When Should You Take the National Physical Therapy Exam?

Name: Lindsay Mayors, PT, DPT, Graduated Class of 2017
Current Employment: Physical Therapist at KidSPOT Pediatric Therapies
Professional Goals:
to empower every child that I encounter to discover their vast abilities and reach their greatest potential, become a clinical instructor, and become a Pediatric Certified Specialist

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So, you’re a third year DPT student ready to graduate this upcoming May. The question is looming: when should you take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE): April or July? Lindsay Mayors, recent graduate, is here to give you a guide to deciding on when to take the NPTE.

Deciding when to take the NPTE is no easy task. If you are a third year student reading this and if you’re anything like I was at this time last year, your mind has felt like a teeter-totter repeatedly bouncing between April and July ever since you took the NPTE prep course at Regis. If your mind is on that teeter-totter at this point, take a deep breath and know that you do not have to make a decision right now. Now is the time to recognize all that you have accomplished in the classroom over the past two years, enjoy your last few days with your amazing classmates, embrace the uncertainties that undoubtedly come with the start of your final clinical rotations, and go out and enjoy those golden aspen leaves! Once you settle into your clinical (which, I promise, you ARE ready for), you can jump on that teeter-totter again with a clearer mindset.  The good news is that there is no right or wrong answer. It just takes a little bit of what Regis instills in us best…you guessed it…self-reflection!

There are 4 dates every year to take the NPTE; they are in January, April, July, and October.

I was one of the few in my class who chose to test in July. My fourth clinical was finally in the setting of my dreams: pediatrics! It’s a niche field of PT that is not heavily emphasized in the curriculum. For me, the thought of going home after clinic and studying for the NPTE did not stand a chance against going home and studying up on all things peds! My ultimate goal was to work in pediatrics, so I wanted to absorb all of the information I could during that rotation without spreading myself too thin between additional obligations. This decision allowed me to be fully prepared and present every day to each child; this is now something I highly attribute to the reason I was offered a position at that clinic.

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I traveled to Belize after graduation without allowing any NPTE thoughts to enter my mind.  When I returned, the 6-week journey of studying several hours/day began. Were there times over the summer that I was tired of studying and wished I had gotten it over with in April?  Of course. But were there times that I was thankful that I had un-interrupted time to study while maintaining a balanced lifestyle? Absolutely. Channeling my energy to be thankful for the process and reminding myself that it would be over in 6 weeks brought be back to my center. And those 6 weeks flew! A few days after receiving the results, I saw my very first pediatric patient independently. My mentoring PT signed off on all of my notes until my license number came through 5 weeks later. And here I am now, writing a blog post (instead of documenting on today’s PT sessions), still in disbelief that I have been a practicing PT for two months already!

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Here are some questions to consider during your decision-making process:

1. In what setting is your final clinical rotation?

 

Is it a setting in which you already have a high level of confidence, or is it a setting in which you have had minimal experience and may require additional preparation and study time?

2. What is your ideal study set-up?

Group study or individual study? Shorter bouts dispersed over a long period of time, or longer bouts concentrated in a shorter period of time? If the latter sounds better, maybe waiting until after graduation to settle into the rhythm of studying is for you.

3. What other tasks/activities/obligations do you have outside of clinical?

Research presentations, working on completing your capstone, finishing you clinical in-service presentation, family events, hobbies, weekend trips, etc. all will impact your ability to study–make sure to consider your time available from all angles.

4. Considering #2 and #3, what will set you up best to maintain a healthy life balance during your NPTE preparation?

Think about what’s realistic for you to accomplish.

5. Additional factors you may consider: travel and finances!

If you are planning on traveling after graduation, will you be able to relax and enjoy yourself if you still have to take the exam in July?

You should also consider:

  • If you want to take the exam in July, but feel it is financially necessary to begin working as soon as possible…
  • Does the state in which you plan to work allow you to practice under a provisional license while you study?
  • Does the setting in which you hope to work allow you to begin working in the time period between passing the exam and obtaining your license number? (~4-6 weeks is typical).

TIP: In general, it is more likely that a larger healthcare system will require a license number than a private practice.

The bottom line is, no matter what decision you make, there may be “the grass is greener on the other side” thoughts that arise. There may be doubts. There may be teeter-totters and remaining questions even after you decide on your test date. This is why I encourage you to consider what would be best for your own well-being. When answering the 5 questions above, consider your personal pros and cons. Reach out to your advisors, mentors, and classmates to assist you in the decision. Most importantly, make sure to have fun and create positive energies around your studies, no matter if they are for the April or July exam.

 

 

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

Class of 2017 DPT Student Lindsay Mayors Reflects on Her Clinical Rotation

Name:  Lindsay Mayors

Hometown: Akron, Ohio

Undergrad: University of Dayton

Fun Fact: My first experience skiing was on my third birthday in Keystone, Colorado!

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Today, the Class of 2017 has reached the halfway point of their 8-week second clinical rotation. The past two semesters have been filled with management courses, case studies, exams, practicals, and research. In April, we completed all three management course series; needless to say we were ready to get out into the clinic! Students are working in a variety of settings including acute care hospitals, inpatient neurological rehab, sub-acute rehab, long-term acute care, home health, outpatient orthopedic, outpatient pediatric, and school-based therapy from Virginia all the way to Alaska. We are applying our freshly developed clinical reasoning skills and continuing to learn immensely from our clinical instructors.

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Lindsay and her first year mentor, Vickie

Many of my classmates will tell you that I am one of the “peds people.” I started the program in August 2014 with my mind set on becoming a pediatric physical therapist. I would be nearly skipping in the hallways on the way to pediatric-based labs or lectures. So, when it came time for me to start my second clinical rotation at a skilled nursing sub-acute rehabilitation facility, I did not know what to expect. It seems to be a common theme among students to not prefer to work with the geriatric population. I know that I even had my doubts. Would I know how to relate to the elderly population? Would my 5’2 stature have the body mechanics to help patients transfer in and out of chairs or their hospital beds? Would I get bored doing seemingly the same exercises with patients day after day? Will this type of rotation be helpful for me if it is not the setting in which I ultimately would like to work?

Within just two days of the clinical rotation I had my answers. I am overjoyed when I get to connect with the elderly population. I remembered and have safely applied the transferring tips from a faculty member with my similar stature (Thanks, Christina!). The exercises that I perform with patients are all but monotonous. I have had the opportunity to apply skills from all three of the management course series with patients. Sure, many of the patients have similar physical therapy diagnoses, but beyond the diagnosis each is incredibly unique.

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Liz, Lindsay and Carol at the Class of 2016’s research night in April

Each has their own personal story, their own medical history, their own family dynamic, their own goals, and their own hobbies. Not one personality resembles another. This is what makes this setting so exciting for me. Learning about what has molded a particular patient into the individual that they are now is the highlight of my day. Shaping treatment plans to match a patient’s personal goals and find the highest level of independence for them allows me to use my creativity in a new way with every patient. We walk (a lot), stand on foamy surfaces and toss balloons, and maneuver wheel chairs around obstacle courses. We talk about the joys, challenges, and hilarities of life. I have recognized that the age of a patient–whether 3 or 93 years young–is not a barrier. We are all human. We enjoy being heard, feeling validated, feeling empowered, and having our days be brightened by a smile.

So, I would like to challenge any student who has similar doubts as I did a mere month ago to take a step into the unknown. Unravel your pre-set plans and experience something on the extreme opposite spectrum from the setting in which you think you want to work. Sure–I am still interested in being a pediatric physical therapist, but at the very least, my mind has been opened to new considerations. No matter the population I ultimately end up working with, I now have a broader understanding, appreciation, and passion for the field of physical therapy because of this rotation.

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Lindsay and her classmates are currently all at clinical rotations across the country

Global Health Immersion: Students in Peru

In preparing my capstone presentation and reflecting on the last three years in physical therapy school at Regis, I began to see a theme linking all of my most rich experiences from which I learned the most: discomfort. From patient labs and practical exams to clinicals to presentations to service learning, we are constantly thrown into situations where we do not know exactly what to expect, are not sure of our abilities, and have to be willing to be flexible and a little bit vulnerable. These are the times we grow and learn the most. The global health immersion to Peru this spring was no different, and it even amplified those familiar feelings of unease. But I have found that those times of the unknown, unexpected, and unsure are the times when the most growth occurs. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the global health program at Regis, to learn from the people of Peru, to challenge myself to practice with cultural sensitivity, and to gain a better understanding of a culture different from my own.

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Third year students Allie Smith, Elena Absalon, and I traveled with Dr. Heidi Eigsti to Peru where we spent three weeks working with therapists and patients in the city of Huancayo. We spent much of our time with the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), which is a Non-Governmental Organization that serves primarily women and children.

CMMB has two programs in Huancayo. The first is CHAMPS, which focuses on promoting health, hygiene, nutrition, prenatal care, and access to health care providers. The second, with which we worked, is Rehabilitación Basado en Comunidad (RBC), or Community Based Rehabilitation. The program focuses on serving children with disabilities and their families in the most impoverished neighborhoods in Huancayo, Chilca, and Azapampa. Two physical therapists, Carmen and Loreley, and one psychologist, Lucia, care for 40 children and their families with both home and clinic-based treatment. The goal of the program, in keeping with the World Health Organization’s initiative to improve accessibility for people with disabilities around the globe, is to provide community-based rehab that is relationship focused and incorporates functional activities into everyday routines to improve patients’ participation in their homes and communities.

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The impact that RBC was having on the community in Huancayo was evident. The families with whom we worked were well educated on goals of therapy, extremely involved in home exercise programs, and motivated to do whatever they could to help their child improve. The therapists focused on all aspects of the child’s well-being and had developed strong relationships with them and their families. The Jesuit value of cura personalis was definitely at work, incorporating mind, body and spirit into care. The therapists put together events to connect the families, and they were working to develop of community of support. It was a valuable learning experience to see such a team-based, holistic approach being implemented in an underserved community. CMMB is definitely working to create a sustainable solution to removing the barriers to health and participation faced by the women and children of Chilca and Azapampa. That sustainability is imperative in making a lasting difference in the area, and I am excited for future Regis students to have the opportunity to continue to develop this new relationship with CMMB.

I should mention the whole immersion wasn’t all work. We went on an artisan tour in the mountains surrounding Huancayo where we learned about gourd painting, silver jewelry crafting, and textile production. We hiked to the glacier on Huaytapallana mountain at around 16,000 feet and completed a three-day trek to Machu Picchu City. These experiences introduced us to more of the beautiful landscape and culture of the country, and we were welcomed everywhere we went by warm people of Peru.
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Blogger: Abby Burger, Class of 2016