residency taking us to another level, but, ultimately, we need to be addressed as primary care providers.

Ultimately, we need to be our own advocates. That means writing up clinical studies, asking questions, and answering questions.

 

What is the first step in becoming an advocate? How did you get your start?

When I lived in New York, there were two physical therapists at Ithaca College who would regularly invite me and some others to attend district meetings, and everyone would go. Then, in 1970, New York had its first state conference: that night, everyone volunteered to participate on a committee of the APTA. When I moved back to Colorado, one of my mentors invited me to a picnic, where she asked me if I would become the secretary of the Colorado APTA Chapter.

I asked her, “Do you think I can?”

She said, “Of course you can.”

So, I became the secretary and did that for 4 years before I moved to California to pursue my Master’s, where I continued to follow through with my responsibilities until I came back.

 

What’s the next step for you? What’s in your future?

I am going to continue to do some research. I am going to continue to answer some questions about how we dose exercise for people with Parkinson’s Disease.

I will be doing some traveling. In September, my husband and I will be escorting some friends to Ireland. I am going to see Iceland next. We are going to go for Hawaii for a few weeks, and, then I thought, since we are halfway there, why not go to New Zealand? Why fly back to the mainland? Then we have friends that we will be joining on a river trip on the Rhine. I don’t know after that!

 

Thank youMarcia, for your work and dedication to both Regis and our profession! We are so grateful for all of your contributions and will miss you very dearly at Regis, and we wish you all the best in your new adventure in life! Congratulations!

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.

 

How to Make the Most of Your Clinical…in ITALY!

 

Name: Lydia Hamstra, Class of 2018
Undergrad: Gonzaga University, WA
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Fun Fact: I am a huge Harry Potter nerd and to help prep for Italy I read Harry Potter in Italian (since I’ve read it so many times in English, I was able to figure out the gist—it gave me ideas for how to say certain phrases that I liked and thought I could use. I also believe reading in any language is the best way to learn new vocab!).

Lydia Hamstra is currently in Umbertide, Italy for her second clinical rotation. She advocated for and helped set up Regis’ first entire clinical rotation in another country.

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Ciao, mi chiamo Lydia Hamstra e sono una studentessa di fisioterepia di secondo anno a Regis University. I have a passion for neurological rehab and travel and my goal is to combine those in my future career. One of the reasons I applied to the DPT program at Regis is because of the global immersion and service they do. Traveling off the beaten path has been a value instilled in me by my parents from a young age. Immersing myself in different cultures helps me grow as a person and as a clinician; it also enables a different kind of learning. By being present, helping others, exploring, and embracing what and who you find, you can create durable bridges that connect you to the world. It also illuminates parts of yourself you may not have known about and fosters reflection. We all want to have a positive impact in some way–I find that I grow the most when I’m out of my comfort zone and helping others.

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to travel is by combining it with education. Why Italy? Honestly, it is difficult to say where I got the idea. I thought the country was romantic and charming, and more approachable than other countries. I actually picked my undergraduate school because they offered an Italian degree and had a second campus in Italy. In 2012, I was fortunate to study and live in Italy with a family from Florence (I’m actually meeting up with them during clinical!). My experience in undergrad made me realize that despite it being a first-world country, there is still a lot of need and hardship. I experienced it from the student perspective and I wanted to give back from the clinician perspective. I also wanted to learn about a different healthcare system and the pros and cons of socialized medicine. The clinical education team at Regis is one of the best in the country, if not the best. They worked diligently to create this opportunity–not just for me ,but for all future DPT students. The DPT program at Regis now has a partnership with Eduglobal and I am doing in-patient neurological rehab at the Instituto Prosperius in rural Italia.


If you’re heading abroad for a clinical experience, here are 5 tips to help you make the most of your time!

1)    Find Ways Around the Language Barrier

First off, you don’t need to get OVER the language barrier—you don’t have to speak the language fluently (or even well) in order to communicate with your patients.  It is, however, helpful to learn simple commands in Italian; these are great to take back home and use in English if you’re someone like me who tends to be wordy (beware the rest of my post!).  Beyond that, focus on teaching by example and using non-verbal cues to get on the same page with your patient.

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Stander at the Institute Prosperius: she does not have voluntary control of her lower extremities.

2)    Learn to Go With the Flow

Yes, a global immersion or clinical is going to be different, and like any clinical out there, there will be things that you like and things that you don’t like about the system. Remember that Italian physical therapists, too, will be frustrated by certain parts of practice–be it communication, lack of resources, or decisions by doctors, to name a few.  Remind yourself that professional frustrations and problems are universal. And remember that you are there to learn about physical therapy and to embrace the culture as much as you can. Learn to breathe and be patient—both with yourself and with your colleagues.

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Home sweet home! @vignedipace

3)    Go Above and Beyond

Just like any class or clinical, the time and effort you put in will transfer to what you get out of it. I believe this is true with regards to patient management, the language, and your rapport with your CI, the other students, and the other Italian physical therapists. One of the biggest differences in Italy is that they do not document every session…or even every day. This has to do with healthcare being a constitutional right for Italians, whereas we practice defensive medicine #CYA. Even though that is the case here, I am documenting certain things because I want to know how my patients are progressing. In general, Italians have an expectation that you hold yourself accountable. They expect you to push yourself; don’t fall into the trap of doing only the minimum.

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Positano on a sailboat on the Almalfi Coast

4)    Exchange Ideas with Colleagues

Going to Italy is unique, also, because you are placed with other students from a variety of schools. They are all at different points in their schooling, which provides quite the mix of ideas and understanding. Take advantage of this to exchange ideas and techniques with other students. For example, one SPT from Shenandoah taught us how to do a CT manipulation in prone.

Side bar: It is awesome to have a group to explore Italy with.

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In Venice for the weekend!

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Venezia-social commentary on global warming and human efforts to maintain our structures. Venice is not actually “sinking”, rather the water is rising because of the human impact of warming the earth and melting the ice caps.

5)    Take Advantage of the Slow Internet

You may find you have extra time here, especially because the internet is not as fast or reliable as in the US and certain websites *ahem Xfinity ahem* are unavailable. (You can get Netflix and Spotify, though, so I can promise you will survive.)

Gripe about it for a day…and then let it go and be in the moment. Journal, walk around town, engage with the locals, practice Italian, talk to your peers, learn how to make pasta, or study for the comp exam. You’ll feel less dependent on technology and it’s actually been amazing to unplug. It has given me more time to reflect on what I’m learning about myself, our practice, the meaning of life, etc, and always with a glass of wine in hand.

Ciao bella,

Lydia

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Lovely day at Agriturismo Tenuta I Colli del Trasimeno!

How to Avoid Burnout in PT School

 

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

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

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My sadness is palpable.

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

1. Pace Yourself

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

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

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

2. Get Involved (but not too much)

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

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

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

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

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

3. Keep Perspective

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

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

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

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Making time for myself on a hike to Handies Park

 

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

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