5 Ways to Spend Your Time When You Are Not Studying…

Name: Courtney Backward

Undergrad: Oklahoma Wesleyan University

Hometown: Salina, OK

Fun Fact: I am the world’s most awkward high-five giver/receiver.

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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:

  1. 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.

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  1. Exercise:
    • 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)

  1. Get outside:
    • 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 Trailhead and 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!

 

  1. 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!
  1. 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!

 

Managing Your Posture in PT School

Name: Joshua Holland

Undergrad: Idaho State University

Hometown: Centennial, Colorado

Fun fact: Before PT school, I worked at a BBQ restaurant in Missoula, MT called Notorious P.I.G.

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Last week, I was editing my Biomechanics skills video when I noticed a curly-haired DPT student in my video with fairly poor posture. I was far from excited when I realized that student was me. I knew my posture wasn’t the greatest after years of asymmetrical shoulder position from college pole vaulting and poor lifting mechanics, but I had no idea it was THAT bad! My shoulders were protracted with my head in a significantly forward position. My initial thought was, “man, I am about to be a PT soon…how am I going to teach posture when my own posture is so poor?!”

An average day for PT students involves a heavy dose of lectures, studying, and an even heavier dose of sitting. Often a PT student may be seated in lectures for 8 hours a day. By the end of the day, professors may start to notice students performing many combinations of wiggling, shifting, and slouching, with many students standing up in the back of the class.

The field of physical therapy involves movement for rehabilitation and we often hear, “exercise is good!” However, within school, sometimes we neglect our own movement in order to remain studious. The intention of this blog post is to initiate the thought of posture and provide some quick exercises that DPT students can use throughout their day. As future clinicians, we are role models to many of our patients, so it is important that we recognize our own posture and work to preserve good body mechanics within ourselves in order to have long-lasting careers and fully help our patients.

I couldn’t sleep after seeing my poor posture! So, I set out the next day to find ways to correct and maintain posture and decided to share them with you all. In this blog post, I interviewed Dr. Alice Davis, an expert on the spine, and fellow first year DPT student, Sarah Spivey, a certified pilates instructor since 2007, to provide some tricks on improving posture!

 

Question and Answer Interview with Dr. Alice Davis

Q: Often our posture is poor in class, we tend to slump over to write down our notes, what are some cues we can use in class to correct this?

A: Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and use the back of the chair to support you. You are becoming kinesthetically aware of your body in space as PT students, so try to be aware of the weight on your ischial tuberosities as you sit. Try to make each ischial tuberosity level. The overuse of repetitive poor posture is what creates problems over time, so start to realize your body position while you sit in class.

Q: While we sit in class it feels like we roll our shoulders forward and lean forward to pay closer attention or write on our devices, what are some cues to get those shoulders back with a neutral head?

A: Because you are sitting at computers for most of the days, you tend to have some upper cervical extension and increased flexion in the lower cervical spine. Imagine there is a rope going straight through your head and down to your seat, try to make that rope as straight as possible. A quick exercise you can do in class is move your shoulders up an inch, back an inch, and down an inch, then hold this for ten seconds, and relax. Try to do 10 reps for 10 seconds of this exercise.

Q: For the anatomy nerds out there, what are some of the muscles that are affected by this forward leaning posture/slumped position?

A: The upper cervical spine is extended in this forward posture position. Suboccipitals are a major component in this and often called the headache muscles because it can result in cervicogenic headache. A cervicogenic headache is when the pain begins in the back of the neck first before it goes up to the skull. This can be posture and stress related. Other muscles that play into extensor moment of the upper-cervical spine are the splenius and semispinalis muscles.

Q: Is there any other tips and tricks we can use in the classroom and out of the classroom to help with posture?

A:  

  • Foam rollers are great! You can put the foam roller vertically along your spine with the head and sacrum supported. Using your arms, do some snow angels for pectoralis major and minor.
  • If you are feeling uncomfortable and wiggly, your body is telling you to move – get up and move around.
  • Do something during lunch time. Eating is important, but try not to study if you don’t have to. Give 30 minutes during lunch for your body and mind.
  • Breathing is important. Moving the body and getting the diaphragm to move through breathing helps those muscles that support the thorax. Watch your breathing pattern, especially when you are stressed. Try to do some slow inhales and exhales.
  • Try a simple nodding of your head, as if you’re saying yes. This lengthens the longus colli and capitis muscles that can help with postural support. You can even do this when you’re driving! Rest your occiput on the headrest and perform a little nod. Try to hold the nod for 10 seconds with 10 repetitions.

 

Here are some techniques and exercises for managing posture in graduate school (or any career environment!) brought to you by our very own DPT first year, Sarah Spivey!

 

Sit on deflated Gertie ball.

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This will allow you to sit up on your ischial tuberosities (IT) to encourage a more natural lordotic curve while also eliminating the pressure on the ITs. By sitting on a relatively unstable surface you will also increase the use of your postural stabilizers. Try to incorporate five minutes per hour of sitting.

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Another technique is to use the Gertie ball between your lumbar spine and your chair. Find your ideal posture by allowing yourself to slump in your chair. Now, move into a full anterior tilt of your pelvis until you feel pressure in your lower back. Now, ease off until you feel the pressure disappear. Scoot back toward the back of your chair and place the ball at the level of the lumbar spine. The ball will help you maintain your neutral posture during sitting.

Head nods/nose circles on Gertie ball.

Lie in supine on a firm surface. Bend your knees and place your feet at the distance of your ASIS. Allow your sacrum to feel heavy and equally distributed on the floor/mat. Take a few breaths and notice if you have excessive space between your thoracic spine and the floor. If so, on an exhale, allow your t-spine to sink toward the floor. This should limit any rib flare. Place a 1/3 – ½ inflated Gertie ball (or folded towel) under your head. You should feel pressure evenly distributed near your occipital protuberance – this will insure you are lengthening your cervical extensors (especially for those of use with a forward head!). Take a few breaths and allow your head to feel heavy on the ball. Imagine a one-inch line on the ceiling and slowly trace this line down with your nose. Return to your starting position making sure to avoid moving into extension. Repeat this 8-10 times. Now draw slow circles with your nose around your one-inch line. Keep your circles small and controlled. Perform 6-8 in each direction.

Wall sit pelvic curls.

While sitting in class, if you start to feel your low back tighten up, try this stretch! Stand against a wall with your feet about 12 inches in front of the wall and hip distance apart. Try to feel contact of your sacrum, rib cage and the back of your head on the wall. You should have a very small space between your lumbar spine and the wall. As you exhale, draw your abdominals in and curl your pubic bone up toward your nose. You should feel your lumbar spine flatter against the wall. As you inhale, slowly allow your ischial tuberosities to widen until you are back in a neutral position. Repeat 10-12 times.

 Seated neck stretch – sitting on hand.

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Feeling tension in your neck during class? Scoot forward so your back is away from the chair and sit tall on your ischial tuberosities. Imagine lengthening your cervical spine and then gently tuck your chin toward your chest. Try not to flex your cervical spine! Now allow one ear to fall toward your shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the opposite side. If you would like to increase your stretch, you can sit on the hand of the side you are stretching. For example, if you are feeling the stretch on the right side, sit on your right hand. This will bring your shoulder down and away from your ear.

 

Overall, I hope  this post helped you become more aware of how important it is that we practice good posture while in school, or with any lifestyle! Do you have favorite exercises or tips to remind you to practice posture? Feel free to share with us in a comment below!

Finals Week: A Beautiful Struggle

It’s that time of the year again…

No, we’re not talking about the holidays.

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

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

  1. …but first, Practicals Week

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

  1. Review Sessions

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

  1. Finals Week Schedules

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

  1. Work-Life Balance

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

  1. The Triumph of Completing a Semester of PT School

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

– Courtney Backward

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

 

Video Credit: Janki Patel

 

DPT School Nutrition: 4 Ways to Eat Healthy

Name: Janki Patel, Class of 2020
Hometown: Fremont, CA
Undergrad: University of California, Davis
Fun Fact: I hiked a 14er (Mount Democrat) for the first time…three days after moving from the Bay Area’s sea level.
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If you are currently enrolled in physical therapy (PT) school, or attended in your past, you can probably identify with the struggle of eating healthy, stress eating, and forgetting exercise. With one exam after another, I’ve found myself eating one snack after another. And by snack, I mean chocolate-covered espresso beans, chocolate-covered almonds, and chocolate-covered pretzels. Anytime anyone mentions “free food,” my ears perk up, eyes widen, and I suddenly feel as if I’ve been starving for centuries, instantly questioning “Where?! When?!” And, when I do finally find the time and energy to go grocery shopping, I think to myself, “I’m going to get a ton of vegetables, fruits, and healthy foods only.” Yet, I end up walking out with a handful of unhealthy items, which I justify by all the vegetables and fruits I just filled my cart with (it’s all about balance, right?!). Days later, I find myself eating all those unhealthy items first though, while the vegetables and fruits start going bad. And with more stress, I seek out the fatty, carbohydrate-heavy, sugar-loaded foods for comfort and relief. When I talk to classmates, I find many are in the same boat. It’s almost as if we could use a class about how to consistently eat healthy while in PT school…or maybe just a blog post!

We already learned that nutritious foods are better fuel sources for our brains and bodies, leading to improved energy, clearer minds, and overall better productivity. Ensuring proper nutrition takes self-discipline and motivation. Once you make it part of your everyday though, you won’t even have to think twice about it. Just like driving a car or riding a bike or remembering the direction of roll and glide for the convex-on-concave rule of arthrokinematics. It’s simply a matter of training the brain, or neuroplasticity, if you will.

1. Mindfulness

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Photo Credit: Mindfulness Words

 

Take the time to really listen to your body and thoughts in the present moment. When you find yourself reaching for a snack, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry. Is your stomach really rumbling? When was the last time you ate? If the answer is “no” and “just a half hour ago,” then try opting for a drink of water or a piece of gum to chew instead. If you start deeply craving food, ask yourself where that craving is stemming from. What’s really causing it? Hunger? Or, stress and anxiety? If it’s stress or anxiety, then first acknowledge that the true cause of your feeling is stress or anxiety. But, don’t let that acknowledgement stress you out more. Take a minute to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, rather than running to the cafeteria or kitchen. Try to then relieve the craving by simply changing your position (sitting up straighter, getting up and taking a quick walk, or stretching) or environment. I find that every time I study on the dining room table, I end up grabbing a snack shortly after I start, or I sit with one to begin with so I don’t have to get up later. With the kitchen so close by, there’s little time between my thought and action. Choose a study spot away from food sources so that you’re given more time to think twice about any craving that occurs and prevent yourself from fulfilling it.

Find more activities to relieve cravings in the moment as well, whether it’s having quick play time with your pet, reading a short article (PT in Motion has great ones!), or talking to a family member or friend for a few minutes. Essentially, we want to train the brain to think “this is my cue to grab water, take a walk, or talk to someone” instead of “this is my cue to eat” whenever it receives the signal of a craving or desire to eat that really stems from stress or anxiety rather than hunger.

2. Commit to a List

Photo Credit: Grocery List

 

This is one of my biggest challenges. I always have a few items in mind that I need to get from the grocery store, but the rest of the items in my cart end up being in-the-moment purchases. Make a solid grocery list beforehand and commit to sticking with it by grabbing only the items you need. One way to do this is to first find healthy recipes and then creating a grocery list from the ingredients. For example, I’m subscribed to New York Times Cooking, which sends me daily emails of recipes. I choose and bookmark a few healthy ones every day so that by the end of the week, I have a list of ingredients for my weekend grocery shopping trip (as well as recipes to cook for next week then!). You can go paper-and-pen style or use an app on your phone to keep track of your list.

Another way is to commit to a 5-5-5 rule. Include 5 vegetables, 5 fruits, and 5 protein items on your list every time you make a trip to the grocery store (or any other area, such as fiber or a specific vitamin, that you may not get enough of). Depending on when your next trip will be though, you may have to increase these numbers. Think of your grocery list as being a grading rubric for a class assignment or a list of topics on an exam. Just as you would ensure to cover all required items for your clinical skills check or anatomy exam, and not a single more item than you have to, commit to ensuring you cover all the items on your list, and not more, for groceries as well.

3. Avoid Justifying Unhealthy Items for Costing Less

Photo Credit: Money Fork

I know we’re all “balling on a budget,” but try to not let that be a reason you start compromising healthy foods for less nutritious ones. Order that avocado for the extra 50 cents. Don’t order that whipped cream on the frappachino simply because it comes at the same price without it. If you’re like me and are easily lured by sale items at the grocery store (who doesn’t like buy one, get one free items?!), try to take more time to practice the previous points of being mindful and committing to a list. It’s easy to fall into marketing schemes since sales make “sense” that we would be saving money. However, it does not make “sense” to feed our brains and bodies with foods that have little to no nutritious value.

This goes for restaurants as well, especially if you don’t cook at home or buy groceries often. Think back to the 5-5-5 rule when ordering still: did you have vegetables, fruits, or protein today? Create and commit to a list and find items on the menu that incorporate this “grocery list.” We’re actually lucky that our bodies already give us a grocery list of items they need for optimal functioning: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water, etc. Seek the specifics your body truly needs on the menu, just as you would seek keywords in multiple choice options on an exam question to know it’s the correct answer.

4. And Of Course, Don’t Forget to Exercise!

Photo Credit: Time for Fitness

 

This last point is more of a reminder to exercise regularly. The benefits of exercise are endless. Schedule it into your calendar as if it were a mandatory class. Additionally, any time you start to feel your energy levels plunge, try exercising rather than reaching for energy bars or sugary foods for a boost, even if it’s simply 10 minutes. If you’re in class and a craving or energy lull hits, try seated calf raises under your desk, flexing and extending your toes in your shoes, or flexing and extending your fingers and hands (set a frequency too!). Again, it’s about creating a healthy response when your brain gets these signals.

We know exercise can cause physiological changes in more than just our muscles, specifically in our metabolic pathways. Keep moving regularly and solidifying healthy eating habits and it’ll soon feel like you never had a struggle with healthy eating, stress eating, or forgetting exercise. You won’t even have to think twice about it. Just like driving a car or riding a bike or remembering the direction of roll and glide for the convex-on-concave rule of arthrokinematics. It’s simply a matter of training the brain, or neuroplasticity, if you will…these are my foods for thought. Happy nutritious eating!

What to Do When You Get Into PT School

 Name: Davis Ngo, Class of 2020!
Undergrad: 
University of California, San Diego
Hometown: 
San Jose, CA
Fun Fact:
My favorite animals are manatees because they’re just the chillest.11071038_10204929466588479_4501112845883243502_o.jpg

You’ve gotten into PT school! Now What?

This is it. You’ve done it. You were accepted into Regis University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

It makes sense you got into a few of your other top schools as well (who knew having choices could be so stressful?!). But now you’ve done the research, toured campuses, spoke to all pertinent parties, and finally you’ve come to your decision. A bit anticlimactic, don’t you think? The countless hours of hard work, stress, and uncertainty that lead up this pivotal moment…Funny that the culmination of all this—and the decision that would shape the course of your next 3 years (not to mention the rest of your life)—could come down to just a couple of mouse clicks.

Click.

Click.

Deep breath. What next?

Step 1: Take a moment.

There is no elaborate display, no grandiose announcement, no surprise party.

Just those tiny triumphant mouse clicks (and a hefty hole in your bank account from the deposit).

Anticlimactic? Perhaps. Fitting? Definitely.

You are the reason you’ve gotten this far. You are the one who accomplished all of this. YOU did this—it only makes sense that you get to experience this minuscule moment— all on your own.

You’ve been accepted by one of the finest DPT programs in the nation, and with your click-click of intent you’ve officially committed yourself to a fulfilling and rewarding life of service and learning in the field of physical therapy. The veil of uncertainty cast over your future has been lifted and you know exactly where you’re going to be. Take a moment to think back at all you’ve accomplished: anticlimax aside, this surely was no small feat.

You are intelligent. You are well-rounded. You are hard-working. You are determined and resilient and strong. You are exceptional. You are kind.

This is your moment. You deserve this.

Step 2: TREAT. YO. SELF.

After you’re done patting yourself on the back, here comes the time we’ve all been waiting for… In the immortal words of Tom Haverford, TREAT YOSELF!

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Take yourself shopping. Buy yourself a drink. Go on your favorite adventure. Eat your favorite meal. Take yourself to a movie. Sit in and binge watch your favorite show and, when you’ve finished that, binge watch another. Spend time with your loved ones. Have them shower you with compliments. Buy that thing you’ve always wanted to buy. Do the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Have that cake, and eat it too. At this point you might be thinking: do I really NEED all that? The answer is TREAT YOSELF. YOU ARE AMAZING.

How did I treat myself? One of the first things I did was go on the Patagucci website and buy myself an overpriced, super gaudy fleece. I call it my “treat myself” sweater, and I love it.

After that, I took some time to travel the East Coast (I had never been). I ate, drank, and danced my way around the major cities there, and experienced my first “real” winter ever. It was awful, and beautiful, and just the grandest adventure.

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Brooklyn Bridge!

I came home and decided that I wanted to spend the months before school doing the things I love most: mainly climbing, adventuring, traveling, and being with my loved ones. I put in my two weeks notice at the physical therapy clinic and hit the road.

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Soaking up the sunshine in the Mammoth, CA hot springs.

In the weeks that followed, I spent much of my time climbing and soaking up the Eastern Sierra sun in my favorite place on Earth: Bishop, California. I even got to met up with fellow DPT Class of 2020 student, Annie Govig, and took her on an adventure out in the mountains!

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Met up with Annie Govig on her spring break road trip!

I was lucky to be able to save my money while living at home so that I could take this time off. I also specifically planned to work hard during the application period so I could play hard. If you don’t have this luxury of time, I still hope you find a way to treat yoself. It only takes a few seconds to buy yourself a treat yoself sweater. That cake is just a trip to the store away. Treat. Yo. Self.

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Step 3: Back to business.

Alright, alright. We knew it couldn’t all just be fun and games. You’ve got business to attend to.

By now, you should’ve received an email (or several) from Regis Compliance with detailed information on your list of compliance tasks (shots and immunizations, background check, CPR requirement, etc). These things are important and must be done or in progress before your start date, so get started early! Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time as long as you stay on top of it.

This is also a good time to think about your financial situation and figure out how you’ll be paying for your time at Regis. Look into applying for financial aid, research loan options, calculate your budget and cost of living, etc. It’s best to stay well-informed and have some sort of budget in mind before jumping into the world of grad school loans; start thinking and planning now!

Finally, it might be a good time to start thinking about your upcoming living situation. Do you want roommates, or do you like having your own space? Where in Denver do you want to live? For those coming from out-of-state, the process of finding proper accommodations remotely may be daunting and difficult, so try to get started early to get your bearings.

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Step 4: Freak out…But only a little!

“Wait, but I’ve never lived outside of California before. What will it be like to leave my home and my comfort zone? Wait, where are my immunization records? A CPR class costs how much? Do I REALLY need a new laptop and iPad? Holy moly how much money am I going to have to borrow? I haven’t been in school full time for years; am I even ready for this? Where am I going to live? How do I find a place close to school that is also nice that is also cheap and also has great roommates? Oh my goodness; there are only six weeks left before I leave. What about all the things I wanted to do? Who will I be able to see before I leave? How will I get all this done in time? Am I just going to live out of my car? Will I even have friends? AHHHHHHHH!”

It’s okay! Cálmate! Tranquilo! Take a deep breath! It’s okay to freak out a little. Lots of big changes are about to happen and it’s natural to be anxious. Try not to stress too much, though. I know it all may seem a bit overwhelming, but try and take things as they come.

Get things done slowly, one thing at a time. Remember that you now have a whole new support system at your disposal. The counselors and administrators at Regis University are there to help you, so don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions you may have. You also have a whole list of classmates, entering and current, who are eager to help so reach out to them as well! You are not alone in this.

You’ll be okay. I promise.

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Step 5: Breathe, relax, and GET PSYCHED!

You’re about to begin a rigorous academic journey that will eventually lead you to the rest of your career in physical therapy. Soon you’ll be in school full time, five days a week—not to mention the hours spent practicing and studying outside of class and lab.

So, be kind to yourself. This is your time to relax. To breathe. To fully enjoy the calm and the free time you have before becoming a full time graduate student.

Go soak in the sweet sunshine of your last summer. Go play hard and be joyous. Spend quality time with your family and friends. Daydream about the future. Think of all the beautiful and wonderful new opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead. Connect with your new classmates. Be happy for yourself. Get psyched.

This is the beginning of the rest of your life. 

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5 Ways to Impress During Your Practical Exams

 

Name: Abbey Ferguson, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Westmont College, CA
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Fun Fact: I absolutely love to dance! If any of you out there are dancers in need of a new dance studio here in Denver, I can definitely hook you up!

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Lab practicals are often the most terrifying and anxiety-provoking parts of physical therapy school. It is the chance for you to show your skills as a developing clinician in the most realistic setting possible, and they’re some of the only opportunities we get to practice being in the clinic before we get there. As a student who has only been in PT school for two semesters, I especially feel this weight due to our lack of clinical experience so far. However, while it may sound daunting, I have grown to love practical exams. As crazy as it sounds, I find it exciting to walk out of an interaction with a faculty member and feel like I could possibly interact with a real patient in a professional and capable way. While it took me a few exams to get there, I think I have found some ways that have made the tests manageable and exciting rather than threatening. I hope that these tips help, and always feel free to email me if you have more questions!

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We finished our first year of PT school! Class of 2019 Cinco De Mayo party

 

  1. Take deep breaths.

Prior to taking a practical exam, you will be given a time slot and an assigned room where you will perform your skill for a faculty grader. These time allotments begin at relatively short periods of 20-40 minutes, but as you take more classes, these can last for up to an hour or more. I’ve found that, to calm myself down before entering the exam room, taking the time to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths to simply slow my heart rate and clear my head is extremely helpful. For some reason, many of us students all cluster outside the rooms before our assigned times and stress each other out about the unknowns of the exam, and this not only invokes fear, but it makes us question our own abilities that we have developed. By simply pausing for a couple seconds before entering the room, I am able to remind myself that I am capable enough to perform well.

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Sky Pond hike with my classmates

 

  1. Speak slowly and confidently.

As you enter the exam room you are often given a case study or a patient problem to solve, and you only have a few moments to think through a solution and then employ your plan of care. This rushed feeling can lead to stumbling over words and key phrases that need to be communicated with the grader to show them you have reasonable rationale behind your interventions. What I often do is continue to take deep breaths and think through exactly what I am going to say prior to saying it. A skill I learned when I was in high school drama class was to speak my lines in a ridiculously slow manner. While the words sounded incredibly slow to my anxious brain, what was actually communicated to the audience was a line that in a normal, even pace. Because our brains are trying to process so much at once, by consciously thinking about slowing down words and thoughts, it can come across to the grader that you are confident in what you are saying. By instilling confidence in your grader, you are much more likely to get positive reviews. You have the knowledge from the classes to perform the skill well, so show them that you believe in yourself!

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At our Welcome BBQ the first weekend, I met my twin, Sari!

  1. Mental AND Physical Rehearsal.

I am the kind of student who does not love to practice the same skill over and over again prior to an exam. It often becomes monotonous and boring, and I feel like I start making new mistakes every time I practice. HOWEVER, I am convinced that the more you physically practice, the more automatic the skill becomes, and the less likely you are to fumble through your skill during the exam. As reluctant as I was to practice, I was very fortunate to have fellow students who convinced me that practicing was vital to performing well, and I believe it made a difference during the exams. But this does not mean that mental practice can not be helpful as well. I found that by taking the time to sit with the material and rehearse in my head what I would say and do during the skill, I was still able to feel more confident than if I had done no sort of practice once I entered the exam. These skills can feel tedious, but I think that is the point of physical therapy school! As the skills become automatic (after they are practiced correctly), we can be more confident in a clinical setting that the interventions we are performing are done well and will benefit our patients.

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My first 14er, Mt. Bierstadt!

  1. See your grader as a human, not an intimidating figure.

Perhaps it is just because I haven’t been in graduate school for that long, but I was honestly scared of my graders prior to actually being in a practical exam. Performing skills in front of experienced clinicians can be intimidating, and it becomes easy to expect them to be hyper-critical and harsh. But this misconception was debunked fairly quickly. Yes, our graders and professors are incredibly smart and know what they are doing, but they are also humans who believe in you and want you to do your best. By entering an exam setting with the mindset that your grader is there to support you and make you the best PT you can be, the fear and anxiety will be eased.

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Move Forward 5K

  1. Believe in yourself.

Confidence and believing in yourself may seem intuitive, but it really can make the difference when you are entering the exams. I know I tend to get pretty down on myself when it seems like an overwhelming amount of information is being thrown at us. However, I have realized I must have confidence in my program and professors that they have taught me well and I am prepared to show my skills in a practical exam. If you have practiced, studied, and listened in class, you know what you need to know to excel, and you can trust in yourself and in your abilities.

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Rocking our 90’s cartoon costumes for the annual Halloween contest

While these tips don’t stop my pits from sweating profusely prior to a practical, they have helped me get excited for the opportunity to show off what I have been trained to do. It keeps me from becoming overwhelmed and allows me to perform as best as I can, which is all I can really ask of myself. You will all be successful, and I’m sure you will find more strategies to add to this short list of how to survive practical exams. When you discover new things that help you, let me know, because I will always take the extra help:)

Email: aferguson002@regis.edu

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Weekend break at Grizzly Rose for some line dancing!

 

The Best Loss I’ve Ever Had

Blogger Katie Ragle, Class of 2018, writes about her experience at the National Student Conclave held in Miami, Florida over the October 27-29th weekend.  

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Let me tell you about my trip to Miami.

It all started with an email from a fellow Regis student that read, “Hey Katie! I just tagged you in a Twitter post about the Student Assembly Board of Directors. Take a look at the application :). Deadline 7/1.” This began my journey into a passion for the APTA. But first, a history lesson:

If you are a PT or PTA student and an APTA member, then you are in the Student Assembly. There are around 29,000 of us, and we’re all led by a board of 10 people—the Student Assembly Board of Directors (SABoD). This board is comprised of positions such as president, vice president, and other director positions that help to make the student APTA experience a great one.

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That aforementioned email referred to the Director of Communications position on the SABoD. This person creates content to engage the Student Assembly through emails, social media, and videos. You may not realize it, but you receive emails from the Director of Communications on a regular basis.

As a broadcasting major with a minor in editing and publishing, this position was right up my alley. After I was encouraged to apply, I decided that I wanted this position to get more involved in the APTA and to use my talents to further the profession of physical therapy by engaging students from across the county.

After an application and a Skype interview, I was chosen to run alongside three other candidates for the Director of Communications. The election occurs every year at the National Student Conclave (NSC), which is the annual national APTA meeting that is just for students. Two weeks ago, I packed my suitcase and headed to Miami for the final election.

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The Regis representation at NSC.  I’m so glad they were there!

I arrived in Miami with nearly 1,000 PT and PTA students from around the country who gathered to learn how to be better practitioners and how to advocate for our profession. I was immediately blown away by the amount of enthusiasm and support for our field. Everyone eagerly engaged in meaningful conversations about their program and what they’re doing for the field of PT. Rather than simply clustering together with individuals from their schools, people branched out and met students from around the country. The excitement was palpable!

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These are the incredible candidates I got to interact with all weekend.

Little did I know that I would receive a ribbon that read “Candidate” all weekend so that people could ask me about my slated position. I had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people in my field! These people inspired me to not only be the best PT that I can be, but also to advocate for our profession and to represent it well. The speakers empowered us with knowledge in entertaining ways and generated passion for the field.

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This is one of my new friends, Alicia from MA

But more than passively attending, I got to actively participate in the conference. I participated in focus groups on how to make communication within the APTA better. I introduced a few speakers before their talks, and I met with the leaders of the Student Assembly to discuss the future of the organization. I also got to meet the president of the APTA, Dr. Sharon Dunn. She held an open Q&A for students to ask her any questions they had. She is both incredibly intelligent and personable. The APTA is fortunate to have her!

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APTA President, Dr. Sharon Dunn, gave all of us candidates a pep talk.

Did I win the election? No. Am I upset? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t trade my experience at NSC for anything. I made connections that will last a lifetime. This conference opened doors that I otherwise would have never been able to encounter. I still receive emails and messages from other students and professionals asking to keep in touch and encouraging future connection at upcoming APTA events. Best of all, NSC lit a fire within me for my future profession and for the organization that represents us so well.

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This is the amazing group of individuals with whom I ran for Director of Communications.  The one standing next to me (second from the left) was elected to the position.  His name is Cruz, and he will do great things for the Student Assembly!

In a future post, I will share some of the tips I learned at NSC about how to get plugged into the APTA;  for now, think about attending NSC 2017. It’s in Portland, Oregon, so how can you turn it down? You won’t regret it. We are the future of PT. Let’s be the best that we can be!

aptayay2.pngFollow NSC’s twitter to start counting down to next year!

Counting down to more blog posts…

The school year has ramped up!  Our Class of 2019 just finished their first set of exams, the Class of 2018 is finishing their last week of clinicals, and the Class of 2017 is preparing for their third clinical rotation next week.

Along with that, the blog committee has new members and we’re excited to begin posting for the 2016-2017 school year!

Check out our website tomorrow to hear from Kelsie Jordan, our first Class of 2019 featured blogger.

Flat Stanley Goes to Clinical

Name: Nicole Darragh, Class of 2017

Hometown: Columbus, OH

Undergrad: Regis University

Fun Fact: I think kale is totally overrated.

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The Class of 2017 recently returned from their second clinical rotations with a plethora of new knowledge and stories to share.  Some students even had a visitor along the way: Flat Stanley.  Flat Stanley is a small paper figurine that keeps students connected outside of the classroom.  Students take a photo of Flat Stanley completing an activity, learning a new technique, or going to a cool new location, and share those photos with their classmates through social media.  This helped us learn a little bit about each rotation, and keep in touch with our classmates.

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Pictured: Sarah Campbell ’17 with Flat Stanley on her first day of clinical (PC: Sarah Campbell)

Flat Stanley traveled to a wide variety of locations across the country including California, Wyoming, Kentucky, and even Alaska!  Along the way, Flat Stanley learned new documentation systems, new techniques in the clinics, and went on a lot of hikes.  Really, what Flat Stanley is trying to tell you is that while you’re on your clinical rotation, don’t forget to take the time to explore your new surroundings!

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Flat Stanley reviews Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) while at clinic in Chico, CA (PC: Adam Engelsgjerd)

 

Clinical rotations work in a variety of ways.  The first is the lottery option; students choose ten clinical sites from a large list compiled by the clinical education faculty, and rank them in order from 1-10.  Once the lottery is generated, students are placed at a site.  The second is the first come, first serve option; students can choose a site before the lottery begins that they are particularly interested in, and request to be placed at that site before it is taken.  The third is the set-up option: students are allowed to contact a clinical site that is not affiliated with Regis and set up a clinical rotation with them if they are interested.  When rotations get closer, you’ll learn more specifics about how they work, requirements, etc.

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Flat Stanley’s meet up at Devil’s Tower outside of Gillette, WY (PC: Amanda Morrow)

 

Throughout the clinical process, it is important to know that you might not always end up in Denver, and you’ll have to try something new!  Wherever you do end up, make sure to enjoy your free time.  Clinical can sometimes be very overwhelming, and it is crucial to take time for yourself, whether that be exploring your new surroundings, trying a local restaurant, or binging on Netflix.  And if the thought of being gone for six, eight, or twelve weeks scares you a little, all of us will tell you that the time flies by so quickly.  There isn’t much time to be bored!

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Flat Stanley goes sandboarding in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado (PC: Lauren Hill)

 

If you have any further questions about clinical rotations–or other places Flat Stanley and/or students traveled–please feel free to contact me at darra608@regis.edu!  Also, I would recommend reading the post below called “Class of 2017 DPT Student Lindsay Mayors Reflects on Her Clinical Rotation.” (https://regisdpt.org/2016/05/27/class-of-2017-dpt-student-lindsay-mayors-reflects-on-her-clinical-rotation/)

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Flat Stanley helps out with some end-of-the-day documentation (PC: Amy Medlock)

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Flat Stanley enjoying a nice Moscow Mule after a long week at clinical (PC: Amy Medlock)

 

 

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Flat Stanley joins Lauren Hill and Jenna Carlson to run the Bolder Boulder race (PC: Lauren Hill)

Cover PC: David Cummins, Class of 2019

 

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

Name: Zach Taillie, Class of 2018

Hometown: Phoenix, NY

Undergrad: SUNY Cortland

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

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

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

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

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

How to Have Fun in PT School

Name: Connor Longacre, Class of 2018

Undergrad: Colorado State University

Hometown: Wyomissing, PA

Fun Fact: I am a huge of soccer, though I haven’t formally played since I was 11.

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“It’s fun to have fun but you have to know how.” (Dr. Seuss, DPT)

Many of you reading this may think of the classroom as a no-nonsense place of learning. Those who distract others with joking and laughter are often unwelcome in such environments.

Hear me out, though.

If, in my time as a Student Physical Therapist, I choose to spend every hour of class, every day, for three years, as a solemn study machine, then what do I expect my career after PT school to look like? I would probably know as much as the dictionary, with the interpersonal skills of … well, a dictionary. Don’t get me wrong. School is serious. Working with patients is serious. Physical therapists must know how to be professional and serious. However, having fun is also an essential part of being a PT. From becoming friendly with our patients to creating engaging ways to make exercises more enjoyable, there is an occupational requirement to be fun-loving, which is why fun belongs in the classroom.

So, how does Regis University put the “fun” back in the fundamentals? Long story short, it doesn’t. All the university can do is give us (the students) time, space, and some freedom. It is not the professor’s job to bring in a beach ball or play funny YouTube videos. Adding the element of fun to academia is the sole responsibility of the student. When done well, it can be seamless—and even educational.

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At the risk of sounding as arrogant as I probably am, I’ve included some tips on how even you can have fun in the classroom:

  1. Learn to love where you are. If you’re in PT school, then the prospect of learning about PT things should be pretty darn exciting. Stay excited. Stay motivated. Learn to dwell on the details like they are the difference between being a good PT and a great PT (because they are).
  2. Find time to unwind. Everyone’s brain candle burns at a different speed. Some people can sit in class for 8 hours attentively, but when they get home, they’re spent. Other students may need to get up and walk around every hour, maybe chit-chat a little between lectures, but will buckle down during independent study. Give your brain time to rest.
  3. Get moving. Hours on hours of lectures can put you into a comatose-like state. Get up and walk around when given the chance. Personally, I like to kick a soccer ball around at breaks.
  4. Finally, get to know those lovely people you call classmates. Play intramural sports, go out to a brewery, maybe even hit a weekend camping trip. Warning: spending time with people may lead to smiling, laughing, inside jokes, and friendships. Friends make class fun.

There you have it, folks, a helpful-ish guide on how to have fun in PT School.

*Shoot, I should have added “write blog post” to the list of ways to have fun.

 

 

Regis DPT Students Plan the Move Forward 5K/10K

Name: Ryan Bourdo, Class of 2018

Hometown: Corvallis, Oregon

Undergrad: University of Oregon

Fun Fact: I ran a 4K snow shoe race once.

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Race day is always the best. It is the culmination of months of training—immediately followed by the chance to take a well-deserved day, week, or month off from running. The atmosphere is always amazing, too. Everyone is still a little groggy from being up way too early for the weekend, but there is still a palpable excitement; the people next to you on the starting line are instant friends because you all share a common goal: finish the race. And that feeling you get after finishing? Incredible. No matter how tough a race is for me, I am always energetic and talkative afterwards. I have been fortunate enough to run some fun races in the last few years, and I want to bring some of that same excitement to Move Forward.

The Move Forward 5K/10K Race (September 17, 2016) is arguably THE most important event of the year for Regis University’s School of Physical Therapy. I argue this because I am the co-director of the race this year, and this is my blog post. Move Forward is a special event for me. It is a chance to help my school share what we know to be the best ways to live healthy lives. I firmly believe anyone can complete a 5K with practice, motivation, and a little help if needed. More than anything, what I want for people to get out of Move Forward this year is to have a good time and learn a little about taking care of themselves.

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Some of the Class of 2018 after the 2015 Move Forward Race

The idea behind this event is to get people to think about their health, get moving, and live better. For those already signed up, make sure to get to the race early to get your grab bags! We will have bagels, bananas, and coffee for those needing an extra boost in the morning. Several of our classmates will also lead group stretching as well. And then we are off! Music will be blaring, water stations will be flowing, people will be cheering. Whether you are running or walking, we will make sure you have a good time. Make sure to stay after the race, too, because we are planning a lot of post-race greatness. Not only will we have burgers, hot dogs, and beer (not the healthiest, we know, but you deserve it) but we are planning a lot of activities, as well. Informational booths will be there to help guide you in taking care of yourself through exercise, nutrition, and general wellness. We also hope to have some yoga and/or Zumba classes after the race. And, because we want this to be a family event, we are looking for fun activities for kids, tool. Check out our website for updates as our race schedule finalizes: https://moveforward5k10k.racedirector.com.

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Not only will this race be a great way to learn about how to stay healthy, but all of the proceeds will go to Canine for Companions and the Foundation for Physical Therapy. Canine for Companions is especially meaningful to us at Regis because we have an annual team of students that assists in raising a dog before it starts training to become a fully-fledged service dog. The Foundation for Physical Therapy is also a great cause; it helps support research in physical therapy. If you have not signed up for the race yet and I have thoroughly convinced you of how awesome this event will be, you can register here: https://moveforward5k10k.racedirector.com/registration-1.

Again, the race will be held on September 17, 2016 and begins at 9:00am.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me directly at rbourdo@regis.edu.

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Many Ryans running

Ryan Bourdo graduated The University of Oregon with B.S. Degrees in Biology and Human Physiology in 2010. Originally thinking of medical school (never mind the fact that medical school rejected him twice), he soon fell in love with physical therapy, thanks to an amazing therapist in Portland, Vince Blaney, MSPT. Vince showed him everything he originally wanted to be as a physician: using anatomy and physiology to help those with injuries. He soon worked as a physical therapist aide for two years and is currently at Regis University completing a Doctor of Physical Therapy. In his free time, Ryan likes to run, hike, and cook. You can find Ryan at www.ryanbourdo.com, or on Twitter @RyanBourdo

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The Physical Therapy Outcomes Registry

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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.

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Data… I love it! As a former engineer who analyzed a lot of data in my pre-PT life, I find it fascinating to see how lots of tiny bits of information, combined together, can provide us with a more comprehensive picture.

The PT Outcomes Registry is one of APTA’s current projects to create a centralized database for outcome data. The idea is to track a set of prioritized outcome measures (currently there are nine outcomes, but this may expand) across the country. Clinicians perform the outcome assessment with the patient at the initial evaluation and again at discharge to measure the patient’s progress and then input the information into the computerized system. The PT Outcomes Registry then compiles the data from all practitioners so that practitioners can see how they measure against a benchmark of other providers.

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Timeline

The program is still in its pilot phase with 216 enrolled users (currently all practicing PTs, no PTAs) at 25 organizations. The most recent development is to include residents and fellows to compare their outcomes both during their residency/fellowship and again afterward to see how their outcomes change with time and experience. Later this year, APTA will collect feedback via user survey of pilot users regarding usability, pros/cons, glitches, and so forth. The team at APTA will then incorporate this feedback into the PT Outcomes Registry system.

The Registry will officially launch at the beginning of 2017, at which time any clinical site will be able to join. Clinicians will pay to enroll in the program, which will give them access to the aggregated data to see how their practice stacks up against national benchmarks. The service will not be limited to APTA members. Karen Chesbrough, the outcomes registry director, states that by the end of 2017 the APTA would love to have 1000 users, with the long-term goal of involving as many clinicians/sites as possible to get as accurate a picture of current practice as possible.

Which types of data are included?

The current outcomes include global measures, such as AM-PAC™ (Activity Measure for Post-Acute Care™), PROMIS (Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System), and OPTIMAL (Outpatient Physical Therapy Improvement in Movement Assessment Log). There are also regional/body-specific outcome measures such as NDI and Oswestry. Other data includes clinician profiles, patient demographics, and pain ratings; practitioners have the ability to enter data at treatment visits along with at initial evaluations, reassessment, and discharge. The types of outcomes included are vetted through an independent group of clinicians and academics (including one Canadian!) called the Scientific Advisory Panel.

The Scientific Advisory Panel is working in conjunction with the SIGs (Special Interest Groups) to develop prioritized objective data that the clinician would also collect as part of the PT Outcomes Registry based on the patient’s diagnosis. These modules may be specific to cervical pain or to infant torticollis, for example, and would include relevant ROM or other objective data.

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How does PT Outcomes Registry collect the data?

During the pilot program, enrollees are entering the data manually. Enrolled clinicians—or their clinic’s administrative support personnel—will log in to the system and select different tabs and boxes to enter the data, much like they do for electronic documentation of patient records.

However, manual data collection is time-consuming, so the current push within the project’s development is to build software “bridges” with all of the various EMR (electronic medical records) systems. These bridges would allow a computer program to connect the PT Outcomes Registry with each EMR system to pull the relevant pieces of data into the database. Each type of information (eg KOOS at initial eval, patient age, etc) will have an associated tag in the registry database, and each EMR will tag the same variable in their database so that the computer program will be able to match the data from the patient records to the PT Outcomes Registry. One EMR has already signed on to the project, and APTA is working to get more to participate. This will streamline the process significantly and will likely increase participation as less time and energy will be required for individual clinicians to enter the data by hand.

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What does this mean for clinicians?

Being a part of the PT Outcomes Registry would allow clinicians to see how their practice stacks up against others throughout the country. If a particular clinic performed very favorably within the Registry, it would be able to advertise this fact to patients and to different entities that may want to contract with the clinic. Participation in the PT Outcomes Registry would also enable a clinic to pinpoint how to improve poor performance in a particular area that they may not have previously recognized without the aggregate data.

The PT Outcomes Registry will provide objective information to support the assertion that PT restores function. We can then use this information to demonstrate our value to different organizations, whether that is with a hospital, an insurance organization, or to the general public.

The outcomes registry director also sees this information as eventually being linked to reimbursement. Linking outcomes to reimbursement would continue the trend to move away from fee-for-service and toward a value-based payment structure. A value-based payment structure rewards effective clinical practice, rather than performing treatment units with the highest reimbursement rates. This would be a win-win for evidence-based practitioners, as well as for their patients.

Eventually, with enough data, there is potential for the information to be used for research as well; the Outcomes Registry represents the exciting future of our profession!

PT Outcomes Registry Site | More info from the APTA

 

A Non-Native’s Guide to Colorado’s Summer Playground

Name: Evan Piche, Class of 2018

Hometown: Northampton, MA

Undergrad: Colorado State University

Fun Fact: I once thought I met Danny DeVito in an airport men’s room.

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Congratulations! If you’re reading this, there is a fair chance that you are either (a) my mother, or (b) a member of the incoming Class of 2019. Welcome, and since both parties will be visiting Colorado this summer, I’d like to help get you acquainted with some of the best trails Colorado has to offer. Denver is not, strictly speaking, a mountain town in the same sense as Telluride, Steamboat Springs, and Crested Butte are. We’re kind of out on the plains, straddling two worlds—but that doesn’t mean you’ll be short on options for running, hiking, or biking. We Denverites are fortunate enough to enjoy a wealth of those opportunities for after-school outdoor recreation, and when you have a long weekend and are up for a few hours in the car, the options for adventure are limitless.

With that, I’d like to offer my favorite hiking/trail running and mountain biking destinations in the Denver-metro area and beyond. From backcountry escapes to a quick after-class workout, you’re sure to find something to do this summer. (And, while I was not specifically asked to include this, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not use this opportunity to act as your ambassador to the world of Denver’s breakfast burritos.)

Hiking/Trail Running

School day: when you only have an hour or two after class, these are the places to check out! (15- 20 minutes away)

  • Matthews/Winters – Red Rocks Loop
    • A rolling, rocky 5-7 mile loop with fantastic views of the foothills west of Denver and the world-famous and aptly named Red Rocks Amphitheater.Mathew_Winters

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  • Falcon
    • Hands down the best climb in the Denver area, this trail winds its way up four steep technical miles to the summit of Mount Falcon. From here, either retrace your steps to the parking lot nearly 2,000 feet below or continue on to explore a vast trail network.Mt_Falcon.jpg

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  • Green Mountain, Lakewood
    • A mostly gentle 5-8 mile single track loop featuring the Front Range’s best sunrise and sunset views.Green_Mtn

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Weekend: about a 90-minute drive from Denver

  • Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park
    • A classic RMNP hike; after meandering around the base of Long’s Peak, the trail turns vertical and ends with a fun scramble to Sky Pond amid boulder fields and some of the Park’s most impressive glaciers.Sky_Pond_RMNP

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Long Weekend: 3-5 hours from Denver

  • West Maroon Pass, Aspen to Crested Butte
    • This is considered a rite of passage among Colorado hikers and trail runners. While the towns of Crested Butte and Aspen are separated by one hundred miles of highway, this challenging, backcountry trail connects them so that “only” 10 miles sit between them. Pack a bathing suit (or not) for a dip in Conundrum Hot Springs if you plan to do this trip properly.

cascadedesigns.com/…/hiking-west-maroon-pass-from-aspen-to-crested-butte

Mountain Biking

School day:

  • Lair O’ the Bear 
    • Swoopy, flowing lines, grinding climbs, open meadows, and a breathtaking view of Mount Evans—all less than 30 minutes from Denver. After riding, grab a burger or brew in one of Morrison’s quaint eateries.Lair_of_the_bear

mtbproject.com/trail/703097

  • White Ranch 
    • This is a gem of a park and located only a few miles north of Golden; it offers trails that rival anything in Boulder (after all, you can see the iconic Flatirons from the parking lot) with a fraction of the traffic.White_Ranch

mtbproject.com/trail/632917

  • Apex Mountain Park, Enchanted Forest Trail 
    • Apex is one of Denver’s most well-utilized mountain bike trail networks, and with good reason. The Enchanted Forest descent is not to be missed. Be sure to check the link provided for alternate direction riding restrictions on odd/even days before you go. Bonus: these trails are a blast to ride in the snow after the fat bikers, skiers, and snowshoers do all the dirty work of packing down the snow.Apex_EnchantedF_Forest

mtbproject.com/trail/616137

Weekend:

  • Blue Sky to Indian Summer
    • Regardless of whether you mountain bike or hike (or climb, or paddle, or just enjoy beer), a trip to Fort Collins is always enjoyable. Fort Fun is home to one of the Front Range’s finest fast, flowing mountain bike trails. While options abound for long climbs up to the summit of Horsetooth Mountain Park, the Blue Sky Trail sticks to the lowlands, traversing a spectacular cliff line with scenery reminiscent of your favorite Western movie. Also, New Belgium brewery is not to be missed.

mtbproject.com/…/blue-sky-to-indian-summer

Long Weekend:

  • 401 Trail, Crested Butte, CO
    • Come spring and early summer, the wildflowers on this ultra-classic trail grow to be chest-high. Imagine ripping down 14 miles of high country singletrack, with views of snowcapped mountains disappearing and reappearing as you dive into and out of fields of wildflowers so high and dense as to obscure your line of sight. Be sure to grab tacos at Teocalli Tamale once back in town.401_Trail_CB

mtbproject.com/trail/338027

  • Slickrock Trail, Moab Utah
    • Quite possibly the most famous mountain bike trail in the world—and for good reason. Slickrock offers an other-worldly experience: an ocean of red sandstone surrounds you, with views of the Colorado River far below in the canyon. In the distance, the snowcapped La Sal Mountains dwarf the landscape and offer a stunning contrast to the red, pink, and orange hues of the desert. For après ride fun, check out the Moab Brewery, located right in the center of town—it’s an oasis of alcohol and burgers in an otherwise remarkably dry state.Slickrock

mtbproject.com/trail/158941

Burritos

The breakfast burrito was invented in the kitchen of Tia Sophia’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1975. Since that historic day, it has been possible to eat a burrito for all 3 (or more) meals of the day, a feat now commonly referred to as a “hat trick.” Like most of Denver, the breakfast burrito is not native to Colorado, but found in our city a welcoming home. I am unsure of whether or not Colorado has an “official” state food, but I would nominate the breakfast burrito for that honor.

With the help of acclaimed writer and Denver resident Brendan Leonard, I have assembled the definitive guide to Denver’s Best Breakfast Burritos:

  • Grand Prize: El Taco de Mexico on Santa Fe
  • First Runner Up: Bocaza on 17th Ave.
  • Second Runner Up: Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs
  • Honorable Mention: Illegal Pete’s
  • People’s Choice: Campfire Burritos (food truck)

    author

    Evan is an avid biker, trail runner and climber.  We hope you enjoyed his pictures and guide to an adventurous CO summer!

 

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

 

katie1

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

lindsaystill

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.