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.

Why Become a Physical Therapist?

 

Name: Nathaniel Pryor, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Regis University
Hometown: Deposit, NY
Fun Fact: I love completing ruck marches of ridiculous lengths for charity. Longest to date is 32 miles.

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After a 48-hour mission in Afghanistan

       It was the second day of a 3-day air assault in Afghanistan. Our platoon was busy searching houses in 120-degree weather. The sun was beating intensely and we were running deadly low on water. We decided to set up a defensive position in a house while waiting for an airdrop of water and ammunition. During this lull in activity, a command came down to search the village across from our stronghold. My squad was slated to complete the next clearing mission, but everyone had their gear off and was not prepared. One of the fellow squads, led by my best friend, decided to take this mission. This decision would end up becoming one that I will forever regret. My best friend stepped on an IED and lost his life along with the lives of two of our other platoon mates.

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2nd platoon, Charlie Company, 1-12 Infantry Regiment, 4th BCT, 4th ID

That day caused a fundamental change in my thinking and purpose on this earth. It was that day I realized I needed to do something greater with my life–something that wouldn’t allow the deaths of my brothers to be in vain. It wasn’t until we returned from Afghanistan that I figured out what that higher purpose was; I entered the medical retirement program with a fellow soldier from my company who had an above knee amputation sustained from stepping on an IED. The lack of care and meaningful treatment was repulsive. It was like a light bulb went off and I finally realized what my life mission was. This newly found insight led me to the decision of becoming a physical therapist. This would allow me to still serve “with” my fellow brothers and sisters, all while providing a level of treatment and understanding they aren’t receiving on a consistent basis.

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On patrol in Afghanistan. Sometimes in the most horrible situations, all you can do is smile.

I was stationed in Colorado at that time, but am originally from upstate NY. The plan was to go back to NY to complete my undergraduate degree and then apply to a DPT program. However, after talking with a few peers at the VA, I ended up contacting Dr. Cliff Barnes (anatomy and neuroscience professor) at Regis University. I talked to him about my past experiences in the military, why I wanted to become a PT, and what my future goals were. He suggested I apply to Regis for my undergraduate degree. I can honestly say that attending Regis for my undergraduate degree was one of the best decisions of my life. Regis is not just a school—it’s a family of like-minded individuals who do everything in their power to help you become successful and realize your full potential.

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Planting trees in the Costa Rican rainforest after a month of primate research

Being a Jesuit University, Regis is very focused on the core Jesuit values. Two of these are particularly important to me: service and care for the whole person. While in undergrad, I participated in many service opportunities ranging from flood cleanups and judging sixth grade science fairs to being an advocate and speaker on issues facing veterans. These service opportunities showed me the importance of taking an active role in your community and helping people heal in whatever way you can. These values have become engrained as part of who I am as a person and how I want to practice physical therapy. The DPT program has further shown me how essential these values are for increasing the impact we have as PT practitioners. Regis’ focus on holistic care and looking at each patient as an individual has changed my perspective on how to care for the whole person by considering their individual goals, needs, and wants when determining proper treatment prescription.

Good luck everyone on finals and to the incoming first years on your housing hunt. Pura Vida!!!

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Diesel, my service pup, learning how to palpate vertebrae

 

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Sarah, Steph and me checking out the Christmas lights at the botanical gardens

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Anatomy lab group celebrating the end of our last final of our first semester with a trip to see the Nutcracker

 

 

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Thanksgiving: DPT style

 

 

What is it like to be in the military and PT school?

Name: Zach Taillie, Class of 2018

Hometown: Phoenix, NY

Undergrad: SUNY Cortland

Fun Fact: I’ve been in the Air Force for 6 years.
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You may not believe this, but NASCAR Technical Institute is a bit of a dead-end school.  You read that right—there is a school completely dedicated to folks who want to learn about race car maintenance and occasionally take them for a spin.  It is a one-year program outside Charlotte, NC, and was what I thought I wanted to do.  While the program set me up for an awesome career as a tire technician at Sears Auto while living out of my parents’ basement, I decided I wanted more out . I found myself over at the Air National Guard office, and in December of 2009, I enlisted.

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Once I was done with my training and learned that I could get school payed for while serving in the military, I was stoked to get started. Little did I know that when it comes to school and military duty, school usually doesn’t win. The biggest mission we undertake in the Air National Guard is state-level disaster response.  My first emergency response was to a winter storm, and to my surprise, I was told by my supervisor that school takes a backseat to duty.  I remember feeling frustrated at the situation, but once I showed up I realized how much of a positive impact we could have.  The feeling of helping out and giving back to those who needed it far outweighed any disappointment at missing classes or balancing class all day with working at night.  Luckily, I was blessed with great professors who would email me notes and allow me to reschedule tests if necessary.  This understanding and flexibility allowed me to respond whenever the call went out, and it allowed me to still excel in school.

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The military hasn’t been all rough, though.  During one of my winter breaks, I was sent to Germany for training.  I spent Christmas in Kaiserslauten, New Years in Berlin, and my birthday in Amsterdam.  Even when I wasn’t out exploring Europe, I was able to have fun at work coordinating air drops (think Humvees and supplies hopping out of planes) with the 86th Airlift Wing.  I’ve had the opportunity to deploy to the Middle East and serve with coalition troops from all over the world and make some lifelong friends.  Oh, and having part of school paid for is another perk!

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Although I originally thought I wanted to make a career of the military as an officer once I graduated from college, I stumbled upon physical therapy during my junior year and fell in love.  Due to a shoulder injury, I was able to experience what it was like to go from injured back to working out and wanted to give that gift to others.  Fast-forward a couple of years, and here I am: at Regis fulfilling me dream!  Currently, I serve with the 153rd Airlift Wing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I go up once a month and spend at least half of my breaks working.  Luckily, my drill schedule and our finals week seem to always coincide…so I get the opportunity to test how long I can stay awake and study.  Two semesters down, and I’m still here!!  While I listen to my classmates plan super rad trips for our summer break, I’m looking forward to two weeks of work connected by a drill weekend.  All things considered, though, I would do all the same given another chance.  I work with some great people and get to do things for my job that most people only see in movies: riding on C-130s, running through live shoot houses, firing some pretty awesome weapons, and watching live gun runs from planes overhead.  The military/civilian balance can be a challenge at times, but it’s one that’s well worth it!

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If you have any questions about balancing school with the military, please feel free to contact me at ztaillie@regis.edu.