Coming to PT School From Another Career

 

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

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

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

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First off, tell me about yourself. 

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

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

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Laura doing some plant surveying for TNC

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

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Tara’s Christmas in Afghanistan

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

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

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

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Laura on the job in AK

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

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Talk about a cool past career! 

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

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

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

What is an unexpected challenge in PT school?

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

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

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Tara and Laura take a study break on their bikes

What’s an unexpected awesome part of PT school?

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

Tara: Being on the puppy raising team!

 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Then and now: Meet Alumna Erin McGuinn Kinsey

Erin graduated from the Regis DPT program in 2010 and is now a pediatric physical therapist for Aurora Public Schools; she also serves as a Clinical Instructor for current students. 
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Name: Erin McGuinn Kinsey, Class of 2010
Hometown: Denver (but grew up in Georgia, Alabama and Florida)
Undergrad: University of Florida (Go Gators!)

Fun Fact: I am a huge Florida Gators fan and have been to 3 National Championship games, including football and basketball (all of which they won)!

More than six years ago, I completed my PT school capstone with the theme of “balance,” which led me to my graduation from Regis University with my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2010. Every day during these past six years, I’ve held onto that philosophy of balance in both my personal and professional life. Life has definitely been a journey since then, and I am thankful for my profession, colleagues, friends, and family who have been a constant support. I always make time for my family, staying active, and traveling while dedicating myself to the children and families I serve as a physical therapist.

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My dad and me on graduation day! My parents were a huge support during my time at Regis.

As a Regis physical therapy student, I considered several areas of practice with an interest in pediatrics or orthopedics. It was when I ventured off to Ethiopia for the intercultural immersion experience that my decision was made to pursue a career in pediatrics. I have always enjoyed coaching children in gymnastics and being a nanny, but this was a new responsibility. My eyes were opened to the importance of access to timely and appropriate healthcare—especially early intervention for children. There were so many preventable and correctable impairments that would have changed the lives of these children if they had been addressed earlier in life. My passion for working with children was intensified, and I knew there was good work to be done in my future.

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Our time at Project Mercy in Ethiopia

After graduation, I decided I wanted to pursue pediatric physical therapy in Denver. I completed the Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship through JFK Partners and the University of Colorado (which is now the University of Colorado Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency Program). This opportunity gave me a variety of academic and clinical experiences, including supportive mentorship that was invaluable as a new physical therapist. I highly recommend further education after graduating, especially if you have determined an area of specialization! It is amazing how many continuing education opportunities are available now for physical therapists.  The experiences can enhance your education early on and increase your confidence in your clinical skills and decision making.

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My wedding day with my Regis girls by my side

I currently work as a pediatric physical therapist in Aurora Public Schools. My perception of the role of the physical therapist has really expanded in this setting. Access to the educational curriculum covers a broad spectrum and all aspects of a student’s school day. We are responsible for the physical access to the school environment in any scenario; this includes  getting on/off the bus, participating with peers on the playground, moving through the lunch line, evacuation plans, equipment management, gross motor skill development, and much more. I truly value providing services in the natural environment for the child.  There is something to be said for practicing the skill in the environment it is expected to be performed while directly supporting the student’s participation in his/her school life.  After spending most of my early career with the birth to three-year-old population in the home setting, the school setting has provided new challenges and learning opportunities across the school-aged lifespan. I remember in my interview with Aurora Public Schools one of my colleagues mentioned, “you will never be bored.” Now in my second year in APS, I have quickly learned this is true!

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My wonderful PT team at APS!

The beauty of being a physical therapist is that there are so many different opportunities within the profession, and you can always change your mind. People need our help whether they are young or old, active or sedentary. Get out there, find what you love, and create your balance.

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My family on vacation to Carmel Valley and Pebble Beach, CA

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Teaching Fitness Classes While in School

Name: Morgan Pearson, Class of 2017

Hometown: Gillette, WY

Undergrad: University of Wyoming

Fun Fact: I teach a fitness class called POUND…no, I’m not joking. Let me tell you more…

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What the heck is POUND?

You may have read a blog post a couple of months ago that highlighted my teaching a fitness class to some of my fellow classmates called “POUND.” It’s a super fun cardio/strengthening workout that I absolutely love teaching! If you want to find out more about the class, visit the website. But the real reason I’m writing is to explain how I balance PT school and working as a fitness instructor teaching POUND.

I became a certified POUND Pro in January of this year (as a second year PT student) because I felt that I had found my studying groove in PT school and could handle teaching a class a couple times a week. I mean I have to workout anyway, so why not make some money while doing it?

I wanted to practice teaching the choreography before I applied for a job to teach the class, so I reached out to my lovely classmates on our class Facebook page and asked if any of them would like to take a free class from me. My classmates are extremely supportive, and a couple of them kindly agreed to try out the class. They ended up liking the class so much that I have continued to teach free classes for them almost every week (yes that’s girls AND boys in my class!).

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I decided I had practiced enough and would try my luck at finding a very part time job. I figured I could devote 2-3 hours/week to teaching a class since, like I said earlier, I have to work out anyways! I found a job that I could teach 2 hours/week, plus my free hour class I teach at Regis for my classmates. Sure, it’s hard being in PT school without a job, let alone with a job, but 3 hours a week is COMPLETELY doable. I have a couple of super moms and dads in my class, and let me tell you, my silly 3 hour/week job commitment is nothing compared to the time they devote to being rock star parents!

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Now I am not in any way suggesting that PT students should have a part time job during school….what I am suggesting is to take a couple of hours per week to fulfill what you are passionate about! I’m just lucky that I make a little extra cash while doing so J. PT school is a time commitment, and you truly have to devote many hours to class, studying, and group work, but it’s all about balance. Finding time to do the things you love is absolutely necessary. Whether it’s POUNDing, golfing, skiing, hiking, running, binge watching Netflix or Bravo TV, taking time for yourself is crucial to succeed in PT school!

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If you have any further questions about balancing your time in PT school, feel free to contact me any time at mpearson@regis.edu.