How to Pass the NPTE

Name: Carol Passarelli, Class of 2018
Undergrad:
 University of Southern California (fight on)
Hometown: 
Mountain View, CA
Fun Fact: Llamas don’t have fur or hair; it’s called fiber. Pretty cool. Or warm, actually. Depends on the fiber count.

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Wow, does it feel good to write that title and have it be true! Are there countless tips and tricks out there for SPTs looking to conquer the NPTE? Absolutely. Are they as good as my tips? Um, probably. But, hopefully, this will give you some tools to help tackle the important things…like, best snacks for studying (dry ramen), my highlighter color preferences (classic yellow), and (okay, seriously now) how to work with crippling test anxiety.


 

Let’s back up to almost a year ago: the comprehensive exam. Created by faculty as the final, culminating didactic exam before you leave for 6 months of clinical rotations. Most people will say not to worry—you’ve been preparing for this the entire time you’re in PT school! And, for the most part, y’all will do just fine with it.

If you’re like me, hearing that reassurance of success only increases my anxiety. If there is going to be an exception to the high pass rate, then I know it will be me. Yes, that’s right. I had my first bout of panic attacks since undergrad during the 2 weeks prior to the exam—and a giant whopper of an anxiety attack during the first half of the test. But hey, I do well academically…it’ll work out fine, right?

I didn’t pass.

Sure—I retook it the following week and did fine. Do I know exactly why I was so irrationally terrified of that exam? Somewhat, but there are still pieces I’m fitting together. That’s test anxiety, folks.

Flash forward to today: I passed the NPTE with a delightfully solid margin, graduated from an outstanding DPT program (only slightly biased), and am employed in my dream setting and location. Groovy.

I haven’t beat test anxiety, but I found ways to manage it for the biggest exam we have to take as PTs. Here are some tips on how to conquer the NPTE and get closer to being that amazing clinician we are all going to become.


1. Settling is okay

I don’t recommend doing this when you’re looking for your lifetime partner, dream house, or—most importantly—picking your dog, but when it comes to grappling with a beast of an exam, absolutely do this. At the end of the day, if you didn’t hit your quota of pages, didn’t understand the finer intricacies of lymphedema bandaging, or can’t for the life of you remember the side effects of certain medications, my goodness. Just go to bed. Decide to learn just 1 piece of information about each topic. Allow yourself to just know the surface level facts for now. In other words: keep momentum. You don’t need to know everything perfectly.

 

2. Check your emotions at the door

This is key for me and any of you who struggle with test anxiety. For me, knowing that I hadn’t passed the comprehensive exam made my initial month of studying an emotional undertaking. It’s difficult to separate your self-worth from how you perform on tests—particularly in a grueling graduate program. Albeit this is easier said than done; try your hardest, though, to leave any feelings of self-doubt and shame outside the room. It is not shameful to have a setback. Failing does not detract from your self-worth.

Get in your happy head space before opening up the textbook! If I wasn’t in that headspace, I wouldn’t study: I ultimately decided to cultivate my confidence in my test-taking ability over gaining that extra knowledge I could have gotten during those study hours.

 

3. Redefine the word “studying”

This is just a friendly reminder that studying is RAD. We all love to learn, and those of us in a PT program get to learn some of the coolest stuff out there. So why is ‘studying’ associated in my head with ‘nooooooooooo’? This harkens back to #2, but here it is again: the times that studying sucks 100% is when I feel: 1. Guilty for not knowing something I feel like I should know 2. Ashamed that I got a question wrong, or 3. Hungry. Remember how awesome it is to learn, review, and grow as a clinician. Find that gratitude. Eat a snack.

 

4. Don’t do what your classmates do

Classic advice, but the root of it is: we are all different. If you’re like me, then talking about studying strategies with classmates is probably my #1 stress-increaser. I avoided most of my classmates’ study groups and didn’t like to talk about my studying with my CI and my clinic. Also, you do NOT have to study 30 hours a week…but maybe you do! I highly recommend doing some reflecting BEFORE jumping into that meticulous, color-coded study plan you’ve created for yourself to determine what is truly best for you. Oh, and don’t follow someone else’s study plan.

If you read the above and still are curious about study schedule particulars (this post is about ways to pass the NPTE, I guess) I studied about 30-60 minutes before my clinical, 4-5 times a week for 3 months. About a third of this time was used to review previous practice test answers. I took 8 practice tests—yes, this is a lot and yes, this is expensive—because I knew I had to practice being in the test environment more than I had to review content. I know that a couple of my classmates studied intensively for 2-3 weeks and also passed. This really is a choose-your-own-path-follow-your-dreams recommendation.

 

5. Ask. For. Help.

Quite frankly, I wish I had done this more. If you sit with a concept and can’t seem to grasp it, ask a classmate. If you need a break from studying, then ask a friend if you can unload your thoughts with them. Remember that you’re not just taking an exam. You are also working on becoming an independent practitioner, finishing a clinical, job hunting, possibly moving, adopting puppies, cleaning your bathroom, etc. Essentially, there is a lot to balance, and it is an uncertain time full of transitions. Be kind to yourself, and lean on your support network.

 

If anyone is curious about other stress-reducing tips, feel free to email me at cpassarelli@regis.edu.

Best of luck, future PTs!

 

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

 

Staying Grounded in PT School, Method 42: Silence

Name: Blake Miller, Class of 2019
Undergrad: 
Whitworth University
Hometown: 
Missoula, MT
Fun Fact: 
I grew up 20 minutes from a ski resort but never downhill skied until moving to Colorado this year.

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It’s an age-old story: a small-town boy moves to the big city to pursue his dreams of fame and fortune, only to face trials and challenges that test him more than he’d even imagined. Alright… maybe that’s a little sensationalized, but all the parts are there. Here’s the real story: I grew up on the outskirts of Missoula, a lovely town in Western Montana where the only thing that could cause a traffic jam on the Interstate was a herd of rogue cattle. As fate would have it, I decided to venture south to the land of altitude, and more importantly, the city of the prestigious Regis University. As you’ve probably guessed, I moved here for PT school, a 3-year endeavor where excitement and challenges abound. While school has been hard (insert cliché reference to Anatomy and Neuro), there has been another large and unexpected challenge: finding silence and calm amidst the whirlwind of school and obligations.

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Missoula, MT

Growing up in an area of the country that is relatively isolated, it was easy to take the absence of noise for granted. I was guaranteed to find at least 5 mountain trails with no one else on them within 10 miles; if I was feeling lazy, I could simply walk outside and find that same noiseless environment in my backyard. But that all changed when I moved to Denver. The first hike I did was a 14er (not the brightest idea), and I was shocked by how many people could find their way to a mountain at 6:30 AM on a Tuesday. My new apartment wasn’t any better, as the sounds from the traffic were always present (in contrast, my roommate from Chicago was just happy to not hear gunshots at night anymore).

It’s amazing what happens when you lose something you take for granted. At first, I didn’t realize it had happened; I thought my newfound low-level agitation was due to my obligatory grad school coffee addiction. But, after about a month I figured it out: I had not found a single moment since moving to Denver where I had felt the silence that is only found by being alone in nature. So, I changed a few things. I began making space for myself, and as a result I slowly became less anxious, more productive, and much more present in everyday situations.

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Enjoying some solo time on Mt. Quandary

Here are my tips to help you find silence during PT school–both in nature and in everyday life:

1. Make time for yourself when you’re in nature

I’ve developed the reputation among my hiking classmates of getting 80% of the way to the top of a mountain and then flying ahead, not to be seen again until I’m sitting on the edge of the summit. While they might attribute this to my eccentric personality (fair enough), the main driver of this behavior is that there’s an uncanny stillness atop a peak that is only disturbed by the occasional chirp of a bird and, once they catch up, the laughter and musings of my friends. So, next time you go hiking, biking, or climbing, take a second for yourself to simply be still and relax in the wonder around you.

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Team picture!

2. Utilize your car time

Take one of your weekly drives and turn off the radio. I prefer to study alone, so most of my go-to coffee shops are 20 minutes away (Stella’s, Steam, Nixon’s, but that’s a whole different blog post), and assuming you don’t go there during rush hour, you’ll have a relatively peaceful drive when you turn the music off. Or, next time you make the 90-minute drive to Estes Park or Vail, try it in silence and see how it affects your mood and the way you interact with others.

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Getting some silence at Wash Park

3. Make it a daily practice

If you’re pinched for time, Regis has many good spots that are removed from the noise. If you want to watch the sunset in silence from an unobstructed view, try the chapel; if you just need a break from studying, find an empty classroom in Claver – there are plenty!

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Sky Pond

4. Become comfortable with listening to your thoughts.

I write this as finals are creeping up, and it is a common sentiment among my classmates that we feel overwhelmed and bombarded with constant thoughts that demand our attention. Instead of tuning them out, listen to them; give them the attention they deserve. One way I sort out these thoughts is to take 15 minutes every day to sit in silence in my room with all distractions, especially my phone, removed. Set a timer, and just sit in your thoughts until it goes off. These 15 minutes might feel like an eternity at first, but after making it a daily practice for several weeks I’ll bet you will find it to be a very peaceful and life-giving way to end your days.

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On the hike to Mt. Evans

5. Translate your comfort with listening to your own thoughts into comfort with listening to others.

It’s difficult to listen to others when you’re busy trying to take care of your own thoughts. Once you have sorted out yours, try using that same approach in conversation with others: listen without interrupting, and see if you are more able to actively engage in their story now that you have dealt with your own distractions.

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Up on Mt. Elbert

A quote I often come back to is this:

“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a misunderstanding.”

Of all the coping mechanisms I use to excel in school, none is as important or as beneficial for me as creating time to be alone and remove myself from all the distractions that so easily surround me. If you make time for yourself, you will create space to add time for others and school as well.

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Chasm Lake

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!

 

Why Become a Physical Therapist?

 

Name: Nathaniel Pryor, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Regis University
Hometown: Deposit, NY
Fun Fact: I love completing ruck marches of ridiculous lengths for charity. Longest to date is 32 miles.

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After a 48-hour mission in Afghanistan

       It was the second day of a 3-day air assault in Afghanistan. Our platoon was busy searching houses in 120-degree weather. The sun was beating intensely and we were running deadly low on water. We decided to set up a defensive position in a house while waiting for an airdrop of water and ammunition. During this lull in activity, a command came down to search the village across from our stronghold. My squad was slated to complete the next clearing mission, but everyone had their gear off and was not prepared. One of the fellow squads, led by my best friend, decided to take this mission. This decision would end up becoming one that I will forever regret. My best friend stepped on an IED and lost his life along with the lives of two of our other platoon mates.

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2nd platoon, Charlie Company, 1-12 Infantry Regiment, 4th BCT, 4th ID

That day caused a fundamental change in my thinking and purpose on this earth. It was that day I realized I needed to do something greater with my life–something that wouldn’t allow the deaths of my brothers to be in vain. It wasn’t until we returned from Afghanistan that I figured out what that higher purpose was; I entered the medical retirement program with a fellow soldier from my company who had an above knee amputation sustained from stepping on an IED. The lack of care and meaningful treatment was repulsive. It was like a light bulb went off and I finally realized what my life mission was. This newly found insight led me to the decision of becoming a physical therapist. This would allow me to still serve “with” my fellow brothers and sisters, all while providing a level of treatment and understanding they aren’t receiving on a consistent basis.

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On patrol in Afghanistan. Sometimes in the most horrible situations, all you can do is smile.

I was stationed in Colorado at that time, but am originally from upstate NY. The plan was to go back to NY to complete my undergraduate degree and then apply to a DPT program. However, after talking with a few peers at the VA, I ended up contacting Dr. Cliff Barnes (anatomy and neuroscience professor) at Regis University. I talked to him about my past experiences in the military, why I wanted to become a PT, and what my future goals were. He suggested I apply to Regis for my undergraduate degree. I can honestly say that attending Regis for my undergraduate degree was one of the best decisions of my life. Regis is not just a school—it’s a family of like-minded individuals who do everything in their power to help you become successful and realize your full potential.

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Planting trees in the Costa Rican rainforest after a month of primate research

Being a Jesuit University, Regis is very focused on the core Jesuit values. Two of these are particularly important to me: service and care for the whole person. While in undergrad, I participated in many service opportunities ranging from flood cleanups and judging sixth grade science fairs to being an advocate and speaker on issues facing veterans. These service opportunities showed me the importance of taking an active role in your community and helping people heal in whatever way you can. These values have become engrained as part of who I am as a person and how I want to practice physical therapy. The DPT program has further shown me how essential these values are for increasing the impact we have as PT practitioners. Regis’ focus on holistic care and looking at each patient as an individual has changed my perspective on how to care for the whole person by considering their individual goals, needs, and wants when determining proper treatment prescription.

Good luck everyone on finals and to the incoming first years on your housing hunt. Pura Vida!!!

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Diesel, my service pup, learning how to palpate vertebrae

 

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Sarah, Steph and me checking out the Christmas lights at the botanical gardens

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Anatomy lab group celebrating the end of our last final of our first semester with a trip to see the Nutcracker

 

 

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Thanksgiving: DPT style

 

 

Finding Your Work-Life Balance in PT School

 

Name: Katherine Koch, Class of 2019
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Undergrad: Ohio State University
Fun Fact: I’ve run two marathons!

                 Profile Pic.jpg               Physical therapy school is tough; that’s true no matter where you go. You’ll be challenged more than you were before and in ways you never were before—academically, intellectually, emotionally, existentially…the list goes on and gets even more dramatic. However, when you go to PT school at Regis and you’re living in Colorado, life gets simultaneously better and tougher. The upside is that you have a seemingly endless outdoor playground to frolic around on, and the downside is that you can’t spend all of your time doing that.

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Some of the Class of 2019 conquering a weekend hike

I grew up in Cleveland—the land of Lebron, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and the river that caught fire. Even though Cleveland rocks, Denver stole my heart pretty much as soon as the plane touched down. And, my first winter living in Colorado has proven again and again that this is where I want to be! Living near mountains provides the perfect pasture for snow bunnies to hop around with skis, snowboards, snowshoes, or just in hiking boots.  It seems as if the sun is always out (a welcome change from the dreary Midwest), and the motivation to go outside and get active is hard to ignore—especially with the free outdoor rentals at Regis!  If mountains aren’t your thing, Denver is a vibrant metropolis filled with fantastic local restaurants, breweries, museums, parks, and more. As biomechanics professor Dr. Erika Nelson-Wong likes to say, “it’s a beautiful day in Colorado,” and Erika is almost never wrong.

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Katherine and her classmates climb a 14er–Mt. Bierstadt!

So: the mountains are great, Denver is  a super cool city, and…what anatomy exam?? Like I said, PT school at Regis will challenge you in a myriad of ways, one of the foremost being time management. As much as I love exploring the city and the outdoors, there are days when I feel like I barely see that enduring sunlight. Classes are long and the work can be arduous. That’s why I’m pretty sure the phrase “work hard, play hard” was invented by a former Regis graduate. We work incredibly hard to become the best clinicians we can be, but we also know that work-life balance is precious and  we must strive to maintain it. On our first day of orientation, foot/ankle master Dr. Tom McPoil urged us to take one day out of the week to not prioritize school, but instead to prioritize everything else. I personally take every Saturday to not even think about school; I go hiking or for a long run or have a movie marathon or explore downtown or literally anything else—but I forget about school for a day. Then, the rest of the week, I have the energy and motivation to focus on school.

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A Halloween study break

While Saturday is a saving grace, weekdays aren’t totally lost to school and studying. No matter how interesting the class is or how captivating the professor is (which they all are!), sometimes it’s tough to sit in class all day and then go home and study. There are many evenings where a group of classmates will check out a new brewery, get some air at the trampoline gym, play pick-up sports, or explore the restaurants on nearby Tennyson Street. Most Denver museums have free admission days once a month; I love checking them out!  Regardless of what your hobbies are, it’s easy to find something you will love.

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Celebrating Josh’s (front and center) birthday at Sky Zone last week with the classmates!

I think Regis is wonderfully unique in that we are encouraged to embody the concept of “cura personalis.” You’ll be intimately familiar with this phrase by the end of your first semester, as we are often reminded that one small part of the body is tightly intertwined with the rest of the body, the mind, and the spirit. We learn to be physical therapists who practice this care for the entire person with our patients and with ourselves. I know that I will not be the best physical therapist I can be if I don’t reward my hard work with some well-deserved time off. Most of my classmates, including myself, were fortunate enough to have multiple options of schools to choose from, and I’m sure I could have gone to any school I was accepted to and worked hard to succeed. However, I came to Regis—and to Colorado—because I knew I would learn how to become an outstanding physical therapist while also becoming the best possible version of myself. And after countless hikes, one 14er climbed, falling on my face 6 times while skiing, 2 excursions to local breweries, 1 snowshoeing experience, 1 trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens, and meeting some of the best friends I could ask for, I’ll say with 100% confidence that I made the right choice.

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Ugly Holiday Sweater party after finishing first semester

What is the First Year of DPT School Like?

Name: Meg Kates, Class of 2019
Hometown: Herscher, IL
Undergrad: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Fun Fact: I was the Spanish Student of the Year at my high school. ¡Me encanta Colorado!
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“I can’t believe you’re actually leaving.”

“I know, but it’s okay. I’ll be home soon.”

I hugged my best friend goodbye underneath a star-dotted sky. They shine brighter in Herscher, Illinois, which is a farming community in the middle of the state where the lights of Chicago are but a faint, pink spot in the northern distance: in fewer words, home. That was the day I packed up everything I owned and moved to Denver to embark on my grand physical therapy school adventure. I look back at that time and consider the expectations I had for Regis University and how they have been exceeded many times over.

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Meg and her classmates at the beginning of their semester

To begin, I knew starting PT school was going to change my life, but I didn’t realize the extent to which it was going to change my mind and how I perceived the world. When Regis students begin the first semester, classes last about eight hours. I think it’s safe to say that none of us were accustomed to such a heavy intellectual load—both in breadth and in depth. At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with sheer amount of material (i.e. the origin, insertion, action, and innervation of every muscle in the human body). However, Regis students will tell you that a day comes when our passions combine with our teachers’ lessons, and, by the magic of neuroplasticity (to be discussed more second semester), our brains have been primed to absorb information like those ridiculous towels you see on the infomercials. I feel like I learn eighty new things every day, and, even wilder, I have the intellectual capacity to accommodate it all. Regis creates the most competent professionals by challenging its students to elevate their caliber of thinking.

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Participating in the Professional Ceremony at Regis initiates all students into the DPT program.

Even though Regis’ DPT program can be dense, professors are there to ensure that we persevere through the lows, and they celebrate with us during the highs. Never have I been surrounded by such a reputable group of physical therapists and scientists. I would believe that Dr. Cliff Barnes, the anatomist, created the human body himself if I didn’t know any better. I want Dr. Mark Reinking to talk to me about the shoulder forever. I will never fangirl as hard as Tom McPoil makes me fangirl when he explains the biomechanics of the ankle. Beyond their intellect, Regis DPT faculty have made me feel immensely supported in my first semester. Professors are just as eager as students to discuss individual goals, explain difficult concepts, and offer resources to aid in understanding. It has been emphasized to us time and time again that Regis selects students that they believe will succeed in becoming accomplished, holistic practitioners. Their faith in us inspires me to be an excellent—yet humble—student and future physical therapist.

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Meg and some of the Class of 2019 take a study break in the mountains

Yet, the most earth-shattering surprise about PT school is the relationships that I’ve formed with my classmates. I expected to make friends when I moved to Denver; I didn’t expect to be inspired by every interaction I have with one of my peers.  They’re the people with whom I climb both literal and figurative mountains. They challenge me to be a teacher when they cannot find answers, and they shed light when I’m confused. I spend every day with the same eighty-one people and I know they watch over both my academic and spiritual wellbeing, as I do for them.

When I think about going back to Illinois, I cannot wait to show my friends all I’ve learned. When I look to the future, I cannot wait to show the world the physical therapists and human beings my classmates and I will become.

 

Meet the Class of 2019 President: David Cummins

Name: David Cummins, Class of 2019
Hometown: Cortez, CO
Undergrad: Fort Lewis College

Fun Fact: I’ve moved 17 times since graduating high school

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When I received a letter from Regis University notifying me that I’d been accepted into their DPT program, I panicked. I had been working hard to get into PT school, but the reality of the impending changes caught me off guard. As a non-traditional student who had been out of school for more than 10 years, I was nervous about leaving the career I had worked so hard to build. The thought of surrounding myself with young, smart, successful, and ambitious classmates only added to my anxiety.

By the end of the first week of classes, I realized I had found my new family. Classmates surprised me by being genuinely interested in my academic success. They shared study guides, strategies for achievement, and—most importantly—support. There is now a palpable (Ha! Get it?) mentality that we’re all going to get through this program together;  that has made my anxiety melt away.

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David and his classmates climbing a 14er with some time off from school (PC: Elizabeth Johnson)

I was honored when someone nominated me for class president and elated when I was elected because the role will give me a chance to foster the supportive environment that got me through my first few weeks. The position comes with a lot of extra stress, but I’ll be working with an incredible group of elected officers who share the same vision of creating a healthy and supportive environment that is conducive to academic growth and overall success.

The 14 elected officers come from a wide variety of different backgrounds. Some have extensive experience working with physical therapists, some have worked in completely unrelated fields, and some are coming straight from undergraduate programs. Together, we represent a holistic cross-section of knowledge and viewpoints. We will utilize our combined skills and knowledge to build upon the foundation that previous classes have established and add our own projects and ideas to make this experience our own.

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The new officers for the Class of 2019

We’ve already been through a lot in the 11 short weeks we’ve known each other. The support and encouragement I’ve experienced has been overwhelming. Over the next 2.5 years, I hope to cultivate a supportive cohort based on the values we all share: we will be a community that promotes shared academic success and continues to motivate us to be the best, most compassionate physical therapists we can be.

President: David Cummins

Vice President: Katarina Mendoza

APTA Rep: Grace-Marie Vega

Fundraising Rep: Kassidy Stecklein and Celisa Hahn

DPT Rep: Nina Carson

Media Rep: Courtney Backward

Diversity Rep: Stephanie Adams

Ministry Rep: Sarah Collins

Service Rep: Amber Bolen

Move Forward Rep: Sarah Pancoast

Clin Ed Rep: Josh Hubert

Admissions Rep: Kelsie Jordan

Secretary: LeeAnne Little

Treasurer: Jennifer Tram

 

 

6 Weeks into PT School: Meet Kelsie Jordan

Name: Kelsie Jordan, Class of 2019
Hometown: Portland, OR
Undergrad: Oregon State University
Fun Fact: I spent the summer of 2014 studying in Salamanca, Spain.

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If I had to describe the first few weeks of PT school in one word, it would probably be “overwhelming.” I don’t even mean that in a negative way— so many of the experiences I’ve had so far have been amazing—but I would definitely not say it’s been easy. My classmates and I have been overwhelmed with both the excitement and nervousness to finally start this next part of our lives: in the past month, we’ve been introduced to a new school, new people, new homes, new habits, and—of course—with the amount of information we’ve received since the first day of classes.  More than anything else, though, I’ve been overwhelmed by all the new opportunities at my disposal and all the great people I get to spend the next three years with.

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Free concerts and NFL kick off!

You’d think that having a class of 81 people would make getting to know everyone difficult, but it’s been quite the opposite at Regis. It turns out that when you spend roughly 40+ hours per week with the same people who are in the exact same boat, you get to know a lot about each other in a very short amount of time. Of course, I obviously don’t know absolutely everyone well at this point, but it’s still easy to forget that we all met less than two months ago. Before deciding on Regis, I was a little apprehensive about having such a large class compared to other DPT programs; now that I’m here, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The biggest piece of advice I’ve heard time and time again from the second and third year students is to take time for myself and have fun outside of school. I’ve definitely taken that advice to heart!   Perhaps that means I should be spending more of my free time studying, but hey, at least I’m having fun, right? I’ve managed to leave plenty of time for hiking, camping, sporting events, concerts, Netflix, and IM sports—and I’ve been having a blast! Being a successful student is all about maintaining balance between work and play, so those mental health breaks are important to me for keeping my brain from being overloaded.

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Hiking Horsetooth Mountain in Fort Collins

So exploring Colorado has been the easy part of transitioning to Regis—I mean, what’s not to love? Starting school again, on the other hand…I only took one year off between graduation and PT school, but it still took some transition time to remember how to take notes and study. Fortunately for me, a lot of the material so far has been familiar information from undergrad, though it’s definitely more intense. One of the aspects of the Regis DPT program that I really appreciate is the collaborative atmosphere.  Anyone—students and faculty alike—with a little more expertise in a certain area has been doing their best to share that information by providing extra resources, study sessions, etc. It also helps that we’ve all been embraced right into the Regis DPT community by the second and third years, and I definitely get the sense that the faculty genuinely care about our success in school and in our future careers.

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We’re official! Our new PT supplies after the Professional Ceremony

We’re now six weeks into PT school and sometimes I still have these moments where I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s crazy to think back to this time last year when I still hadn’t even submitted my first PTCAS application, and now here I am: a student physical therapist. Overall, it feels like I’ve adjusted well to my new home in Denver as well as the grad student life—despite the overwhelming moments. Now that we’re through our first round of exams, it’s probably a safe bet that our “honeymoon phase” has come to a close and we have an increasingly busy schedule looming ahead. I’m still developing responsible study habits and I have a lot to learn about how to be a successful student, but I look forward to the upcoming opportunities for service, leadership, and classmate bonding that the rest of the semester will bring!

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.

A Guide to Passing the Comp Exam

The comprehensive exam is a two-part test that encompasses all class material through the first two years of PT school. It is the last major hurdle in the quest to obtain the beloved PT diploma. It’s very similar to fighting the giant hand at the end of single player Super Smash Bros. If you have a solid game plan, you’ll be fine. If you don’t, prepare to get smacked into oblivion. Fortunately, we are given a lovely break in between summer and fall that lasts about a month, which is more than enough time to prepare. But you do need to attack that time wisely. I’ve run through ways people have planned out this break for our class and have come up with a few recommended strategies for managing all that time.

The most important aspect for the majority of individuals is a consistent schedule throughout the week. Total hours massed for studying seems to vary a bit, but a safe estimate of time is 5-6 hours per day, 5 days per week. The total time is dependent on how efficiently you feel you study. If you study well, do less, not so well, take a couple extra hours where you need them.

What you study is the important part of the “study” aspect of your schedule. Not every course is weighted the same. The staff has been kind by giving us the breakdown of content for each half of the test. I’m not going to go into detail, but basically Musculoskeletal Management, Neurological Management, and Management Applications of Physiology are your most important classes (by a lot). Divide the total study into where you need the most help, and base importance partly on these percentages (in other words don’t spend an entire day on PT exam). Inside of those hours, try to avoid studying one class per day unless you really can devote the concentration. I suggest 2-3 different courses on an average study day. One caveat from a professor, if you miss a day on your schedule, DO NOT GO BACK. Move on with your schedule. You will most likely not miss any questions from that day if you are diligent with the rest of your time.

So you have the study hours scheduled. Now comes the break schedule. As you learned in Movement Science class, you need breaks, and you need exercise. Most of you won’t have as hard of a time with this as I have recently (running makes me cry more than sweat). Try to take a break when you complete 3-4 hours of studying (and honestly, make it exercise and food). Then go back for a few more hours of studying.

Now you need to decide where to study, which can be anywhere. I’ve studied at the park, home, school, coffee shops, and airplanes. It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you stick to the schedule. One suggestion I will make is try to avoid studying alone. Yes, some of you will disagree with me on this, but most will say that it’s nice to have someone around when you could use a better explanation than YouTube is providing for a concept you get snagged on (or if the video on YouTube is funny and you need affirmation that you have a sense of humor).

With all that said, you need to enjoy your break. Do things that you really want to do. Go to Uganda. Go to that music festival. See how many beer gardens you can attend. Take a day to try to sleep until 4:00 p.m. This is the part of the break where you keep a little bit of your sanity. Not to mention, you don’t have a lot of time after this period. You have made it this far just fine; don’t expect them to throw something at you that you can’t handle. It’s not worth destroying yourself studying without having any fun on the weekends.

Ultimately, most students find that it’s pretty relaxed studying (outside of the occasional panic attack). This is what we’ve worked so hard up until this point for, and we all know SO MUCH. Schedule well. Study efficiently. Play hard. This is just the next check mark to complete before we can call ourselves doctor on graduation day (and then go by our first names for the rest of our career).

Blogger: Tommy Hughes

Hometown: Bartlesville, OK

Undergrad: University of Arkansas

Fun Fact: I’m Seth Rogan’s cousin

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.