Finals Week: A Beautiful Struggle

It’s that time of the year again…

No, we’re not talking about the holidays.

It’s Finals Week, the crescendo of each physical therapy (PT) school semester.

If you haven’t experienced a finals week in PT school, then here are a few ideas of what Regis students encounter during this time each semester.

  1. …but first, Practicals Week

Gone are the days of “dead weeks” leading up to final exams. Practical Exam Week is usually the week prior to all of the written final exams. This is where the skills you have acquired over the entire semester are put to the test to see how you are able to apply them in a real-life situation. During the days leading up to these exams, you will often see students crowding into room PCH 409 to practice their skills and drill each other on the specific times to use them. Study sessions can extend late into the night for some students (Pssst…PT school secret: often these practicals require knowing information that will also be on the written final, so it’s like studying for two exams at once…now that’s a deal!)

  1. Review Sessions

It is not uncommon for faculty members to hold review sessions discussing what to expect on the final written exam. These are often a great help in refining study strategies (PT school pearl of wisdom: take advantage of these sessions!)

  1. Finals Week Schedules

Each class takes 4-5 exams the entire week, with one exam per day and each one for 2 hours. You can find last minute study sessions dispersed across Claver Hall in the hours leading up to the exams to review any lingering questions or fill any remaining knowledge gaps. And hey, after one exam is over, students have 22 hours to study for the next test…what an ample amount of time!

  1. Work-Life Balance

In the words of The Great Tom McPoil, “take a day for yourself every week.” This may be hard to remember during these challenging weeks, but still very relevant. Students usually make modifications to Tom’s “day” suggestion during finals week, and instead take a few hours to relax and meditate with various types of exercise (or naps) – whatever takes the mind off studying for a few moments.

  1. The Triumph of Completing a Semester of PT School

At the end of each finals week, you will find students celebrating another semester down and another job well done! It’s a time to look back at the terrific accomplishments with pride and relish in the fact that your hard work got you here

– Courtney Backward

Check out this video of first and second year students studying (and relaxing) for their finals!

 

Video Credit: Janki Patel

 

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.

 

The 2017 Move Forward 5K/10K Race

Name: Laura Baker, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of New Hampshire, Durham
Hometown: Seville, Ohio
Fun Fact: I spent a year as an intern for the School for Field Studies in Queensland, Australia! I drove students around on the “wrong” side of the road, went on bird counting outings at 3 am, pet boa constrictors with professional herpetologists, went diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and raised lots and lots of seedlings in a rainforest nursery.

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On the cool, rainy morning of September 16th, a group of 160 racers participated in the 2017 Move Forward 5k/10k Race at Regis University. This race, hosted by the students of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, has been an annual event for 15 years. The event serves as a fundraiser for Canine Companions for Independence and the Foundation for Physical Therapy.

This year, a particular hiccup early in the planning stages for the race gave us a challenge. Changes in city park regulations caused a significant course change towards Berkeley Lake Park rather than the usual course through Rocky Mountain Lake Park. The racers took to the starting line in Boettcher Commons at Regis. Upon hearing the go command from the 2017 race director, Ryan Bourdo, they ran through the Berkeley neighborhood and around Berkeley Lake. The sun came out as they raced back up the big hill to Regis. The 10k racers turned just shy of the finish line and raced the route a second time.

We appreciate all of the racers who ran this new (hilly!) course and the Denver Police Department who kept the racers and community members safe at every intersection. After their run/walk, participants and family members enjoyed barbecue and a beer garden and activities including volleyball, yoga, and Bungee Bootcamp.

A committed group of DPT students, faculty, and Regis staff supported this undertaking. The DPT Class of 2018 will be passing on the baton to the Class of 2019 to take the Move Forward race and to make it their own. Each person listed below worked with many individuals, including students in the DPT Class of 2019, toward creating a successful event:

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Ryan Bourdo served as the 2017 race director, fearless leader, and created a marketing presence.

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Rachel Maass worked hard to gather sponsors while Becca Brunson performed community outreach and organized the first aid response.

Ryan Tollis was our website and registration wizard who worked to make the registration process smooth and accessible.

Amy Renslo spent many hours planning out the post-race activities while Taylor Skelton played a key role making for a fun day all around.

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Bri Henggeler provided volunteer coordination with support from Tara Businski who wrangled many volunteers as course marshals, including Regis University baseball team and alumni from Duke University.

The design and course lay-out was done by myself; with Miranda Paasche planning and organizing the course set up for race-day.

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Claire Molenaar, Brett Barnes and Michael Lofboom ensured that water stations were well stocked and ran smoothly.

Our announcer, Michael Young, was a hit. Although Michael is on his way to becoming a physical therapist, he was so good at announcing that he ought to ponder this activity as a second job!

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We also wish to thank our impromptu photographer, James Liaw; and bicycle leads for the racers, Chris Lew and Christian Quijano, for their time and willingness help.

Part of the success of this race can be attributed to those who provided advice and administrative support from the DPT faculty and staff, including Alice Davis, Faun Lee, and Gemma Hoeppner. We also want to thank all staff from Regis who helped us prepare for race day including individuals from Physical Plant, RU Parking, Events Services, Campus Security, and Student Activities. Finally, we wish to thank all of our sponsors as we couldn’t have this event without you!

More photos taken by Laura are coming soon.

5 Ways to Make Your Summer Last Longer

Name: Evan Piché, Class of 2018
Undergrad:
 Colorado State University
Graduate: 
Masters in Public Policy
Fun Fact: 
I’m an ordained minister (thanks, Universal Life Church).
Hometown:
Holyoke, MA

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The air is starting to get crisper, your neighbors are raking the first leaves into huge piles that just beg to be jumped into, Instagram posts contain things like #pumpkinspice, and–of course–decorative gourds are beginning to make their annual appearance on countertops everywhere. Soon we will perform the yearly ritual of enjoying one extra hour of sleep in exchange for enduring six months of perpetual darkness.

Lamentably, summer is drawing to a close. Skiers and snowboarders are understandably stoked. But even football fans and snow-sport enthusiasts must acknowledge the bittersweet mood that accompanies the changing of seasons as we collectively bid farewell to flip-flops, sundresses, grilling, swimming, drinking margaritas on the porch, and falling asleep in a hammock. If you are like me—still wearing sandals and denying the inevitability of winter—or you just want to make the most of these final few precious days of summer-like weather (while also avoiding adult responsibility), you will find the following tips useful:

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#pumpkinspice

1. Watch the Sunset with a Beverage

This is self-explanatory. The sun typically sets in the west (if you’re directionally challenged, and reside in the Front Range, look towards the mountains) sometime between 7:00 o’clock and it’s-way-too-early-for-it-to-be-dark-already o’clock. Sunsets pair well with beer. The type/brand of beer doesn’t matter so much; just about any beer will taste good when enjoyed outdoors. Can or bottle? Doesn’t matter. Actually, the beer isn’t even the important part; this will work with Coke, or tea, or V8 juice, or whatever. The important part is the sunset.

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Sunset-beers with anatomy lab group

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Enjoying sunset-beers in Zion

2. “Food Poisoning”

Autumn is a great time to stay home sick with “that gnarly stomach bug that’s been going around” and go do something fun outside (*Editor’s note: for the responsible student, skip to #3). It’s starting to get dark earlier and earlier with each passing day; you can’t realistically be expected to go mountain biking after class when the sun sets at 4pm. I can’t condone faking sick, but if you do decide to head up to the mountains for a hike instead of going to class, make sure your fabricated illness is embarrassing/gross enough that no one will dare question you. Food poisoning is a personal favorite—it’s extremely common, utterly plausible, and no one likes to ask probing questions about that kind of stuff.

Bonus Tip: The phrase “it’s coming out both ends” and adjectives like “explosive” and “violent” should be sprinkled in liberally as they will lend credibility to your story. This is important to ensure that the legitimacy of your “illness” will not be questioned. Fall is a great time to hike to Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park while recovering from your unfortunate gastrointestinal distress.

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Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park

 

3. Ride Your Bike to Nowhere in Particular…But Make Sure to Get Ice Cream While You Do It

Perhaps you can’t justify skipping class (*responsible students, continue reading here). Fair enough. Maybe an afternoon of avoiding studying and reconnecting with your childhood is more your level of procrastination. Have you ever ridden your bike to Sweet Cow at 2:00 pm to “study?” No?! Try it sometime! After stuffing your face, spend an hour or so just cruising around the block on your bike and embrace that feeling of being twelve again.

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High Lonesome Trail in Nederland, CO

4. Camp

Myth: camping season runs from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend.

Fact: those are actually the starting and ending dates of white-pants-wearing season for people who own white pants.

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Camping in Zion

5. Drive Around with Your Windows Rolled Down While Doing That Airplane Thing with Your Hand

How many hours did you spend driving around this summer with the windows down, blasting 90’s Hip-Hop/Dixie Chicks and pretending your hand is an airplane? Quite clearly, you did not spend an adequate amount of time engaging in this activity. Today, after class, hop in your car, crank up the stereo to that obnoxiously loud volume that makes things in your car vibrate and take a drive to absolutely nowhere.

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Cruising around (and climbing) in Crested Butte, CO

Since the author is approaching 30, and therefore not “hip” to what the “kids” are grooving to these days, I will suggest a few classic summer anthems that are sure to enhance the stoke level:

-I Believe I Can Fly – R. Kelly (pre-weirdness)
-Wide Open Spaces – The Dixie Chicks
-Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
-Boys of Summer – Eagles
-Milkshake – Kelis
-Pretty much anything by Prince, David Bowie, or Snoop-Dog/Lion

These are only suggestions. I encourage you to be imaginative and creative in your recreational procrastination.