Imagine this. You are about to start your second semester of physical therapy school. You get an email just a few days before the semester starts, notifying you that you will be given an introduction to dry needling in your first class at 8:00 am on Monday morning, and soon after you will begin practicing dry needling. You might think, “That’s insane!” or “There’s no chance that they are teaching dry needling to first year PT students.”, and you’d be right about one thing, it is insane, but that is exactly what happened in Peter Claver Hall on January 10th, 2022 for the Regis University DPT class of 2024.
This is monumental for the framework of teaching dry needling to physical therapists in the future, but this did not just happen overnight. This was a long thought out process and plan by the faculty of the Regis DPT program, headed by Dr. Stephanie Albin PT, DPT, Ph.D. and Dr. Cameron MacDonald PT, DPT. Not only did this involve reworking the curriculum to accommodate this new training, but it started with changing the Colorado legislature, not an easy feat.
“We’re better together!” – Dr Sharon Dunn PT OCS PhD, Past-President of APTA National
Dry needling was introduced to physical therapy practice about 20 years ago, with the state of Colorado recognizing dry needling as a modality around the year 2005. There was not a board at the time to regulate dry needling, so the continuing education instructors that taught dry needling were asked about how to safely regulate the use of dry needling in practice. In doing so, these instructors decided that the safest way to regulate dry needling was by not allowing physical therapists to integrate dry needling into their practice until they had two-years of experience working as a clinician. Changing this two-year gap regulation of dry needling was the “final hurdle” to overcome before being able to teach dry needling as a part of the DPT curriculum, according to Dr. MacDonald.
There was also a discussion between physical therapists and acupuncturists that had to be resolved before physical therapists could retain the right to implement dry needling into practice. While both professions are using a filament to evoke healing, there is a distinct and fundamental difference in the utilization of the filament. Dr. Dunn triumphantly said, “We’re better together!” It does not have to be a fight between us and them, and trust me, I should know, I am the daughter of an acupuncturist (but that’s a story for another time). In the effort to resolve this battle, dry needling became just as much a part of physical therapy as therapeutic exercise and manual therapy.
Once dry needling was defined as an integral part of physical therapy, and the legislation changed to remove the 2 year gap period between graduation and being able to incorporate dry needling into practice, the question became, “how do we integrate the teaching of dry needling into the DPT curriculum?” Well, 13 curriculum change proposals later, Cameron and Stephanie finally had the approval of the Regis DPT curriculum board and got the okay to begin teaching. Their plan has been built as a 3 year pilot program focused on the learning experience of the DPT class of 2024. By graduation, the students will have enough hours of experience in dry needling to practice dry needling level 1 immediately post-graduation.
While the original goal of this pilot program was to safely incorporate dry needling into the DPT curriculum, a longer term, national goal has arisen from this plan. The hope now is that this pilot program educates more practitioners that will then take this skill and this knowledge with them post-graduation. With students coming to Regis from all over the country, the assumption is that the students will return to their home states and push for changes in legislation that will allow for a more uniform practice of dry needling throughout our nation; that this pilot program will be incorporated in more institutions, so that more practitioners have access to the practice of dry needling, and more patients are able to access this intervention if it is deemed appropriate for their care.
From the class of 2024, thank you to Dr. Stephanie Albin PT, DPT, Ph.D., Dr. Larissa Hoffman PT, Ph.D., and Dr. Cameron MacDonald PT, DPT for pushing for this change to give us the opportunity to learn such a critical skill so early on in our careers, and thank you for your continued work and research in this field to educate not only us as students, but the entire physical therapy community on such an important intervention technique.
The Class of 2023 returned from their first clinical rotation at the end of September and had some time to reflect on their experiences. A few of them are written up as short stories of lessons learned below. Take a trip to the Gila River Indian Community, AZ, Oregon City, OR, and Grand Junction, CO.
Carson Ariagno – Gila River, AZ
I was exceptionally nervous going into the beginning of my first clinical. I hadn’t prepared as much as I’d wanted to, I’d had to last-second book new housing as my original plan canceled on me the day before I left, and I’d gotten a speeding ticket while on my 13-hour drive down. Not my best start. But once I was welcomed into the clinic, all that fear and confusion melted away. I realized relatively quickly that I needed to be a face of calm confidence for many of these patients. This became a personal goal for myself in addition to the spread of more typical academic and professional goals I set with my clinical instructor (CI).
I spent my first clinical experience on Gila River Indian Community land just outside Phoenix, Arizona. This group of tribes have lived in southern Arizona since around 300 BC and have endured aggression and marginalization at the hands of the Spanish and American governments throughout history to this day. Most notably, their primary water source in the Sonoran Desert, the Gila River, was blocked off and dried up in the late 19th century by American farmers. The Gila River tribes were given federal aid in the form of processed and canned foods after almost 40 years of mass starvation on the reservation. These cheap foods may have saved lives from starvation but helped lead to widespread obesity and diabetes, two conditions which still disproportionately affect the community. As of a 2008 study, there was a 47% adult obesity rate, a 50% adult type 2 diabetes rate, and a 20 times higher rate of kidney failure than the general American population. This ongoing health crisis affecting the community creates more complex patient presentations, especially in PT.
Nearly every patient that my CI and I saw in my six weeks was diabetic and about three quarters of them were overweight or obese. A couple had had amputations related to their diabetes; more were threatened with the risk of needing one soon if their condition didn’t improve. This level of additional complication combined with relatively difficult presentations created cases that really challenged me for my first time in clinic. This difficulty and the endless support of my CI made this experience more enriching than I ever could’ve imagined. Along the way, I learned from our patients bits of their language and much of their history as well as many aspects of day to day life for those still living on the reservation. One patient in particular opened up to me with some personal stories on the third or fourth time I saw him. He’d lived a very difficult life growing up in poverty on the reservation, experiencing some tragic losses along the way. He had a variety of health problems begin to develop around the time he turned 30, diabetes and a torn knee ligament among them. He lamented to me about how difficult life had become in the nearly 20 years since then as he gained large amounts of weight while being unable to receive sufficient medical care for so many years. But now that he’d started PT, he felt like he was beginning to regain control. The relatively recently-opened outpatient center our clinic was in gave him access to so many services he really needed and was so thankful to receive. He has now lost his first 50 pounds and is well on his way to successful rehab of his knee and back.
This was a running theme with varying severity for many patients – this health system was their first and most consistent source of care in a long time if not ever. It was wonderful to see the progress many of them finally were able to make and the difference that truly attentive, available care can make for people in need. Every provider was interested in providing as much patient education as they wanted to hear to continue breaking down the barriers of healthcare hesitancy that exist in the older members of the community. Many of them had felt, seen, or heard stories from the not-so-distant American history of medical and governmental mistreatment of their people. Especially now as we tried to promote the COVID-19 vaccine, there were still walls of deep-seeded distrust to be broken down. Progress is being made and more and more people are getting the help they need. The Gila River Health Care organization is doing invaluable service for the community on the reservation and will continue to improve their health outcomes and relationship with healthcare as a whole. My time there was extremely well-spent and I cannot thank them enough for taking me in.
David Shaw – Oregon City, OR
This story is about an ongoing learning process that really took center stage during my first clinical experience. As a developing physical therapist, I am learning how to best utilize my time and attention while working with patients. Having worked in clinics as a physical therapy aide for 4.5 years before beginning physical therapy school, I understand the importance of maximizing time in the clinic. Furthermore, I have discovered the most valuable use of time is often patient education. Whether this entails educating patients about anatomy, tissue healing times, avoiding harm, and/or exercises to do on their own, all forms of patient education should empower people to take matters into their own hands.
I hold a large amount of pride in my work, and I know that a lot of people do; however, the amount of pride I have sometimes leads me to feel like I didn’t provide the best experience possible for a patient. In hindsight, I would like to reflect on one patient interaction that I will remember forever. (I will be leaving out a lot of information for the sake of patient privacy.)
Before seeing this patient, I was briefed by my clinical instructor (CI) of what his hypothesis was, and how to navigate the patient and their mother while in the clinic. However, my CI emphasized that I should try to create my own hypothesis as it would be great to have a fresh set of skills to provide them with another opinion. The child came into the clinic with their mother, who was curious about the existence of a motor tic disorder and had been seeing a neurologist about it. The tics were few and far between during my time with the patient. I was beginning to question what the real issue was. It seemed as though the patient was consciously producing the tics, and seemed to coincide with pain in their shoulder. I’m not convinced that the child shared this information with anyone before me that day.
After talking with the patient more and performing some examination measures, I conveyed my hypothesis for this patient to them and their mother. My hypothesis was that they were experiencing episodic shoulder pain due to inflammation related to overuse of a specific muscle in their shoulder. However, what this patient really needed was more stability and strength coming from other muscles so the affected muscle and its tendon wouldn’t inflame and cause the patient to be limited in their daily life. What I didn’t consider at that moment is the effect the words that I used would have on the patient, via their mother who works within the pharmaceutical industry.
The words “inflammation” and “inflame” caused the patient’s mother to believe that all they needed was anti-inflammatory drugs and rest. This took a rapid adjustment from me to educate them about working through comfortable motions in order to improve shoulder stability and strength overall, so that their shoulder problem doesn’t become a chronic issue. It took some attention to detail to attempt to change their mindset. Reflecting on how I went about what I said, I know I could have done a better job. When this experience came up with my CI, I was able to begin letting go of the related burden I immediately felt when they left the clinic.
Physical therapists (PTs) can help everyone, not everyone feels that they need help from a PT. It’s our job as PTs to contribute to healthy and positive healthcare interactions for all patients. We should always ask for consent and know when to treat or when to refer. We should always reflect on our approach and methods and continue to improve from within for the sake of others. Finally, we should want people to trust in our knowledge, experience, and honesty, so they may feel comfortable thinking of us as their primary care providers (PCPs).
Although healthcare is a large system, I have seen that a PT being someone’s PCP is possible. But just because it is possible, doesn’t mean it is necessary. After all, we should be advocates for people seeking to improve their health, physical therapy or not. We must continue let go of our burdens to learn from prior experiences and move on to help the next patient. For some this may require a regularly scheduled vacation, meditation, and/or further education. But one metaphor must remain in the back of our minds: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
Alan Scheuermann – Grand Junction, CO
In August and September of 2021, I spent six weeks at a clinical rotation working in the outpatient unit of Community Hospital in Grand Junction, CO. This was my first clinical experience and was full of so many unknowns and new and challenging experiences that parts of it feel like a dream instead of a formative professional and personal journey. While the overall experience was undoubtedly positive, there were certainly difficult and uncomfortable experiences, both anticipated and unexpected.
I spent the week leading up to clinical trying to review information I thought would be relevant in order to have as much information fresh in my mind as I could. My greatest anxiety in the days before my first shift was looking silly in front of my clinical instructor (CI) because I forgot what nerve innervates a specific muscle or couldn’t remember the normal range of motion values for a shoulder patient. What I came to realize fairly early on was that there is a chart for everything, and while there are certainly specific values and landmarks that it helps to be familiar with, the world would not explode if I had to look something up. Besides, I was happy to discover that I retained much more information that I thought I had from my first three semesters of PT school. I felt that I could carry myself in such a way as to give patients confidence that I had rationale for exercises I would ask them to do, and that they would ultimately benefit from my care, despite being a student. I found my CIs to be incredibly supportive, thoughtful communicators, and overall good people who I enjoyed spending time with and working under.
Apart from my CIs and patients at the clinic, I had relatively little social contact with other people during my clinical. I was in a town where I knew only one other person, a childhood friend’s brother, and felt so burnt out at the end of most days that more social interaction was the last thing on my mind. I usually consider myself to be someone who does fairly well being alone, but I had to admit to myself that by the end of my rotation, I was ready to be back in Denver with my girlfriend, cat, family, and friends. I found myself wishing for the comfort and ease of hanging out with old friends or having a quiet night at home that I was unable to recreate in Grand Junction. I took advantage of the world class mountain biking and trails in the desert surrounding Grand Junction and loved every minute of it but would find that there was a need for social support that was going unmet in the time between bike rides and work shifts. As I begin to rationalize what my second clinical will be like, I know that developing relationships in an unfamiliar city will be key to enjoying and growing from my experience to the fullest extent.
One of the highlights from my clinical rotation was working with a patient who I’ll call Cheryl, which is not her real name. She was an older patient who had fallen while out walking and broken both of her kneecaps, one of which required surgery to repair. Despite this significant trauma, Cheryl was generally upbeat, excited to be at therapy, and was very validating towards me as a student PT. Naturally, we were working on lots of balance work with Cheryl, and she frequently commented that she felt safe performing difficult balance tasks with me guarding her to prevent her from falling. She approached PT as a way to find things that she did not feel comfortable doing and working to improve in those areas. She was always eager to challenge herself. On my last day of clinical, Cheryl took several minutes at the end of her session to look me in the eye and tell me that she enjoyed working with me and truly believed I will go on to be a great PT. The sincerity and thoughtfulness of her comments acknowledged the professional transformation I had undergone during my first clinical and helped to push back the soft voice of insecurity lurking in the back of my mind, and I will forever be grateful.
Looking for more stories from CE I? Find a second year on campus and ask, there are so many more to tell.
Are you a runner, walker, or just love dogs (and/or beer)? The Regis University School of Physical Therapy is hosting its 17th iteration of the Move Forward 5k/10k and kids run at Regis University on September 21st, 2019. The race will take place on the Regis University Northwest Denver campus, and we are especially excited this year to unveil a newcourse that takes participants off campus and onto the beautiful Clear Creek trail headed west. The course for both the 5k and 10k is an out-and-back and starts and finishes in the quad on the Regis University campus. I am an avid runner but will get to experience a race from the other side of things this time as a race director. This race welcomes all ages, levels of fitness, and supports two amazing foundations: The Foundation for Physical Therapy and Canine Companions for Independence.
Our youngest companion in training, Garin
This race is especially important to the school of physical therapy because it is hosted by the students of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and has been an annual event for 17 years! This race means a lot to our program, and the physical therapy profession as we share our passion for promoting health, involving community, and raising money for Canine Companions for Independence and the Foundation for Physical Therapy. Canine Companions is especially meaningful to Regis, as we have annual teams of students who assist in puppy raising before they are sent to train to become a fully-fledged service dog. The Foundation for Physical Therapy helps support research in physical therapy for our future profession.
Wether you are a running machine or are looking for a fun casual time we would love for you to join us. Early morning bagels, fruit, and coffee will be provided to give you that pickup before the race! Stick around after the race to enjoy burgers, hot dogs, and last but not least…beer! There will also be yoga, music, vendors, and Canine Companions for Independence dogs to keep you busy! Also remember to bring your kids! This is a family friendly event and the kids run will be a fun event around our beautiful quad area!
We are still looking for sponsors–this race is a non-profit and all proceeds go to the aforementioned foundations. If you or you know someone who would like to sponsor this race, the Regis University School of Physical Therapy and our foundations would be extremely grateful! No donation is too small, a little goes a long way! You can find more information or sign up for the race at https://runsignup.com/Race/CO/Denver/MoveForward5K10K . There is also a donation button listed on the website for donations.
Colorado members at the Forum representing and advocating for the #ChoosePT campaign.
Last week, the APTA Federal Forum in Washington D.C. took place to advocate for important topics to physical therapists. The Forum brought together APTA members, speakers from the field, and stakeholders on the discussion of regulatory affairs and federal priorities that impact the physical therapy profession and its patients, as well as on learning about new information that comes with a new Congress. Attendees had the opportunity to speak with their representatives in person about issues facing their state and the profession as a whole. Among those in attendance were our very own Regis DPT students and faculty members. Second-year DPT student Hannah Clark reflects on her experience on the Hill and why it is crucial to not only advocate for our profession, but to be involved as a student, in her following essay:
“Issues Discussed at the Capital”
Hannah Clark, SPT – Regis University
To fundamentally agree with the policy positions held by the APTA is an exceptional feeling. As a DPT student who is hoping to delve headfirst into pain management and advocacy for marginalized communities in healthcare upon graduation, my decision to pursue this profession has been deeply validated by attending the Federal Advocacy Forum (FAF). Witnessing leaders within the APTA address topics related to population health, patient choice and access, value-based care and practice, and research and innovation helped me to fully recognize the crucial role the APTA has in influencing the policies that impact our ability to serve society. For these reasons, it felt important for me to join the GAC team advocating at the capital and I was deeply honored to be selected.
Due to the recent success regarding the removal of the Medicare cap, we were able to spend more time becoming educated and advocating for the field of physical therapy in a broader sense. On Monday, we spent the entire day learning about the current political climate in congress from Nation Gonzalez at CNN, the societal impact of healthcare policy from Sarah Kliff at Vox, and attended breakout sessions that detailed information regarding federal policy, payment, the ACA, Medicaid, and IDEA. One of the most emphasized topics throughout the day involved the #ChoosePT campaign. The APTA reminded those attending the FAF of the real impact physical therapists can have on the opioid epidemic through offering vulnerable populations access to non-pharmacological pain management. Clear objectives were presented that tackled this issue in addition to intra-professional issues such as student loan repayment. Several policy priorities were presented for every state to choose from when planning their congressional meetings.
The following topics were addressed by the Colorado GAC team when meeting with legislative assistants:
Our geriatric specialists spoke to the vital role in we play in exercise promotion and fall risk reduction in the community. Conversations were also had in the valuable perspective physical therapists can bring to park and recreational center design.
Our pediatric specialists asked congresspeople to consider expanding the budget for IDEA as they have witnessed the impact this program has on the lives of children.
Our outpatient clinicians provided examples of how they have successfully treated patients experiencing chronic pain and assisted them in weaning off opioids. These individuals also spoke to the measurable reduction in opioid use they have made in their local hospital system by implementing early access to physical therapy services.
Our students asked our congresspeople to cosponsor SB970 (and eventually the same bill when it is brought to the house) that would add physical therapists to the National Health Service Corps. This would allow graduates to serve rural populations, often most impacted by opioid addiction, and would offer student loan repayment as an incentive.
Our long-time advocates requested that physical therapists be added as community health center providers, as we are a vitalelement of the primary care team.
In addition to the invaluable time spent at the FAF learning about how physical therapists can impact healthcare quality and access in the U.S., one of the most important aspects of the weekend for my professional growth was getting to know the GAC members I accompanied. The people I spent time with exemplified everything I love and respect about our profession. They spoke with genuine care for their patients, integrity in leadership opportunities, intelligence in considering the complexity of pain, passion for their interventions, and commitment to social responsibility. Our conversations had a large impact on my personal development.
I returned to class following the Federal Advocacy Forum with a fresh perspective. I felt focused and calm as I approached coursework and simulation labs. Attending FAF granted me the opportunity to further shape who I aspire to be as a professional and world citizen. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity and truly believe that if any student were to have the chance to participate in this event, they would foster a deeper appreciation for the APTA and for healthcare advocacy at large.
Hannah (pictured second from right) was all smiles with fellow members of the Forum at the 2019 APTA Federal Forum in Washington D.C.
It was a cold, rainy national Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) this year in Washington D.C., but that did not stop almost 17,000 people, including several from Regis University, to attend! Regis students and faculty not only learned the latest happenings from others in our field of physical therapy, but also took roles in presenting their research and/or speaking during educational sessions to inform our profession. Below are some highlights of their experiences.
DPT students Amber Bolen and Grace-Marie Vega with Dr. Andrew Littmann
“Going to CSM as a student researcher was a wonderful experience! Discussing our narrative review with PTs, students, and other researchers who shared our passion for regenerative medicine will always stand out as a highlight of my time at Regis.” — Grace-Marie Vega
“I loved working as a team with my research partner on our narrative review (the PT’s role in stem cell research for spinal cord injury). Presenting research at CSM was something I never expected to do when I first entered PT school, but Regis faculty encouraged our class to submit for review. We decided to give it a shot and we made it! Being able to speak with people interested in our field of research was an amazing feeling. We even attended a lecture in which one of our cited authors was present. It was also humbling to see how many research posters and lectures came out of Regis and its faculty and students. I look forward to seeing more as a proud future alumni!” — Amber Bolen
DPT students David Cummins and Katherine Heller with Dr. Andrew Smith and Dr. Denise O’Dell
“Attending CSM in Washington, D.C. was an amazing experience. I had the opportunity to share my team’s research, chat with leaders in the profession, and meet dozens of potential employers. The energy and passion at the conference was infectious and I left feeling reinvigorated and excited about the future of our profession.” — David Cummins
DPT students Hannah Clark, Vivian He, Felix Hill, and Erin Lemberger with Dr. Karla Bell, Dr. Melissa Hoffman, and Dr. Nancy Mulligan
“I think that getting to present an educational session at CSM is a fairly rare opportunity, and our team definitely bonded through the intimidating experience of presenting to almost 300 people! In presenting our research on LGBTQ+ related cultural competency, we were also able to identify barriers and build broader awareness of LGBTQ+ issues in our profession. I feel so grateful to our lead researcher, Dr. Melissa Hoffman, for getting me involved in research and making it possible for us all to have this experience!
In addition to the educational session, many members of our research team are involved in PT Proud, an LGBTQIA+ committee in the Health Policy Administration Section of the APTA. As part of that group, we held a membership meeting and happy hour event, which provided a powerful space for LGBTQ+ people and allies in our profession to come together.” — Felix Hill
Pam Soto, a third year DPT student, presented a platform on “The Impact of Leadership Development Curriculum Through the Eyes of the Physical Therapy Student.”
Class of 2018 graduate Dr. Amanda Rixey presented on preferred method of feedback after simulation experiences for DPT students.
I interviewed at Regis roughly one year ago, and as I look back on that day, I realize my decision to accept my spot in the DPT Class of 2021 was an easy one.
I decided I wanted to pursue physical therapy when I was 18 years old. I spent over 200 hours in observation, determining the kind of PT I aspired to be. It was during that reflection that I began to understand how important my choice in schooling was. This was not because of job security or the ability to pass the NPTE – there were dozens of programs that would give me both. My priority was the environment in which I began to develop my clinical eyes, ears, and hands.
I feel that I would have received a great education at several other places. However, Regis offers so much more than competency. When I left my interview a year ago, I felt a strong sense of belonging. Not only did I feel encouraged, wanted, and supported, but I also felt inspired. The faculty and students in that room were people who I knew I wanted as my colleagues and friends, challenging me and supporting me to be more in every way. They were some of the proudest advocates for PT, wanting to push the profession to excel and improve community health in any way possible.
Although I have only been in school for one semester, I feel this sense of belonging intensify every day. School is often difficult and emotionally exhausting, but I have never felt more inspired by my surroundings than I have at Regis. I truly believe the quality of people this program attracts is its greatest strength. This unique community of support, empathy, thoughtfulness, intelligence, creativity, innovation, camaraderie, and compassion is one that I dream of replicating in my own professional practice.
But, I am only one person in this community. Below are some perspectives from current students.
— Priya Subramanian, 1st year student
Perspective from 1st year students
“One of the reasons I chose Regis was the school’s focus on reflection. I absolutely believe reflection is an important clinical tool, and Regis is the only school that I know of that weaves this value into their curriculum. Additionally, Regis has an extremely diverse faculty with individuals specializing in areas such as home health, wound care, and chronic pain. I was confident that if I attended Regis, I would have the tools and resources necessary to explore any and every facet of the physical therapy profession.
Looking back I am completely confident that I made the right decision. Never before have I been part of a such a collaborative and supportive learning community. My teachers and peers genuinely care about my success, and likewise I earnestly care about theirs.”– Sam Frowley
“When looking for PT schools, one quality that I was really looking for was a strong sense of community. As soon as I interviewed at Regis, I could tell that the PT department had that community that I was looking for. A year later, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. The environment at Regis PT is one where everyone genuine helps each other to succeed to create well rounded professionals. I’m lucky that I get to be part of such a great family, and can’t wait to see what future holds!” — Quincy Williams
“’I’d probably say the reason I chose Regis was because of how they made us feel during interview day. Besides feeling welcome and at home, they made me feel like I could truly change the profession and put my stamp on it if that’s what I longed for. As of today, I’d say the greatest thing about Regis is the never ending support system that is around us. Faculty, staff, classmates, and even those from classes above us are always going out of their way to make sure we’re doing well and have all the resources we need to succeed and give our best every day. This truly makes you feel like family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”—Johnny Herrera
1st year students at the Move Forward 5K!
Perspective from 2nd year students
“I wanted to come up with something other than “I chose Regis because of Interview Day,” since I’m sure so many others have that answer… but I couldn’t… because it’s the truth. I actually almost did not come to Regis University’s interview day because I had already been accepted to a couple of my top choices back home in California, and had always intended to stay in California. Fortunately, I decided to come because it allowed me to experience the amazing culture that both the faculty and students at Regis cultivate. I immediately felt this sense of closeness, of family, of caring, and of balance from the students at Regis that I had not felt at the other schools I had visited. In addition to expressing their excitement about the curriculum, the students here had so much to say about the time the spent outdoors, the friends they had made, and all the fun activities to do in Denver. Two years later, I am so glad I chose to come to Interview Day, because now I have the immense pleasure of sharing all those incredible experiences with the incoming classes.” –Davis Ngo
“It was easy to choose Regis after interview day. I remember during the interview just feeling like I was being welcomed into a family I wanted to be a part of. The best part has been that this support has never stopped. I reach out to faculty when I need advice, and each and every time they have been there for me and my classmates. Our faculty support us with injuries we have ourselves and act as our PTs more often then I’d like to admit. I have more leadership training at Regis and am encouraged to be a knowledgeable but also a thoughtful and empathetic practitioner. So I chose Regis and I still choose regis because there is no place with better faculty, no place with more diverse opportunities, and no place that I would rather be to grow into a physical therapist.” –Erin Lemberger
“I chose Regis for PT school 2 years ago because I was interested in the global health pathway and was drawn to their Jesuit values and desire to care for the whole person. After meeting students and faculty at interview day, I was amazed at how welcomed and accepted I felt in this community. Now in my second year of the program, I feel even stronger that I made the right choice for PT school. I know I am receiving a well rounded education that will mold me into the competent, caring practitioner I wish to become.”–Rachel Garbrecht
2nd year students after weeks of collecting dry needling data with Dr. Stephanie Albin, Dr. Larisa Hoffman, and Dr. Cameron MacDonald!
Perspective from 3rd year students
“In the middle of a snowstorm three years ago, I interviewed at Regis and knew that day I would come back in August for the beginning of a grueling but incredible three years. I loved the large class size and was in awe of all the revered faculty; so many knowledgeable people to learn from! Its reputation is strong and its standards for educating and practicing are held high. Of course, the proximity to the great outdoors sealed the deal. The physical skills of becoming a physical therapist are of course vital, but Regis is purposeful about teaching beyond this basis and digging into the invaluable ‘soft’ skills that allow us to find connection with patients and purpose in our practice. As I navigate through my final clinical rotation and see graduation on the horizon, I am more confident and ready to become a physical therapist than I ever foresaw. I can’t thank my past self enough for making the clearest choice in the midst of that snowstorm three years ago.” — Katherine Koch
“Three years ago I chose Regis because the values and philosophies the program upholds align so well with my own. Regis values service to others, a person-first philosophy, and a global perspective. From the get-go I could tell that I would further grow into the PT, and the person, that I wanted to be at this program. I truly believe that Regis is at the forefront of the evolution of patient-centered care in all respects. I know I made the right choice and feel incredibly fortunate to be Regis-educated.” — Amber Bolen
“I chose Regis because it has high academic standards and maintains a community feel with its faculty and students. I went to Regis for undergrad and knew each faculty member cared immensely about the success of the students. Over the past three years I have continued to enjoy Regis’s community feel and have constantly felt support from everyone around me.” — Daniel Griego
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 you, Marcia, 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!
Fun fact: I like to play golf – at one point, I became a 10 handicapper
As we approached the end of July, the Regis Physical Therapy family prepared to say goodbye to some very important members of our family. With heavy hearts, but happy smiles, we say our farewells to Tom McPoil and Marcia Smith, as they are retiring and moving on to new adventures. Following 45 years as a physical therapist, 35 years of teaching, and teaching over 1800 students in over 35 states, Tom sat down with me, and I asked for any last words of wisdom. Here’s what he had to say:
How do you advise that we keep a life/work balance?
“I think it’s really hard. I think that’s going to be the hardest thing for a student to figure out. I just look at the struggles you face: you want time for your personal life and clinical care. You may have to stay late and do charting. You get home and you want a break, but you want to keep up with the literature. You are worried about debt and you are worried about loan repayment. If you can, set up a time where you can read 1 or 2 papers a week, and then maybe try to establish a couple of people that want to discuss them with you. Eventually, you have to come to grips with the incredible amount of research out there…I mean it’s almost too much. That’s where the systematic reviews come in. As a clinician you’re not going to have the time to read 27 articles, but you can read one paper that summarized 27 papers for you.”
What makes the difference between a ‘good’ PT and a ‘great’ PT?
“I think that’s a hard question to address. Part of it has to be your feelings of confidence about yourself. Have confidence in yourself, you know a lot. So much is thrown at you, and so quickly, that you feel like you don’t know anything. But when you go out to clinic and you come back and talk to a first year, you realize how much you do know. I think the other thing that makes an exceptional therapist is one that will always question or ask, “what is happening? What is going on?” There is one person on your shoulder that tells you, “hey, have confidence in yourself.” But there should also be another person on the other shoulder that says, “hey, you’re still learning.” And because of that, you tend to be much more aware of things. The longer you are in clinic, the easier it is to say, “well it’s just another total knee.” You know the old ad, “it quacks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it must be a duck”…that to me is where you start to see the difference: a good therapist will just treat the patient, but the exceptional therapist is the one that says, “but really, is it a duck?” and takes the time to really look at those things. The person who is always striving to do their best is sometimes going the extra mile.”
Because we are Regis, we are going to reflect a little bit. What are you taking away from your time at Regis?
“Some great memories from interacting with some great students, that’s number one. As a faculty member and physical therapist I am very, very blessed, because of the fact that the individuals who are drawn to physical therapy (I know I’m speaking in generalities) really care about helping people. And I think that’s just engrained in them. I think that as a result, they’re very interested in learning to help other people. That makes my job as a teacher and as an instructor much, much easier. I think that’s the thing that I’m taking away from Regis, and why I was really happy to come here. I love the fact that the values go beyond just getting an education. And yeah, they are Jesuit values, men and women for other, the cura personalis, the magis, all the buzzwords. But I really do think, here, as a faculty and as Regis, we really help instill that on our students and I think that as a result, the students that graduate from the Regis Physical Therapy program are better humans. I think they’re better people who are going to serve society. The thing here is the sense of community. What I’ve enjoyed as a faculty member is that I really do feel like I’m involved with a community that is very caring. They’re concerned about others. I mean, they’re taking those Jesuit values, but applying it to the whole university community. There is a sense of mission and the need for people to really help one another. One of the saddest things I had happened in my career was when we had a student die in a car accident four years ago. I tell you the afternoon we heard and I had to announced it to the second years, the response from this university was phenomenal. We had counselors down here, within an hour I was meeting with the president and the director of missions, we had a service for the students here on campus. I realize that would never have happened at any other institution I’ve ever been at. Yes, people would’ve been upset, but it’s that sense of community. Yes, we’re a part of physical therapy, but we’re all a part of Regis. That to me is the piece that I’ve really enjoyed the most, and I think we do a really good job getting our students to embrace that before they leave.”
What is your biggest accomplishment as a teacher, a physical therapist, and in your personal life?
“Oh that’s a hard question to answer. Well in personal life, hopefully, I was a good husband, a good father, okay with my son-in-laws and an okay grandparent. That’s what you hope for. Ultimately, you hope that God thinks you did okay. What you really hope for is that in the really little time I had with students, I was able to install firstly knowledge that they needed to go out and be successful, but also hopefully I’ve provided some type of a good role model for them.”
What are you going to do now that you’re retiring?
“I really want to do some volunteer work…that’s what I really want to do! I found out about Ignatian Volunteer Corp, which is for 55 years plus people. I’ll start out doing 8 hours a week, so I’m excited about that. I’ll like to go to Denver Health and help with the foot and ankle clinic. I’ll like to get back to playing golf and pickle ball. And I’ve got the 5 grandkids.”
Where do you hope to see the profession go in 10 years?
“In the 45 years I’ve been in this profession, we’ve made huge strides. What I hope for with the profession is that we work to get increased reimbursement…I think that’s huge. We have to do more to convince the public that we are primary care providers. I hope that the future physical therapists will have direct access, that they’ll be recognized as a primary care providers for neuromusculoskeletal disorders, and that they’ll have the ability in their clinic to use diagnostic ultrasound.”
Any last advice for our class?
“Keep at it! Remember you have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information. Just try to balance things, and it’s not easy. Try to balance it so you don’t feel like you’re neglecting your personal life or your work.”
Thank you, Tom, for your dedication to the betterment of our profession. We will miss you very dearly at Regis, and we wish you all the best in your new adventure in life! Congratulations!
Tom also wanted to make sure that everyone knows he will have his Regis email, listed here (open forever) and it will be the best way to contact him. He will love to hear from firstname.lastname@example.org
Taylor Tso, Hannah Clark, Felix Hill (left to right)
Regis University first-year DPT students Felix Hill, Hannah Clark, and Taylor Tso recently held a session for their classmates entitled “LGBT+ 101 for Student Physical Therapists.” The presentation covered foundational terminology and concepts related to LGBTQIA+ communities, a brief overview of LGBT+ healthcare disparities, as well as tips for making clinical spaces more inclusive. Here are some thoughts from the presenters related to key foundational concepts, what motivated them to present on this topic, and what their plans are to expand on this work in the future:
What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?
LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual.
What is the difference between gender and sex?
Both sex and gender exist on spectrums. A person’s sex is assigned to them at birth based on their genitalia, typically as either male or female. Intersex people are born with a unique combination of sex traits such as hormones, internal sex organs, and chromosomes. Gender involves a complex relationship between our bodies (think biology and societally determined physical masculine and/or feminine attributes), identities (think inherent internal experience), and expressions (think fashion and mannerisms). While gender is commonly thought of as a binary system (men and women, boys and girls), there are people whose identities do not fall within either of these categories exclusively, or even at all. While many people identify with the gender often attributed to the sex they were assigned at birth (cisgender), there are others who do not share this experience (transgender).
Does gender identity have anything to do with sexual orientation?
No! You cannot make assumptions concerning someone’s sexual orientation based on the way they express their gender or based on their gender identity. Sexual orientation simply has to do with whom someone is sexually attracted to or not. It also has nothing to do with how sexually active someone is!
Why did you feel it was important to present on this topics?
“In spite of our community’s unique healthcare needs and the stark disparities that affect LGBT+ people’s access to healthcare, typical DPT programs offer little to no education that would prepare you to treat LGBT+ patients. We wanted our cohort to be competent and confident in treating this population.” –Felix
“Felix recognized this need at Regis early on and has been working closely with our faculty to develop more inclusive and comprehensive educational materials. As an ally, I have been honored to work with Felix and other members of PT Proud (the first APTA recognized LGBT+ advocacy group) in this process of educating ourselves and others. I believe that the field of physical therapy can do a better job of caring for LGBT+ patients and I want to be a part of the solution.” –Hannah
What do you believe was the main impact of this presentation?
“Facilitating educational exposure to LGBT+ topics that people may or may not have had knowledge of before. This presentation sparks curiosity and lays down a baseline understanding for healthcare professionals to better their communication, and thus, quality of care for their LGBT+ patients.” –Taylor
So you have given this presentation—now what?
This was just the beginning! Due to negative past experiences and fear of discrimination, many LGBT+ people will go to extremes to delay care. Even if someone has access to health insurance and can afford to come see a PT, which many do not, people are likely to wait until their condition is very serious, which then contributes to poorer outcomes.
We will work to share our knowledge widely throughout the U.S., starting with a presentation at CU in August. But ultimately, workshops are not enough! As board members of PT Proud, the LGBT+ catalyst group in the HPA section of the APTA, we want to ensure that physical therapy professionals across the country receive a basic level of LGBT+ competency training, which will ultimately require changes to DPT and PTA curricula. We will also be working with PT Proud’s Equity task force to influence laws and policies to increase LGBT+ healthcare access.
Felix, Hannah, and Taylor all look forward to the prospect of future presentations.
Name: Austin Adamson, Class of 2020 Service Officer
Undergrad: Saint Louis University
Hometown: Laguna Niguel, CA
Fun fact: I recently dove with manta rays and sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef!
As students of physical therapy, we are undertaking a career that is founded upon the ideas of service and care for others. We spend countless hours in both classrooms and clinics learning a craft that allows us to heal our patients and restore their function and participation, ultimately serving them in a life-altering way. But, for many students of Regis University, thecall to serve others extends beyond the classroom. It is a part of who we are, and who we are called to be.
The young Class of 2020 has only recently begun its efforts to serve beyond the community of our school and classmates. Our first service effort began in February, in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Members of our class were generous enough to donate time and toys to Children’s Hospital Colorado to wish children and their families a happy Valentine’s Day. Both the Van Gogh’s and the less successful artists in our class handmade over 150 cards, sending best wishes and love to remind every child that they are cared for, even through the challenging time of a hospital stay.
These cards accompanied nearly $100 worth of toys and games that helped make the time in a hospital more enjoyable for the children being treated, their siblings, and their parents.
Left to right: Josh H, Auburn BP, and Austin A delivering Valentine’s Day cards and toys to children at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
With the turning of the seasons and the coming of beautiful summer weather, members of our class turned to the mountains to participate in a trail building and conservation effort for National Trails Day. On a warm Saturday, a small group of students and significant others made their way out to Hildebrand Ranch Park to volunteer with Jefferson County Open Space. The group worked to construct a small section of new trail that will be opened in 2019, and also helped maintain an existing section of trail by cutting back overgrowth of invasive plants.
Left to right: Meghan R, Nicole R, Emily P, Austin A, and Hannah D serving at Hildebrand Ranch Park.
Ask any Coloradan, native or otherwise, and they will tell you about the importance of trail work! As avid nature hikers, trail-runners, and mountain bikers, the Class of 2020 will continue to give back to the beautiful mountains we know and love as well as the community members who use them.
These are just a few examples of the service and work being done for others by my classmates and professors. Service is an integral part of our time here at Regis University, and is preparation for a lifetime of service as we will enter the field of physical therapy with hopes of serving our patients and empowering their lives. Some are called to service through the Jesuit Mission that is incorporated at Regis, which teaches us to be men and women for others. Some draw strength from acts of selflessness that bring joy and comfort to others. And still others enjoy building a community by meeting new people in service opportunities, and sharing experiences with one another. Regardless of the reason, the students of physical therapy at Regis University work to be engaged in both the local and global community. We are pursuing not just a degree, but the ability to shape a better world through our work!
Name: Carol Passarelli, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of Southern California (fight on)
Hometown: Mountain View, CA
Fun Fact: Llamas don’t have fur or hair; it’s called fiber. Pretty cool. Or warm, actually. Depends on the fiber count.
Wow, does it feel good to write that title and have it be true! Are there countless tips and tricks out there for SPTs looking to conquer the NPTE? Absolutely. Are they as good as my tips? Um, probably. But, hopefully, this will give you some tools to help tackle the important things…like, best snacks for studying (dry ramen), my highlighter color preferences (classic yellow), and (okay, seriously now) how to work with crippling test anxiety.
Let’s back up to almost a year ago: the comprehensive exam. Created by faculty as the final, culminating didactic exam before you leave for 6 months of clinical rotations. Most people will say not to worry—you’ve been preparing for this the entire time you’re in PT school! And, for the most part, y’all will do just fine with it.
If you’re like me, hearing that reassurance of success only increases my anxiety. If there is going to be an exception to the high pass rate, then I know it will be me. Yes, that’s right. I had my first bout of panic attacks since undergrad during the 2 weeks prior to the exam—and a giant whopper of an anxiety attack during the first half of the test. But hey, I do well academically…it’ll work out fine, right?
I didn’t pass.
Sure—I retook it the following week and did fine. Do I know exactly why I was so irrationally terrified of that exam? Somewhat, but there are still pieces I’m fitting together. That’s test anxiety, folks.
Flash forward to today: I passed the NPTE with a delightfully solid margin, graduated from an outstanding DPT program (only slightly biased), and am employed in my dream setting and location. Groovy.
I haven’t beat test anxiety, but I found ways to manage it for the biggest exam we have to take as PTs. Here are some tips on how to conquer the NPTE and get closer to being that amazing clinician we are all going to become.
1. Settling is okay
I don’t recommend doing this when you’re looking for your lifetime partner, dream house, or—most importantly—picking your dog, but when it comes to grappling with a beast of an exam, absolutely do this. At the end of the day, if you didn’t hit your quota of pages, didn’t understand the finer intricacies of lymphedema bandaging, or can’t for the life of you remember the side effects of certain medications, my goodness. Just go to bed. Decide to learn just 1 piece of information about each topic. Allow yourself to just know the surface level facts for now. In other words: keep momentum. You don’t need to know everything perfectly.
2. Check your emotions at the door
This is key for me and any of you who struggle with test anxiety. For me, knowing that I hadn’t passed the comprehensive exam made my initial month of studying an emotional undertaking. It’s difficult to separate your self-worth from how you perform on tests—particularly in a grueling graduate program. Albeit this is easier said than done; try your hardest, though, to leave any feelings of self-doubt and shame outside the room. It is not shameful to have a setback. Failing does not detract from your self-worth.
Get in your happy head space before opening up the textbook! If I wasn’t in that headspace, I wouldn’t study: I ultimately decided to cultivate my confidence in my test-taking ability over gaining that extra knowledge I could have gotten during those study hours.
3. Redefine the word “studying”
This is just a friendly reminder that studying is RAD. We all love to learn, and those of us in a PT program get to learn some of the coolest stuff out there. So why is ‘studying’ associated in my head with ‘nooooooooooo’? This harkens back to #2, but here it is again: the times that studying sucks 100% is when I feel: 1. Guilty for not knowing something I feel like I should know 2. Ashamed that I got a question wrong, or 3. Hungry. Remember how awesome it is to learn, review, and grow as a clinician. Find that gratitude. Eat a snack.
4. Don’t do what your classmates do
Classic advice, but the root of it is: we are all different. If you’re like me, then talking about studying strategies with classmates is probably my #1 stress-increaser. I avoided most of my classmates’ study groups and didn’t like to talk about my studying with my CI and my clinic. Also, you do NOT have to study 30 hours a week…but maybe you do! I highly recommend doing some reflecting BEFORE jumping into that meticulous, color-coded study plan you’ve created for yourself to determine what is truly best for you. Oh, and don’t follow someone else’s study plan.
If you read the above and still are curious about study schedule particulars (this post is about ways to pass the NPTE, I guess) I studied about 30-60 minutes before my clinical, 4-5 times a week for 3 months. About a third of this time was used to review previous practice test answers. I took 8 practice tests—yes, this is a lot and yes, this is expensive—because I knew I had to practice being in the test environment more than I had to review content. I know that a couple of my classmates studied intensively for 2-3 weeks and also passed. This really is a choose-your-own-path-follow-your-dreams recommendation.
5. Ask. For. Help.
Quite frankly, I wish I had done this more. If you sit with a concept and can’t seem to grasp it, ask a classmate. If you need a break from studying, then ask a friend if you can unload your thoughts with them. Remember that you’re not just taking an exam. You are also working on becoming an independent practitioner, finishing a clinical, job hunting, possibly moving, adopting puppies, cleaning your bathroom, etc. Essentially, there is a lot to balance, and it is an uncertain time full of transitions. Be kind to yourself, and lean on your support network.
Fun fact: I was born and raised in Stuttgart, Germany
As a physical therapy student and future physical therapist, the APTA is something you will hear about over and over again. With job opportunities, continuing education classes, research updates and legislation information, the APTA has endless amounts of information at the hands of students and professionals. However, the website and all the resources may seem a little overwhelming. Therefore, here is a little introduction into the APTA and how you can use it to further your education and career.
The APTA, or the American Physical Therapy Association, is a professional organization that represents physical therapy students, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants and has over 103,000 members. It is divided into state chapters each with a governing board. We at Regis University are fortunate to have Cameron MacDonald as an assistant professor, and he is the current president of the Colorado chapter which currently has 2,700 members. It is vital for each state to have a chapter since each state has different practice guidelines and thus must have individual legislation.
There are also sections within the APTA, which include: acute care, aquatics, cardiovascular and pulmonary, education, federal, geriatrics, hand and upper extremity, home health, pediatrics, private practice and quite a few others. These sections allow you as a student or current PT to learn more information about different specialties. For example, I am part of the neurology section and as such, I get quarterly journals that inform me on the latest research and new updates in the realm of neurology and how it affects the physical therapy industry.
Districts are even smaller groups which are broken up by geographical location and each chapter has SIGs or special interest groups. Colorado has five statewide SIGs which include: Colorado Acute/Rehab SIG, Pediatric SIG, Private Practice SIG, PTA SIG and the Student SIG.
Continuing education (CE) classes happen often and allow students or PTs/PTAs to learn more about a specific topic and have hands on practice. I attended a vestibular and concussion CE class last fall and it completely opened my eyes to a world of physical therapy I had never heard of before. The APTA has a national conference called Combined Sections Meeting, or CSM, which is an incredible opportunity to learn about the profession and what new research developments are forthcoming. CSM is also a great way to network and get to know other practitioners in the physical therapy profession. The Colorado Chapter also has an annual convention called the Fall Convention & Expo.
Now that you have an introduction, it is important to know what you can do NOW. Depending on where you are in your journey, this may be different for each of you. If you are currently applying to PT school, the APTA website can help guide you in preparing for your interview questions, help you understand what is in your scope of practice depending on the state and school you apply to, and impress the faculty by understanding what is happening in the PT profession.
As you start your graduate school career, the first step is to become an APTA member! Some graduate programs require it, others do not. Either way, I highly recommend you become part of the association so you can reap the full benefits of the APTA and have your voice heard. Click here for joining the APTA. Attending state and national conventions will also give you a huge head start on understanding what the real world of physical therapy is like and they are a great chance to meet students from all over the US and also network! The easiest step is to get involved with SIGs. Each university will have student special interest groups which hold meetings and special guest lecturers which allow students to connect and communicate about a specific PT specialty.
At Regis and CU Denver, we have multiple sSIGs that our students are involved in and I am lucky enough to be involved with the APTA sSIG this year. I will be working closely with the other sSIGs as well as the PTA schools to have a year of amazing events for our students. We hope to open their eyes to all the opportunities in Colorado. These include: panels about specialties and what to do after graduation, a kickball tournament, a national advocacy dinner and so much more!
Yes, this was a lot of information. No, I do not expect anyone to remember it all. But it is important that you get involved and find what you are passionate about. So now, go to www.apta.org and become a member today!
I have been in college for almost a decade. So you could say I am what comes close to being a professional student. However, with that title comes heaping amounts of debt. Fortunately, I have learned the art of budgeting, scholarships, and sucking up to my extreme-couponing-and-geologist wife so my debt is incredibly low. Unfortunately, most students finish their graduate degrees with six figures of student debt. I am here to share my secrets and help you avoid evil student loans (well, as much as you can).
I can’t stress this enough: BUDGET YOUR MONEY. This is the key to being able to:
A) know how much money you need in scholarships/loans/income and
B) decide where your money goes
Budgeting is fairly straightforward. Create a spreadsheet with all of your expenses listed out. It is easiest to do this for each semester because, as students, we are charged tuition and given financial aid only 2-3 times per year.
Some of the categories my wife and I use are:
All of this goes into our budget Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t use Excel, then you should start now. There are plenty of tutorials online if you need to refresh on the functions or even through the Regis Library/Learning Commons/Tutoring Center on campus. The best part about budgeting like this is determining how much in student loans I need to take out.
I’m sorry for using the L-word, I promise you it gives me a lot of anxiety just thinking about the hole I dug for myself, but that is just our reality as students. One day, we will need to repay these loans and it’s important to have a strategy to do so.
After plenty of research, my wife and I have decided to use the Debt Snowball repayment plan. This is the famous strategy created by financial expert Dave Ramsey that bases debt repayment on the combination of psychology and interest percentages. Instead of paying off debt based on interest alone, the Debt Snowball creates a system that pays off debt based upon the total value of each individual loan to create a psychological reward as well as paying off debt as quickly as possible.
This method, along with plenty of other financial tips and advice, is featured in his incredibly successful book The Total Money Makeover, which I can’t recommend enough.
I know too well what “money dump” apartments are and how getting a cheap apartment can come with some hazards. This is typical in Denver. As of today, three students just in my class have had their cars stolen from their apartment parking lots while their managers refuse to install security cameras. Because of this, it actually can be both safer and cost effective to slightly splurge and find apartments in low crime areas. The Denver Police Department maintains a great crime map that is user friendly. However, if you can manage it, then I suggest trying to buy a house or condo. You’re probably saying, “this guy is crazy!” but you’re putting money into someone else’s bank account every month with no equity. Not to mention a mortgage payment is less than Denver rent. So if you have enough savings to go into a down payment, or can have family help, go for it! If you’re going the family route, then I suggest giving them a return on their investment via the equity upon selling. It is truly a win-win.
Shopping is easily the biggest way we save money. I am infatuated with couponing and am getting pretty good at it…to the point of saving up to $30 a week on groceries. I’m currently a part of a coupon club that sends me coupons daily…go figure. I also use the Krazy Coupon Lady. The last major strategies I use is shopping at Costco or Sam’s club for bulk items such as meat to freeze, fruit, vegetables, and nonperishables.
However, if you are really interested in saving money and time on healthy meals, check out my wife’s blog post about eating healthy in college. She goes over our full healthy cooking system and how we save money on our groceries.
Read more about cheap and healthy eating in college HERE.
Saving Money at Regis University
Being a graduate student at Regis University does have its perks! Take advantage of the amenities. My favorites are the gym, 10 free local transit passes a week, and 2 free swimming passes a week for any Denver Parks and Recreation’s Aquatic facility. One of the better pools close to the university is the Berkeley pool attached to the Scheitler Recreation Center.
Some of the other ways I save money during class are bringing my own food for lunch, bringing K-cups from Costco instead of purchasing coffee (there are two Keurigs in Claver Hall, which ends up being 34 cents a cup), getting a beer with classmates at Walker’s pub during happy hour ($1 beer), and taking advantage of free food events. I also frequently use the classroom electricity to charge devices and shower at the gym to reduce water-heating costs at home.
One of the most daunting factors about being in graduate school is the lack of income. However, there are plenty of great ways to have an income with minimal time commitment. One of the easiest and best ways to do that is to turn your hobby into a job. One great way to do that is to start a money-making blog! There are countless benefits to creating a blog in college. THIS is a great post that breaks down the reasons why you should start a blog in college and THIS is a great post to help you understand how to do it!
Another great way to make money is to donate plasma. I personally donate twice a week and receive about $300 a month for less than 3 hours a week of sitting in a clinic. All plasma is donated to medical research facilities and nearly everyone at these clinics are amazing and professional people. Despite what the stigma is against plasma donations, it is a requirement that you have a home in order to donate.
Some of my other classmates use their skills as a small income like instructing rock climbing lessons once or twice a week for gym memberships or baby sitting/house sitting for friends.
A small amount of income comes a long way, but take precaution based on your performance in class. You’re a student first!
Utility Saving Tips
I got bills! Of course the more energy efficient your household is the lower the bill. One of the more helpful strategies to adapt daily is running appliances that have a high energy cost during non-peak hours. For Denver (consumers of Xcel Energy), the best times to run your appliances (dishwasher, dryer, etc.) are between 9pm and 9am.
In addition, here is a list of other easy tips:
Running the fan in reverse during winter
Don’t use heat dry in dishwasher
LED lights in bulk and swap out when moving out
Read your electricity statement: Xcel sends personalized saving tips
Reduce standby power (printer, TVs, gaming systems)
Minimize cooling by opening the windows at night (if safe)
Deduce shower time
Now I know it seems like you are not going to have time, but make time to do what you love. This will prevent getting burnt out and being miserable.
Some cheap ways of having fun is getting outside to hike, trail run, rock climb, mountain bike, or cycle. The National Park Service has an amazing yearly pass deal that pays itself off in under 8 visits.
If you’re a skier/snowboarder, then I have heard the Epic pass is fantastic. It has a student pass and pays itself off after 4 times of hitting the slopes. If you like to hangout and watch tv, save money by streaming via Netflix and Amazon Prime. If you get Spotify premium as a student, you save $3 a month and get Hulu for free.
Also, if you’re a book worm, then go get a Denver library card in combination with an app called Overdrive. You can access the ebook library, audiobooks, and most movies currently out on Redbox.
Do you have any favorite budgeting tips? Were these strategies helpful for you? Feel free to comment and share with us!
Fun Fact: A one humped camel is called a Dromedary and a two humped camel is called a Bactrian.
Let me just tell you about my first semester of PT school. I’ll start off by saying that PT school is a lot of work, so of course, the first semester was stressful. But regardless, there are 80 of your closest friends that make studying, adventuring, and everything that happens in between a whole lot easier. I started the semester by buying a season pass to ski all winter long and to use as a major de-stressor when school became difficult. I have been skiing since I was a little tike, so what could go wrong? I had never been hurt skiing nor seriously injured so it couldn’t possibly happen now. Here’s my advice, kids. When the mountain does not have enough snow to open up more than one run, there’s not enough snow. Just trust me.
So here’s how it went. I go to Arapahoe Basin (lovingly known as A Basin) with my now boyfriend, Preston, and we’re having a great time just enjoying the weather and the snow. We ski about three runs before the resort is flooded with people also trying to ski the one run that is open. We spend about 20 minutes waiting to get on the lift that will take us to the top, so the decision to get to the top, ski all the way down, and head on home is smart. I’m happily skiing along trying to keep up with Preston, but when I get to about 50 feet from the bottom, realize I’m going a little too fast. Preston is down at the bottom and I go to stop and my ski catches a patch of ice (remember the not enough snow comment?) that takes me out. I flip over backwards and roll hard, and although the details of that fall are fuzzy, I’m sure now it was a classic plant and twist. My skis don’t pop off and my right knee is screaming in pain; I can’t stand on it, so I get my first toboggan ride down the mountain to meet Preston.
About 20 minutes before I fell. The view is pretty right?
I’m going to start this part of the story with the advice that I would not recommend getting hurt in PT school, but I want to brag about our professors for a little bit. I think I was in denial that I ruptured my ACL, so I went to Dr. Tom McPoil and asked him to check out the knee. Tom tapes me every morning for about 2 weeks while we are trying to get MRIs and doctors appointments scheduled; he was a saint. After a few days of taping, he decides Dr. Mark Reinking should check out my knee too, thus getting two amazing faculty giving me advice. You probably know what happens next: I have surgery to reconstruct my ACL with a semitendinosus/gracilis autograft (they took my hamstrings to make a new ACL). I was thankful I could do surgery over winter break. Over the month that we had off, I got time to recover and relax instead of worrying about school. I started PT off campus and then switched to seeing a PT in our faculty once the new semester got closer. Our faculty are incredible, understanding, kind, teaching, inspiring humans who are the reason I am fairly active for 5 months post-op. My PT, Nancy, is one of the many reasons I am certain that I want to go into this profession because she makes me laugh when PT for an ACL reconstruction is painful. Although I would not recommend tearing your ACL, I have gotten more perspective than I could have imagined from the process.
Okay, now go back. I tore my ACL. It was an absolute pain (in the knee) 90% of the time. It was hard watching my friends all ski while I was stuck at the lodge, it’s terrible that I still have pain running even though it’s normal, and I have a huge mental block doing most physical activity now, which is hard. Here’s my advice: Take care of yourself. Have fun, but within healthy limits for yourself. I recommend you also know that life simply happen. Having a positive outlook has made a huge difference for me. Sometimes you just have to see the brighter side. That all being said, I am here, I am passing, and I am chugging along just fine in PT school. So, if you do injure yourself while in school, remember that it is all doable. That’s a promise!
Here’s some other friends that are going through injuries in PT school and some advice they have for dealing with it:
Ryan Pineda, Class of 2020: Lisfranc fracture, surgery completed, in PT currently
“Find a good Netflix show to break up the studying and try not to think about
how much fun your friends are having. Also make sure to buy pass insurance for
your ski pass.”
Gabe Lawrence, Class of 2020: meniscal tear, surgery happening this week!
“Make sure to stay active and find something to take your mind off the injury
while you’re rehabbing. It’s easy to be lazy when you have an excuse. Just
because you‘re down a limb doesn’t mean you can’t use the other three.”
Jake Berndl, Class of 2020: bilateral inguinal hernia, surgery completed, progressing back to normal physical activity
“Don’t sustain a more serious injury like the above three. Put a positive spin
on your down time – catch up on studying while your classmates are out
having fun instead of studying. This way, when tests or finals roll up, you’re
prepared. Also, don’t forget to ask your surgeon the important questions…”
Fun Fact: I am the world’s most awkward high-five giver/receiver.
One of my classmates once said “PT school is neither a marathon nor a sprint. It is both at the same time.” That statement resonated with me on a personal level. During my first year of PT school, I found myself drowning in homework and responsibilities. The temptation to ignore almost every other aspect of my life in order to survive school was strong. However, I found that this did not help my stress levels, and it only added to them in a negative way. Instead, I found that taking good care of my life outside of school is the foundation of taking good care of my school work as well. Sometimes taking care of yourself means…NOT STUDYING…yeah, that’s right! So, here are 5 ways to spend your time when you are not studying:
Find a good hang out spot:
From coffee shops to book stores to the bar down the street. Find a spot you can unwind and relax. Some favorite local spots include Allegro Coffee Roasters, BookBar (if you are looking for a one-stop shop), Goldspot Brewery, and Local 46. All of these are 3-5 minutes from Regis and are just scratching the surface of the many hangout locations in the Denver area.
Whether you are a yogi, cross-fitter, avid runner, cyclist, power-lifter, or intramural sport phenom, you can find Regis DPT students covering the exercise spectrum. Joining a fitness club is a great way to connect with other people in the community. However, if you are into exercise options that are easy on the bank account, find a friend and exhaust the available free Youtube exercise videos or try out the many trail running paths nearby. If you love organized, competitive sports, Regis offers many different intramural sports. Our classes frequently compete together as a team and have won several championships (not to brag or anything…). Whatever you like to do for exercise, take advantage of opportunities and use it as a stress relieving activity.
(please enjoy the slo-mo video of Lauren’s epic trick shot)
If you don’t take advantage of the outdoor activities in Colorado, you may be missing out on some serious soul medicine. From hiking to park days to outdoor festivals downtown, get out and enjoy the famous Colorado’s 300+ days of sunshine. Some enjoy tackling 14-ers over the weekends, others find beauty and excitement in the lower, half-day hikes. Some of my favorite lower hikes include: Mt. Galbraith Trail Lily Mountain Trailheadand Herman Gulch Trailhead. Our PT class loves to plan park days where we take advantage of the city parks to play volleyball, corn-hole, have a cookout, or just soak up the sun. These activities are very therapeutic and immensely enjoyable!
Practice your creativity!
I often am so impressed by the creativity and talent that is displayed by many of my classmates. We have dancers, painters, poets, woodworkers, talented chefs, etc. Although my creativity is often derived from Pinterest, it is so much fun to put my creativity to work. Wine and paint nights can be a fun way to relax and unwind with friends. Some individuals enjoy improv dancing to help them to express themselves while others channel their inner “foodie” and put their chef skills to the work (I, personally, am very thankful I have friends with this talent). One thing to keep in mind when practicing creativity is to NOT get caught up in perfection. You are not being graded on this! I know this is a hard concept to understand in PT school. Just have fun with it and let your mind or body be free to run wild!
Don’t think about school!!
School is very important. Responsibilities are very important. Becoming a capable physical therapist is very important. However, prioritizing your health and balancing your personal life is imperative. Remember that you are a multi-dimensional person and that is a beautiful thing. Take time to calm your mind. Take time to spend with your friends and family. Take time to treat yourself. We work hard at our school work, so don’t forget to work hard at other aspects of your life as well!