Physical Therapy Classification and Payment System: a Discussion with Lindsay Still

 

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from the Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of essays about my experiences here at the Association.

Interview with Lindsay Still, Senior Payment Specialist

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I talked with Lindsay Still, a Senior Payment Specialist, and she explained the current state of the PTCPS.  Read a summary of our interview below!

Overview

The Physical Therapy Classification and Payment System (PTCPS) is an ongoing initiative that was developed as an alternative to the current, fee-for-service codes—ones that easily fail to capture the true value of what PTs do—and instead particularly account for the complexity and skill of clinical expertise required for patients with more involved presentations. It also incorporates the use of standardized outcome measures. PTCPS would include a single CPT (Current Procedural Technology) code for the entire treatment session versus the assortment of 15-minute unit codes that we’re used to today.

The system has gone through multiple iterations in the past several years, and was developed by the APTA in collaboration with a specialty work group within the AMA (American Medical Association) involving members from the professional organizations of OTs, massage therapists, athletic trainers, speech-language pathologists, chiropractors, psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists, physiatrists, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, osteopathic physicians, and representatives of CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).

Structure of the new coding system

Under the new system, there would be three new evaluation codes that puts a patient into an initial category of lower, moderate, or higher complexity. Certain documentation criteria (e.g. under patient history, presentation, or plan of care) would determine which of the three eval codes you would select. For example, the number of comorbidities for a given patient would play a role in the eval code selection. There would also be a single code for any re-eval visit.

As currently structured, the proposed PTCPS would also incorporate five treatment codes, based on the overall complexity of the patient’s presentation and treatments. These codes, much like our current CPT code for evals (97001 Physical Therapy Evaluation), would not have a set time frame or number of units associated with it. However, treatment billed under the lowest complexity code would likely be much shorter than a treatment session under the highest complexity code, and the reimbursements would reflect this fact.

Implementation

In 2014, pilot testing of the new system was performed with PTs using the new system to code/bill for hypothetical patients, as well as using the new system to code the treatments of actual patients previously coded with the existing system. This testing occurred in various care settings. Overall, the clinicians were very consistent in their ability to categorize patients with the new initial eval codes. However, for the intervention codes, the pilot clinicians were only able to consistently categorize those patients with the least complex and most complex presentations. There was significant disagreement between PTs in regards to cases that fell within the different “moderate” treatment categories.

The definitions and valuation of the proposed eval codes were reviewed and approved by the RUC (Relative Value Scale Update Committee) and will now require CMS approval. Lindsay is hopeful that CMS will accept the new eval codes, as they will be budget-neutral. In August of 2016, CMS will release the 2017 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule; this should include the new PT evaluation and reevaluation codes. The new codes will go live on January 1, 2017. PTs will have three brand-new CPT codes to replace the current 97001 Physical Therapy Evaluation. The APTA will provide training and support to clinicians during the time leading up to the release of the new eval codes.

Impediments to the impending treatment code change

The new treatment codes will require further review and refinement, given their inconsistency of use during the pilot testing. This will likely be an interactive process, and not without controversy from the perspective of payers (insurance companies). In the meantime, the RUC has requested a “backup plan” to address ten CPT codes commonly used by PTs which have been identified as “potentially misvalued codes,” most of which PTs probably use frequently:

  • 97032 attended electrical stimulation
  • 97035 ultrasound
  • 97110 therapeutic exercise
  • 97112 neuromuscular reeducation
  • 97113 aquatic therapy with therapeutic exercise
  • 97116 gait training
  • 97140 manual therapy
  • 97530 therapeutic activities
  • 97535 self care home management training
  • G0283 unattended electrical stimulation (non-wound)

These codes are flagged  because they represent a high reimbursement rate and have not been assessed since 1994.

As a result, the APTA is currently redirecting efforts to provide replacements to those 10 codes rather than waiting for the codes to be reevaluated for us. The new treatment codes the APTA envisions to replace them with would be procedure-based: you would still bill in 15-minute increments. However, they would be streamlined; there would be fewer codes, and the codes would reflect the types of treatment PTs currently perform in practice (as opposed to focusing on what treatments PTs may have historically performed).

Future of the proposed treatment codes

The more general patient- and value-based treatment codes initially envisioned by the APTA are still in the works, but Lindsay foresees a longer process before fruition: it will require all parties to agree on a coding system that accurately and cost-effectively describes the type of treatments that PTs perform for patients. This includes the third-party payers who generally prefer the current setup of treatment codes based on billable units. The current coding system is easy to monitor for abuse or overuse of treatments.

I asked Lindsay if she saw outcome measures as one way of giving insurance companies some power to track the value of treatments under the proposed system. While they wouldn’t be able to screen specific procedures in the same way that they are able to under the current system, they would be able to, for example, monitor whether the progress of a “low complexity” patient was lagging behind what would be expected given that patient’s presentation.

She agreed that this could work in theory, but felt that we still have a long way to go in terms of standardization of outcome data across the spectrum of patient presentation. This is one of the reasons the PT Outcomes Registry will be so important! These two issues truly are intertwined in the future of value-based billing for PT services.

For more information, visit: http://www.apta.org/PTCPS and check out the Timeline for payment reform.

From Practicing Clinician to APTA Employee: an Interview with Anne Reicherter

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from the Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of essays about my experiences here at the Association.

Interview with Anne Reicherter PT, DPT, PhD, OCS, CHES

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What do you do at the APTA?

Anne was hired by the APTA last spring (2015) and works as a Senior Practice Specialist. In this position, she oversees the PTnow website, which provides practicing therapists with tools for evidence-based practice and includes access to current research and other clinical resources. A good portion of her workweek is dedicated to improving the services offered by PTnow* and working to facilitate access and utilization by APTA members.

Practice Specialists at the APTA are all licensed PTs and also work as consultants on whichever issues are current hot topics regarding our scope of practice. For example, dry needling is currently being discussed and spinal manipulation has been a historically important issue.  As one of the few PTs on staff at the APTA, Anne and her colleagues in the Practice Department review products created by the APTA marketing team or other departments prior to publication to ensure that they are accurate from a clinical and research perspective. She says she will sometimes look at a photo and say that “a PT wouldn’t perform that intervention,” or  that they “wouldn’t stand that far from the patient.” Another current project of Anne’s is a collaboration with APTA researchers on an article for the Journal of Health Policy and Administration about obesity. One of her other areas of focus is the importance of work-life balance within the profession.

How did you come to work at the APTA?

Anne graduated with a BS in Physical Therapy at University of Pittsburgh and then worked in a mixed inpatient and outpatient setting at a hospital. She describes that this was fairly common at the time, and that–with few exceptions–PTs were given a lot of autonomy from their referring providers, and that there was not yet a fee-for-service model at the HMO for which she worked. After ten years in that setting, she wanted to progress her career and knowledge, so she attended night school to obtain her Masters of Health Education. In subsequent years she held a variety of jobs in the educational setting (working for Howard University in DC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore) as well as in other clinical settings, including orthopedics and home health. During this time, she obtained her PhD in Educational Psychology, as well as her transitional DPT. She has also performed some educational consulting for various DPT programs.

The position at the APTA for a PT Practice Specialist opened up at the same time that Anne was searching for something more. She wanted a job that fit with her interests and values: the ability to participate in  writing and publishing, advancing the profession through APTA initiatives, and expanding her own knowledge made the job an excellent fit. She says that these meaningful components–including continuing education–were built into her practice as a new clinician (for example, if there was a “lunch and learn” on a given day, the clinicians would leave a bit early that day), as well as into her work as faculty. Today, however, there is an increased emphasis on productivity and fee-for-service; thus, there is limited time and resources allocated to the pursuit of continuing education that distinguish us as professionals. Anne described the difference between professionals and technicians: professionals design a plan of care and add value to the system with professional discernment, and technicians simply deliver a procedure. To maintain the high expectations set of PTs as professionals, most PTs today must spend time beyond their paid workweek to pursue continuing education, APTA involvement, and evidence-based practice.

Where do we plan to see change in the typical PT’s work-life balance?

Anne replied that one of the biggest initiatives currently is the push to change from a billing system with a procedural focus (for example, billing for “therapeutic exercises” x15 min or “therapeutic ultrasound” x15 min) to one based on value. Current reimbursement accounts merely for the delivery of a procedure or modality for a set unit of time, but it does not account for our clinical judgement as professionals. I’ll go more into this initiative in next week’s blog post.

Any advice for new clinicians starting out in their career?

Anne’s advice to new graduates is to consider whether a job or position allows for and encourages professional development: do they fund continuing education? Do they have on-site mentoring programs you can participate in? She also advises new graduates to not allow mentoring to be limited to colleagues within your particular clinical setting but to continue to seek out a supportive network of clinicians for support as you begin to navigate your professional career.

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*PTnow is a valuable resource for us, as new clinicians, to perform literature searches after graduation (as we’ll no longer have access to the school’s library search function) as well as to access clinical reviews, clinical practice guidelines, and clinical summaries prepared by respected experts within the field of physical therapy.

If you haven’t visited the website, you should definitely check it out: ptnow.org

 

Balancing a Relationship with PT School

Being married is the best. I get to do life with my best friend every day, and it was a definite perk that I didn’t have to find a roommate when coming to PT school. For those of you who are starting PT school this fall and are married or in a relationship, here are a few things to think about.

  1. If you’ve gotten this far and are still in a relationship, then your significant other is incredibly supportive of you. Don’t forget to thank him or her! He or she will be your biggest advocate and cheerleader over then next three years. Let them know how much you appreciate their sacrifices so that you can pursue your dream.
  1. Yes, school is tough, and you need to study. A LOT. But make sure that you don’t neglect your relationship. When I interviewed at Regis, my interviewer said to me, “We don’t want to break up marriages.” Your relationship will last far longer than your time in PT school. Do your best in school, but intentionally set time aside to spend with your significant other. They get lonely sitting on the couch quietly watching someone study all the time, so plan on doing fun things and going on dates. There’s a lot to do here in Colorado. Go explore!  Some of our dates have included:
    1. Road trip to Mt. Rushmore (it’s only 5.5 hours away!)IMG_51362. Horseback riding and snow hiking in Estes Park–it’s the entry town to Rocky Mountain National Park (1 hour away)IMG_5263.JPG3.  Hiking in Golden (15 minutes away)IMG_5862 4.  Musical at the Buell (10-15 minutes away)IMG_5634.JPG
  1. Remember that everyone’s relationship is different, and you have to find a balance that works for you. Some of my classmates have significant others who work 8-5 jobs and can have dinner together each night. They usually study during the week and take a day off on the weekends to play. My husband is an ER nurse and works 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., so there are many days that I leave before he wakes up and to bed before he gets home. He works many weekends, so I do lots of homework during the weekend and then take a day off of studying during the week when he has off.  That’s okay. Do what works for you. There is no one correct recipe for success in this program.
  1. Lastly, be patient with your significant other. He or she really likes to be with you, and it will be an adjustment for both of you adapt to PT school. Don’t get discouraged. You will make it!

Overall, is having a relationship hard during PT school? Absolutely. It’s one more thing to think about and invest in with an already filled schedule. However, you will never see your significant other’s support and kindness more than over the next three years. So buckle up and enjoy the ride!

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Blogger: Katie Ragle

Crash Course: How to Dress for PT School

The dreaded dress code! Our student handbook says:

As future health care professionals, graduate students in physical therapy are expected to dress in a manner that exemplifies professionalism during class, during on campus activities, and in clinical situations.

As scary as that sounds, it’s really not so bad. There is no need to run out and buy all new clothes! (Unless you only wear yoga pants and track suits. I mean–respect for that, but gotta keep if profesh now). There are tons of ways to make clothing you already have work.

Let’s go over some of the big things:

  • Plain t-shirts are definitely okay. Shirts with logos or writing are not (unless it is the Regis PT logo!).
  • There will be a Regis PT clothing order in the fall! The bookstore only has one thing that says “physical therapy” on it, so don’t worry about buying that–wait for the clothing order!  Items purchased from the clothing order can be worn to class.
  • Buying a lot of basics that you can mix and match is a really good idea. If you have a few pairs of good pants, a variety of colored tops, and good shoes, you can make dozens of outfits. Scarves and jewelry can always be used to accessorize and liven things up.
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Basic Ts, pants and skirts are all recommended!

  • Shoes must have backstraps! Things like Chacos or Tevas are fine, but they need to have a backstrap.
  • Invest in some quality shoes. Sneakers are allowed in the dress code, and you are going to be wearing them a lot. Find some that give you good support, but can also look okay with your class clothes.
  • The main lecture hall—you’ll come to know and love it intimately—can go from freezing to a sauna within 15 minutes. Having layers to put on or take off is always a good idea.
  • You’ll notice that the dress code mentions things like facial piercings, odd hair colors, and tattoos. While I wouldn’t recommend getting 7 facial piercings and 4 new tattoos, this isn’t something to worry about! Many members of the current student body have tattoos and facial piercings; that being said, keep this in mind when finding clothing for class.  It’s okay to have them showing in lab, but try your hardest to keep them covered for lecture.
  • Lab clothes are generally exercise clothes. If you only have one pair of running shorts/leggings, this might be the time to get a couple more. You will wear these clothes a lot!  You are expected to bring your lab and professional clothes to switch between classes, but you all will have lockers if you want to keep clothes on campus.

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    Here’s the Class of 2018 intramural soccer team modeling some great lab clothing examples!

  • For anatomy lab, most people wore scrubs or sweats. Whatever you wear, do not plan on wearing it ever again. The scent of the lab will never leave.

What it really comes down to is this: how do you want to present yourself to your classmates and professors? If khakis, sneakers, and a solid color t-shirt are your comfort zone, awesome! If it’s a skirt and blouse, great! If there’s a collar, lovely! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to change your entire style. Wait and see what you find yourself wearing to class and what you find comfortable, and do your shopping after school has started.

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Carol, Nolan, and Courtney showing off their professional attire

Keep in mind that this is the clothing you’ll be using when on clinical rotations and at conferences—think about what will make you be the most comfortable and professional clinician possible.

Finally, my classmate, Cameron, wants you all to know that Crocs do count.

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Maroon pants aren’t required, but are strongly encouraged for photo ops like this.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at msutton001@regis.edu!

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Blogger: Madeleine Sutton

 

APTA Tuesday: Meet Katie Baratta

Meet Katie Baratta, new Regis DPT graduate! Katie participated in an American Physical Therapy Association internship in Washington, D.C. during her final year at Regis.  Check in every Tuesday this summer to hear about her experience and to learn more about the legislation and politics behind all things physical therapy.

Name: Katherine “Katie” Baratta

Undergrad: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Hometown: Boston/Belmont, MA

Fun Fact: I worked for 5 years as a transportation engineering consultant and am the second of six kids!

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Where did you do your last two clinicals?

CE III at St Joseph’s hospital in Denver, acute care, ICU, cardiac care, and CF floors.

CE IV at Denver VA primarily outpatient ortho with emphasis on manual therapy

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How did you get interested in advocacy and how has Regis furthered your interests?

I applied for the APTA internship for two reasons: one relating to learning to better serve patients I will serve as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and the second pertaining to learning more about the role of Physical Therapy as a profession in the state in which I will practice.

In regards to my future patients, I foresee myself working a significant percentage of my caseload with patients who have considerable needs, vulnerabilities, and/or economic disadvantages—that is what motivates me to put 100% effort into what I’m doing. I know I’ll do everything within my power to provide the best care I possibly can for these patients. However, I also know that there are greater systemic forces at play which can limit any effort I make as an individual practitioner. In order to address these larger issues, I have a duty to advocate as a healthcare professional. Prior to the APTA internship, I didn’t possess a solid understanding of the ways the APTA, as an organization, interfaces with the government and how the political process can be a tool for large-scale change in the healthcare arena. This internship allowed me to observe and participate in this process. It gave me a more nuanced understanding of politics: I now both understand politics in terms of government and politics in terms of group and power dynamics and how these social factors relate to getting things accomplished. So now, as a new graduate, I can bring this understanding back to my individual patients as I push for large-scale changes in the realm of availability of care, funding, and specific physical therapy services.

The second reason I was interested in this internship had to do with the role of the APTA in Massachusetts. According to the APTA state rankings, my home state (and where I eventually see myself practicing) ranked last in APTA involvement in 2014. This is an area of opportunity for the profession. Massachusetts (and Boston) is a leader in many aspects of healthcare. I saw the APTA internship as preparation for increasing the presence of the APTA and the profession of physical therapy in Massachusetts.

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Where are you heading with your career?

My path thus far in life has been winding and full of surprises, and I am sure my future will be as well!

I tremendously enjoyed my work during CE IV at the VA. I found a group of people I connected well with—both the patient population and the rehab team, overall. It was my first true manual/outpatient rotation. By the end of it, I really felt I was starting to get the hang of how to integrate manual skills with tailored exercise prescription for a patient’s short- and long-term function.

I find the role of the nervous system in pain—particularly persistent pain—to be fascinating, and I think that it’s an area that we as DPTs can serve, push the envelope, and dig deeper into understanding.  I see the solution to be very intertwined with integrating exercise, mental and emotional health, and our toolbox of manual skills.

Beyond the practice setting, I envision myself tying in some of the skills I developed in my prior career. I have an extensive background in data analysis, grant writing, and drafting reports on alternatives analysis; essentially, I have experience in demonstrating the “value” of something to decision-makers (including those who provide funding).

One of PT’s biggest issues is lack of PR. Nobody understands or sees our value. Word of mouth is clearly some of the greatest PR, particularly when attracting new patients to an outpatient clinic. But, when there are larger factors at play beyond an individual patient’s choice—when it comes down to hospital policy or insurance policy—we need to speak in the language that those controlling funding allocation understand: numbers (particularly numbers with dollar signs in front of them!).

So, I see utilizing the skills I’ve developed in my past career into my current practice and will be able to demonstrate the value of physical therapy for both patient outcomes and overall costs. There’s a tremendous need for widespread change to healthcare and to PT access and I am excited to be a part of that change!

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Tune in next week to read Katie’s take on direct access barriers and initiatives to direct access.

Regis University hosts the Denver National Advocacy Dinner

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The second annual National Advocacy Dinner was hosted at Regis University this past Wednesday, April 13, 2016. These dinners are going to be held all over the country between April 13th and May 4th, and are a great way to learn the top legislative issues affecting the PT profession. Furthermore, it’s a great (and easy) way to find out more ways that YOU can make a difference in furthering the profession. In case you missed the event at Regis and were wondering what topics we covered, read on for the recap!

In terms of national legislature, the Federal update was presented by Regis’s own Ira Gorman:

  1. Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2015 (“Repeal of the Medicare Cap”)

This bill would eliminate the cap on therapy services for those patients with Medicare. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this idea, as PTs, we only get $1960/year for therapy services. But wait—that’s shared with Speech Language Pathology Therapists too! This would help patients with complex cases (ie. TBI, CVA, hip fractures/replacements, etc.) get more of the services they really need. Check this bill out: HR 775/ S 539

  1. Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act of 2015 (Loan Repayment)

THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS! In other words, this bill is all about student loan forgiveness. Currently, PTs are not a part of the National Health Service Core, and therefore cannot earn the loan forgiveness that many other health professionals can. With the passing of this bill, PTs would be granted access to the plan when they worked in rural and/or medically underserved areas. This could mean up to $30,000 in two years. As an extra benefit, it’s been shown that when health professionals work in these areas, they tend to lay down roots and stay. This helps to improve communities by keeping quality health care in the area. Check this bill out: HR 2342/ S 1426

  1. Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (Locum Tenes)

This bill was explained as a “technical fix,” in which PTs will have an easier time working with Medicare when a staff goes on a leave of absence (ie. Maternity, travel, etc.). Currently, clinics cannot bring temp PTs in unless they are Medicare certified at the specific clinic. Overall, this is a logistical nightmare when you only need a temp for a week or two. Check this bull out: HR 556/ S 313

 Gorman emphasized these three, but also hit on three more important bills. The Safe Play Act would allow PTs medical decision-making abilities in return-to-sport for youth athletes; this bill also promotes safety in youth athletics (with provisions about concussions, heat stroke, and sudden cardiac arrests). Next, the Medicare Opt Out bill is a physician bill that PTs joined in order to work with patients who may have their own private insurance and do not always want to follow through with sole Medicare payment. The bill would allow providers to avoid billing to Medicare and, instead, just bill the patient’s private insurance. The NIH Bill would help fund more rehabilitation research and create a larger focus on rehabilitation topics. Finally, the Telehealth bill would be one step closer for PTs to have a compact license (i.e. One license would allow a PT to practice in any state). Currently PT’s have to have a license for any state their patients may reside in. For example, if your clinic was near state boarders—say, in Colorado but close to Wyoming—you would have to have a license for both Colorado and Wyoming to treat the residents of Wyoming coming to your clinic. The telehealth component plays in when treating patients in other states via an alternative form of communication. (Check out these bills: HR 829/ S436, HR 1650/ S 1849, HR 1631/ S 800, and HR 2948 respectively)

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The other top speaker at the dinner was Colorado State Senator, Irene Aguilar, MD. She presented on a state issue regarding the insurance plan Colorado Care (Amendment 69). This measure will be on the ballot in November 2016 and will improve health insurance coverage in the state by creating a single-payer system. Colorado Care would be resident owned, non-governmental healthcare for any Colorado resident. Individuals could still purchase their own private insurance similar to supplemental Medicare, but would still pay for Colorado Care. Premiums would be collected from residents and employers based on income, effectively reducing costs through the elimination of third party administrative costs. However, this means a 7% tax for employers, a 3% tax for employees, and a combine 10% tax for the self employed in order to cover the budget, which is estimated at $25 billion. (Read more at http://coloradocareyes.co/ and http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/12/19/458688605/coloradans-will-put-single-payer-health-care-to-a-vote.)

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 Now what? Well, as an incoming student, current student, new grad, or current practitioner, it is important to start spreading awareness. The easiest way to do this is check out the APTA take action center (http://www.apta.org/TakeAction/). As a member of APTA, you get access to support any of the current issues with easy, pre-made letters to send to your Congressmen. This is helpful because research shows that Representatives want to know you’re knowledgeable about the bills you’re asking them to support. Heads up, though—they want: to have a constituent reason for your stance on the bill, the specific legislation cited, the bill number, the impact of the bill, and your full name and address.

If you’re looking for a little more action, join PT-PAC (political action committee) or donate money in their name for a more focused contribution. There’s even an app for that! Search APTA Action.

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Upcoming Advocacy Events:

June 8-11, 2016                 NEXT Conference (Nashville, TN)

Oct 27-29, 2016                 National Student Conclave (Miami, FL)

Feb 15-18, 2017                 Combine Sections Meeting (San Antonio, TX)

Spring 2017                           Federal Advocacy Forum (Washington, DC)

 Important Links:

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Keep an eye out for our student spotlight on Cindi Rauert, Regis DPT Class of 2017, who spearheaded this event as the SPT Delegate on the Student Assembly Board of Directors.

Blogger: Sarah Campbell, Class of 2017

Stress Decompression with the 2nd Year Regis DPT Students

After a long week of studying, practicing skills, and being evaluated for skill competency, what better way is there to decompress than pounding it out? After such a stressful week some may have wanted to pound their head against their desk, but second-year student Morgan Pearson had a different idea. During this Thursday’s lunch break, a classroom turned into an exercise studio as Morgan led 15 classmates in a POUND fitness class. This cardio workout incorporates numerous whole-body strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, jumps, and abdominal crunches–all while pounding drum sticks to the beat of the music.12915268_10154141123068278_1424337970_o

I must admit, at first sight, I was unconvinced that everyone would stay in-sync with their drumsticks. But I was proven wrong when, after just 18 minutes, Morgan whole-heartedly exclaimed, “Yes!! We sound like we are in a band!” Needless to say, students caught on very quickly to Morgan’s encouraging and tough class. They even cheered for one last song towards the end of the workout. After class, second-year student Christy Houk joyfully stated, “Every single muscle fiber in my body is burning!”

Morgan plans to lead classes every Thursday at lunch in Claver Hall room 410 for the remainder of the semester. So come one, come all, and be ready to sweat, burn, and POUND out your stressors! You might just learn some new exercises for your future patients, too!

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Blogger: Lindsay Mayors

Taking a gap year before Regis PT school: Meet Mason Hill

Name: Mason Hill

Hometown: Tacoma, WA

Undergrad: California Lutheran University

Fun Fact: I think I have a cold.

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Congratulations are in order! You’ve completed the long and arduous process of applying to and interviewing for a position in a top-ranked physical therapy school. You should feel a genuine sense of accomplishment for being considered to be a part of the Regis DPT program.

This post is for the candidates that will unfortunately not be receiving a letter of acceptance this year.

When I first applied to PT programs I felt relatively good about my chances of acceptance. I had a strong resume and GPA, would be published in multiple scientific journals before graduation, and had just received the American Kinesiology Association Undergraduate Scholar award.

That being said, I failed to even receive an invitation to interview at my top choice, Regis University.

I did, however, gain acceptance to a program that shall remain nameless, and one which I knew very little about.  I started doing my research on the university’s staff, mission, and facilities and was not pleased with what I saw. I had been working toward PT school since I was 16, and I felt a considerable amount of pressure to accept the position.

After a long conversation with a current student of that program, I came to the conclusion that I would reject the position and reapply to my top choices the following year; it was far and away the best decision that I have ever made.

The odds are good that if you, the reader, were invited to interview at Regis, you have been accepted to some other program. I do not write this to discourage you from attending said program, but to encourage you to follow your intuition and reassure you that waiting another year and once again dealing with the dreaded PTCAS is not the end of the world. You’ve got plenty of options.

Here’s what my gap year looked like at a glance:

After crunching the numbers I decided that going to the UK for a MSc  program would not be financially feasible; so, after graduating college, I packed my bags to head home to Tacoma, WA to plot my next move. During those first few months at home I turned my attention to PT in developing countries.  After doing a bit of research into disability rates and the prevalence of physiotherapists in the developing world, I was hooked. Within a few weeks I was headed to Tijuana, where I spent the next two months volunteering in various clinics and at a school for children with special needs. During those two months I reapplied to Regis, was granted an interview, and made plans for my next trip to work for 4 months in a physiotherapy clinic in the Kingdom of Swaziland.

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When it came time to answer that all important question “what have you done to improve your application?”, I had too much material to work with. The beautiful thing is that not only was that year spent out of the classroom the most enriching and transformative time of my life, but it also enabled me to gain access to what I believe is the program that is best-suited to serve me as a student of physical therapy.

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If you are faced with a year away from academia (by choice or not), it will undoubtedly look different than mine. Just know that you can do with it whatever you like. (Personally I would suggest a bit of solo travel to a foreign country. In my opinion there is no better form of education.) However you decide to spend the next year, be sure to take the opportunity to grow as a person and future clinician.

If you have any questions about how I was able to fund my year of travel/volunteering, how to make connections and find opportunities in other countries, or anything really, feel free to contact me at hillmasond@gmail.com.

How to train for Boston and survive PT school: Meet Lauren Hill

Name: Lauren Hill, Class of 2017

Hometown: Flat Rock, MI

Undergrad: Saginaw Valley State University

Fun fact: Never wears matching socks…ever.

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They’ll tell you PT school is a marathon…not a sprint.

I apparently took that a bit too literally.

I’ve run two marathons and two half-marathons since starting PT school; that’s over 2500 miles of training and racing.

Let me back up a bit:

I’m Lauren. Born and raised in Michigan. I went to Saginaw Valley State University for undergrad and double majored in Exercise Science and Psychology. That, for me, was where running really started. I walked on to our cross country/track teams back in 2008 and was—for lack of a better adjective—terrible. I’m not sure why they let me stick around…maybe for entertainment…or to make everyone else feel faster?  Well, after some frank talks with myself and a few good friends, things started to come together. I went from the track equivalent of the “12th man” to placing in the conference, nationally, and eventually becoming a two-time All-American. When I graduated, I felt lost: the last five years had been dedicated to my teammates, mileage and chasing All-American accolades.

So there I stood: two bachelor degrees in hand, PT school applications underway and no longer a delineated reason to run.  I realized I needed a new challenge.

New Goal: Run the Boston Marathon 

Why not? 

I qualified and planned to run Boston in 2015…which happened to be the week before finals of my second semester at Regis.

 Training for the Boston Marathon (or any marathon for that matter) is not a particularly easy task.  Now, add to that 40+ hours of class per week, 10 hours commuting, a significant other, 2-4 hours studying per day (and way more on weekends) and trying to get an adequate amount of sleep… As you can imagine, life got got incredibly busy very quickly. 

A typical day looked a lot like this:

6:15 Wake up, Breakfast

7-8 Commute to Regis

8-12 Lectures

12-1 Lunch break—Run 3-6 miles

1-4 Labs

4-5 Commute

5-??? Run #2–Anywhere from 3-10 more miles depending on the day, Dinner, Study ‘til bedtime

11 Bed

You learn a lot about BALANCE when training for a marathon. You also learn to say “no” to a lot of extracurricular activities:

“ Do you want to grab a beer after class?”

No, I can’t, I have to run.

Do you want to go to the mountains this weekend?”

No, I can’t, I have a long run.

“ Do you want to want to hang out tonight?”

No, I can’t, I have to get up early tomorrow and run. 

My goal for Boston was sub-2:50—an arbitrary time that I let consume me for those 16 weeks (and beyond, if we are being honest). On the outside, I had fun with training, but inside I put an overwhelming amount of pressure on myself to reach that mark.

I failed.

 3:01.

Regardless of the weather conditions, (34 degrees, head wind, pouring rain and Hypothermia by the end)….I was pissed.

I had failed.

But, after months of reflecting (and even while writing this), I have begun to see the race and the months of training as a chapter in life with a lot of little lessons learned (some the hard way).

I do my best thinking when I run, and over time have created what I call My Truths—These are things I realized about myself, running, PT school and life. Take them for what you will. This list will inevitably change, as I do, but it’s a framework that works for me today.  These 13 truths won’t change your life, but I hope you may relate or take something from at least one of them.

Lauren’s 13 Truths

  1. If it doesn’t make you happy, re-evaluate your decisions.
  2. Just because it makes everyone else happy doesn’t mean it’s for you.
  3. Places/destinations are always there…family is not.
  4. What’s monitored is managed.
  5. Be realistic with your goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  6. Morning workouts make for a more productive day.
  7. Fix problems at their root; don’t just put a Band-Aid on it.
  8. Hope is an excuse for doing nothing” – Coach Ed
  9. No matter how much you plan, there are some things you can’t control.
  10. Who you were has shaped you, but to be who you will become you must accept change.
  11. Don’t go or plan to do anything when hungry.
  12. If it’s supposed to be fun but feels like a job, you need a break.
  13. …..coffee first.

I do plan on running Boston in 2017. It seems only appropriate to finish at Regis the same way it began, only this time, I hope to bring a clearer perspective on running, life and happiness. 

Happy Strides!

– Lauren

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Coming from another career: Meet Katie Ragle

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I used to doubt whether or not I could hack it in PT school. I have a degree in broadcasting and digital media with minors in editing and publishing and theatre. I once had the hopes of a career in public relations and worked for a few years before realizing that I need to do something that I’m actually passionate about. I quit my job, took the prerequisites for PT school, and applied to several schools around the country. I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, and attended undergrad in Ohio, and my husband and I were ready for a new adventure.

When I arrived on campus at Regis for my interview, I could tell that it would be different than other interviews I had encountered. Faculty and current students welcomed all those who were interviewing and encouraged us to ask our probing questions that the website doesn’t reveal. The entire interview day was incredibly people-focused. Everyone with whom I spoke emphasized how much people matter at Regis. They continually stressed that faculty do everything they can to help students thrive. I heard many times, “We start with 80 students in the class, and we want to finish with 80. We don’t want to weed people out. We want them to succeed.” As someone who has never taken advanced science classes and only took the minimum prerequisites to apply to PT school, I reveled at the thought of having people who would come alongside me if I needed additional help with classes.

After my tour of the campus and discussions with current students, I started to picture myself at Regis, but I wanted to see how my faculty interview went to verify all of the wonderful things that the students claimed about them. It didn’t disappoint. When I sat down in my interview with one of the predominant faculty members in the program, her first question didn’t deal with my GRE score or observation hours. She looked at me and asked, “So, how does your husband feel about your going to PT school? You’re going to need his support over the next few years. We don’t want to break up marriages.” We talked more about school-life balance, and she encouraged me that it would be worth it. She wasn’t trying to sell me on Regis, but she sure did.

After I was accepted to Regis, I wondered if the program would be as people-focused as the interview. It was. It terrified me to think that I would be a fish out of water surrounded by exercise science and kinesiology majors, but around 40% of the students in our class are career changers like me. Those who do have more of a science background are more than willing to help fill in the gaps for those of us who need it. Our class is more collaborative than I could have ever hoped for. Rather than competing with each other, we share study guides freely. We call our nationally recognized professors by their first name. Are the academics rigorous? Absolutely. PT school is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I know that I’m not alone, and that’s how I know I made the right choice in Regis.

Good luck in all your applications and interviews! Don’t be nervous; you’ll do great!

Katie

P.S. On my first day of class, the professor who interviewed me ran up to me, gave me a hug, and told me how happy she was to see me. I get to have her for a class this semester. How cool is that?