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.

 

 

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

trailrunproject.com/…/matthewswinters-red-rocks-loop

  • 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

trailrunproject.com/…/mount-falcon-east-loop

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

trailrunproject.com/…/green-mountain-trail

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

trailrunproject.com/…ail/7002175/sky-pond

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)

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    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

 

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

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

Interview with Lindsay Still, Senior Payment Specialist

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

Overview

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

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

Structure of the new coding system

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

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

Implementation

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

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

Impediments to the impending treatment code change

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

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

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

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

Future of the proposed treatment codes

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

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

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

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

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

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

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

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

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What do you do at the APTA?

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

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

How did you come to work at the APTA?

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

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

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

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

Any advice for new clinicians starting out in their career?

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

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

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

 

Balancing a Relationship with PT School

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

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

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

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Blogger: Katie Ragle

Direct Access: Insight into Some of the Barriers and Current Initiatives

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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.

I met with Wanda Evans PT, MHS, CKTP (Senior Payment Specialist) and Elise Latawiec MPH, PT (Senior Specialist, Practice Management) who provided me with their insider understanding on this topic as well as directed me toward further resources.

Direct access physical therapy care means that a patient does not require a referral from a physician or other provider prior to a PT evaluation and/or treatment. All graduating Physical Therapists are required to have a DPT–a clinical doctorate–and, thus, they receive extensive training in the ability to recognize “red flags” and refer patients to the appropriate provider when it becomes apparent that the patient may be at risk for something more severe than musculoskeletal involvement.  Studies demonstrate that direct access decreases the time following an injury to the start of the patient’s PT care, reduces the number of visits of therapy needed and results in lower overall costs. Thus, PTs are not only appropriate for this role, but they can end up saving time, money, and patient suffering (as well as costs for the healthcare system overall).

Legislation

There are currently various types of direct access in all 50 states. Each state has jurisdiction over its own Practice Act, which is why there is some discrepancy from one state to another (state-by-state comparison). There are 18 states with unrestricted direct access—this includes Colorado! Some states require specific certification for a PT to provide direct access care, and others allow only an initial evaluation plus a set number of follow-up visits before the PT must contact the patient’s primary care provider. States with limitations in their practice act for direct access are fighting every day for legislative changes to eliminate these barriers; the APTA is aware of this and is actively assisting in these state-level legislative efforts.

However, the legal foundation is only the first step to getting patients the direct access care that we know would be beneficial. Common barriers to direct access that PTs reported in an APTA survey last year include reimbursement concerns, limitations in marketing, fear of alienating referral sources, restrictions by the PT’s employer, and lack of knowledge of state direct access laws.

Reimbursement                                      

Historically, third-party payers (ie insurance companies) have required a referral from a physician or other designated professional. Aside from Medicare/Medicaid and other federal programs like the VA or Armed Services (which have their own regulations on Direct Access), insurance policies vary by carrier and on a state-to-state basis. As the state legislation changes, the payers have been slowly adapting, with some payers more progressive than others in regards to reimbursement for direct access services. The APTA has been engaging with payers directly to eliminate the referral requirement at events such as the Insurance Forum, in comment letters, during in-person meetings, and in their day-to-day contacts. The APTA communicates this message to large employers who create their own insurance policies for their employees, as well, and are thus able to help employers set the terms of the insurance contract for their employees independently.

How can individual APTA members get involved on the reimbursement front? Each state chapter has a Reimbursement Chair.  The Chair’s responsibilities include learning as much as possible about trends with different payers in that state (and taking note if a lot of PTs have been reaching out with similar issues or complaints regarding the same payer) and assisting those therapists within their own state. The APTA nationally works in conjunction with the state chapters on payment/insurance issues and helps to connect states together when confronted with similar challenges. Patients and their advocates can also petition their Insurance Commissioner if they are inappropriately denied care or access to medically necessary services. The Insurance Commissioner advocates for consumers; s/he does not represent the insurance carrier.

Fear of alienating referral sources

Wanda and Elise described several studies in which direct access evidenced no negative impact on the physician-patient relationship. In fact, a key component of direct access is the necessity of PTs to refer patients to the appropriate provider when a patient’s symptoms and underlying pathologies are outside of our scope of practice. Given that PTs must make referrals back to other providers, it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship amongst different healthcare practitioners.

Education

A lot of concern stems from a a lack of education on the part of employers, insurers and potential patients. PTs need to demonstrate their clinical excellence to, essentially, prove that we are worthy of this responsibility, as well as to continue to educate all stakeholders on the importance and benefit of getting PT before medication/surgery. The first step for every PT is to become educated on what your state’s practice act specifically says about direct access and understand any limitations that may be in effect.  Educating patients, employers, and other healthcare practitioners is the next step. The APTA has developed many resources detailing the benefits and safety of direct access available online (more info).

Resistance to Change or Pushing for Progress?

There are some PTs who are more comfortable in the traditional referral arrangement than with unrestricted direct access. They may not want the additional responsibility, or they may simply prefer to do what they have always done.  That is okay!  Nobody is looking to force them to become direct access providers.

However, if you are one of the PTs who cares about the transition toward direct access and autonomy as a practitioner, make sure you’re an active member of the APTA! This is essential to better educate yourself, your patients, and other healthcare providers and to develop a strong voice with your state chapter and insurance agencies.

For more information on the current APTA involvement, as well as additional resources, check out its Direct Access page.

Class of 2017 DPT Student Lindsay Mayors Reflects on Her Clinical Rotation

Name:  Lindsay Mayors

Hometown: Akron, Ohio

Undergrad: University of Dayton

Fun Fact: My first experience skiing was on my third birthday in Keystone, Colorado!

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Today, the Class of 2017 has reached the halfway point of their 8-week second clinical rotation. The past two semesters have been filled with management courses, case studies, exams, practicals, and research. In April, we completed all three management course series; needless to say we were ready to get out into the clinic! Students are working in a variety of settings including acute care hospitals, inpatient neurological rehab, sub-acute rehab, long-term acute care, home health, outpatient orthopedic, outpatient pediatric, and school-based therapy from Virginia all the way to Alaska. We are applying our freshly developed clinical reasoning skills and continuing to learn immensely from our clinical instructors.

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Lindsay and her first year mentor, Vickie

Many of my classmates will tell you that I am one of the “peds people.” I started the program in August 2014 with my mind set on becoming a pediatric physical therapist. I would be nearly skipping in the hallways on the way to pediatric-based labs or lectures. So, when it came time for me to start my second clinical rotation at a skilled nursing sub-acute rehabilitation facility, I did not know what to expect. It seems to be a common theme among students to not prefer to work with the geriatric population. I know that I even had my doubts. Would I know how to relate to the elderly population? Would my 5’2 stature have the body mechanics to help patients transfer in and out of chairs or their hospital beds? Would I get bored doing seemingly the same exercises with patients day after day? Will this type of rotation be helpful for me if it is not the setting in which I ultimately would like to work?

Within just two days of the clinical rotation I had my answers. I am overjoyed when I get to connect with the elderly population. I remembered and have safely applied the transferring tips from a faculty member with my similar stature (Thanks, Christina!). The exercises that I perform with patients are all but monotonous. I have had the opportunity to apply skills from all three of the management course series with patients. Sure, many of the patients have similar physical therapy diagnoses, but beyond the diagnosis each is incredibly unique.

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Liz, Lindsay and Carol at the Class of 2016’s research night in April

Each has their own personal story, their own medical history, their own family dynamic, their own goals, and their own hobbies. Not one personality resembles another. This is what makes this setting so exciting for me. Learning about what has molded a particular patient into the individual that they are now is the highlight of my day. Shaping treatment plans to match a patient’s personal goals and find the highest level of independence for them allows me to use my creativity in a new way with every patient. We walk (a lot), stand on foamy surfaces and toss balloons, and maneuver wheel chairs around obstacle courses. We talk about the joys, challenges, and hilarities of life. I have recognized that the age of a patient–whether 3 or 93 years young–is not a barrier. We are all human. We enjoy being heard, feeling validated, feeling empowered, and having our days be brightened by a smile.

So, I would like to challenge any student who has similar doubts as I did a mere month ago to take a step into the unknown. Unravel your pre-set plans and experience something on the extreme opposite spectrum from the setting in which you think you want to work. Sure–I am still interested in being a pediatric physical therapist, but at the very least, my mind has been opened to new considerations. No matter the population I ultimately end up working with, I now have a broader understanding, appreciation, and passion for the field of physical therapy because of this rotation.

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Lindsay and her classmates are currently all at clinical rotations across the country

Time and Life Management in a DPT program: Meet Amy Medlock

 

Name: Amy Medlock, Class of 2017

Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Undergrad: University of Notre Dame

Fun Fact: My right thumb is 1 cm shorter than the left

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Finals week.  What a great time to be writing this post on time & life management.  PT school is demanding and can often feel overwhelming, but it does not have to take over your entire life. In addition to the responsibilities of school I am married, have two kids (Emma & Lyla), and I have to commute over one hour each day.  I have a secret though: since the end of my 2nd semester, I have not studied after 5pm or on weekends and my GPA is doing as well as ever. Shhh…Don’t tell our faculty!

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My family – Matt, Emma (7) and Lyla (4)

It is definitely not easy getting through a DPT program with extra responsibilities, but with the right discipline and support it is entirely possible. Since starting PT school there are a few tricks and tactics I have learned that may seem simple but have made it possible for me to keep my nights and weekends free for my family.

  1. Give yourself set hours – I arrive at school every day at 7am whether we start class at 8am or 1pm, and I leave everyday between 4:00p and 5:00p even if we get done with class earlier.
  2. Pay attention in class – This may seem obvious, but some people don’t do it.  If you look at people’s computers during lecture you’ll see people checking Facebook, playing Bubble Spinner or reading the news. To avoid becoming distracted by the ever present lure of Facebook or browsing the news, I sit in the front row to help keep my attention focused on taking notes. Class is valuable time that significantly reduces the amount of additional studying.
  3. Schedule everything – I start every week by scheduling out every day from when I am going to exercise, complete upcoming assignments, to when I can meet up with friends.  This keeps me accountable to my goals and keeps me from feeling like I have things hanging over my head or that I am forgetting something.
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A typical week in my life (minus my kids’ and husband’s events)

  1. Study when you study – Again, this might seem obvious, but it is really easy to get distracted by conversations, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. while studying. I have become very selective in the locations I will study and the people I will study with in order to maximize my study time.  I have also found people who are willing to drive down to the ‘burbs where I live on days when the demands of being a mom require that I stay closer to home (Thanks, Tane Owens!).
  2. Exercise & get outside – This helps me so much with feeling healthy, maintaining my energy and focusing while studying.  We are PTs, I don’t need to give all the reasons why this is a must! Being productive and efficient with my studies enables me to still live an active lifestyle.

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    Some of my activities outside of PT school

 

  1. Leave school at school – I understand that it is difficult for those that live with classmates but I avoid doing school work at home. I do my best to be present to my husband and kids whenever I am at home.  I am not saying that I am perfect at this, but I really do try.
  2. Stay involved – I have found ways to stay involved and active in both our academic program as well as our profession as a whole. Adding extra responsibilities and events further forces me to organize my time and priorities. I do not have time to procrastinate; therefore, I do not.
  3. Develop a support network – I feel so blessed to have a supportive and understanding husband who stays home with our kids when they are sick, makes dinner when I get stuck in traffic, and pushes me to be the best wife, mom and student that I can possibly be.  I also have amazing mom-friends who have my back when childcare falls through or when I need a glass of wine and movie night.

I have had to develop these strategies and practices out of necessity due to my responsibilities and commitments outside of PT school. But, we all have responsibilities and commitments outside of the classroom. I hope some of these pointers can help you to stay focused and stress-free(ish!) as you go through this vigorous program.

 

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Service and advocacy with my classmates and colleagues

 

Regis University hosts the Denver National Advocacy Dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Upcoming Advocacy Events:

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

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

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

Spring 2017                           Federal Advocacy Forum (Washington, DC)

 Important Links:

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

Blogger: Sarah Campbell, Class of 2017

2nd Year Regis DPT students preparing to head off to clinical: Meet Adam Engelsgjerd

Name: Adam Engelsgjerd, Class of 2017

Hometown: Scottsdale, AZ

Undergrad: University of Arizona

Fun Fact: I am unabashedly 0/2 in the Palmaris Longus department

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After these final two weeks of the semester, Adam will be heading to Orland, CA for his summer clinical.

The goal of PT Exam Lab in our first year was to begin teaching our hands how to feel and assess what our brains knew to be there. For example: we studied the knee from texts, dissection, and lectures and then used our hands to palpate a classmate’s knee with our new, more clinical, perspective. The concept of our hands being “dumb”—or unable to differentiate what was beneath them—soon became all too familiar. Did we feel how there was a slight swelling of tissue on the medial aspect of the knee’s joint line that was the MCL? Sure we did.  Maybe. I mean, it has to be there, right? Let’s look back at our textbook again.

As the first year of the DPT program faded into our first clinical experience, we had the opportunity to translate our education into a real-world setting. Interacting with patients suffering with a myriad of different pathologies, varying levels of cognitive function, and real pains and concerns presented a new challenge: how to conduct PT evaluations. No longer volunteers or PT Techs hoping to one day be admitted to a program, we were now Student Physical Therapists and patients were looking to us for answers. We needed not only to know how the body worked, what normal and abnormal felt like with our hands, but also how to relate relevant information to a patient who may have little understanding of their body except that it hurts when they move.

 

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As my class draws near the end of our last full semester of classroom education, we are preparing for 30 weeks of clinical rotation—seasoned with a few more classes, a comprehensive examination, and the NPTE. Most of us can now all too clearly hear Dr. Tom McPoil’s words echoing back to us: a key challenge of being a good PT is not memorizing a list for a test or performing a skilled act for a practical, but being able to recall the massive amount of information we learn when you need it.

The goal ahead of us is the same it has always been: being able to put together the foundational information about how the body should work, overlay possible pathologies, identify red and yellow flags, conduct a concise but thorough evaluation, and accurately prescribe interventions. Yet, for many of us, it is now that the full scope and weight of that task is being felt.

And so, off we go around the country for the next two months where we anticipate being challenged, exhilarated, and scared all over again. We will once again surface from the classroom to rediscover why it is we’re here at Regis: to help those around us move better and for ourselves to get one step closer to becoming movement experts.

Injury, surgery and rehab during PT school: Meet James Liaw

Name: James Liaw, Class of 2018

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Undergrad: University of California, Davis

Fun Fact: Climbing! More Climbing, snowboarding…let’s go climb.

 

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Getting injured is always going to be hard to deal with, but you never realize how much it will affect you until you’re experiencing it firsthand. The summer after my senior year of high school, I hurt my left wrist; I did not find out until this semester—six years later!—that I had broken the scaphoid and it had never healed. Deciding to get it fixed in my second semester of PT school was tough, but necessary: as we will be learning many hands-on tests and measures this summer to use for our first fall clinical, I figured now was the best time for the surgery. Since I’ve always been interested in hands, I did a lot of my own research. A vascularized bone graft over my scaphoid would normally be the best option, but, because my fracture was practically ancient, my surgeon and I decided that the best option was to get a four-corner fusion.

After waking up from surgery, though, I learned that there was a complication. The goal had been to fuse the carpels and have my lunate articulate with the radius instead of the scaphoid; when my surgeon began, though, she found that there had already been damage to the surface. She decided that it was best for me to get a proximal row carpetomy (PRC) to preserve as much ROM as she could. So, essentially, the surgeon took out the scaphoid, lunate and triquetrum in order to have my wrist articulate at the capitate.

It was only after undergoing my PRC that I realized how much I utilized both my hands for everyday activity—and, particularly, that I could no longer climb. Losing my main source of both stress relief and fun hit me hard. I tried to find other things to fill the time and to burn off the excess energy that I had from sitting in class all day, but, to be honest, nothing really worked. Not climbing made me restless and unmotivated to study. My life had been built around climbing and school, so losing half of that was devastating. Everyone was extremely supportive and assured me that I would get back to climbing in no time, but this “short” stint of five weeks of immobilization felt like forever—and, almost just as paralyzing as the cast was the constant worry that I would lose the climbing ability I had worked so hard to attain.

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James created his own customized walker to practice in the Class of 2018’s transfer and mobility lab

That time in the cast gave me more insight into what my future patients will be feeling:  I felt helpless as I sat in lecture, hand over my head to reduce swelling, and thinking about my four years of climbing work slipping out from my fingers. This is the kind of thought that we will have to deal with. Patients will come in with an injury and with goals and fears of never reaching them, and I can see more clearly now that it’s going to be my job, as a clinician, to assist with both physical rehabilitation and help motivate them to push past their fears.

Dealing with an injury can be large distraction from school. Luckily (or unluckily), I have other classmates that are going through a similar process with their injuries, and we have formed a support group to talk about our experiences. All the professors have been very supportive, and I’ve also learned a lot about wrist and hand injuries in the last month through obsessive research (it’s reinforcing Regis’ emphasis on evidence-based practice!). I will be starting physical therapy soon and I’m looking forward to getting back on track—and, hopefully, more energized than I have been in the last month. Even though I have a long way to go, I can’t help but be excited about healing up and enjoying the beautiful Colorado climbing!

Stress Decompression with the 2nd Year Regis DPT Students

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

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

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

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Blogger: Lindsay Mayors

Students take on CSM: Nolan Ripple on attending the national PT conference

Name: Nolan Ripple

Hometown: Peoria, AZ

Undergrad: University of Portland, OR

Fun Fact: Lacrosse player freshly converted to marathon enthusiast.

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Hello all!  My name is Nolan Ripple and I am a first year PT student.  About two weeks ago, the national PT conference for students and professionals—called the Combined Sections Meeting—was held in Anaheim, California.  During our three years at Regis, each one of us is expected to attend one national conference.   And—since this one was so close and we had class time off—many students chose to go, including myself.

Going into the experience as a first year student, I wasn’t expecting to receive much more than the credit of actually going and checking it off the list.  However, I can say that despite being relatively new in PT school, CSM was a positive experience both professionally and personally.  First, imagine sun, the beach, good food (In N Out included!), time off of a grueling second semester, and a bunch of classmates hanging out.  It was impossible not to have a good time…Needless to say, there was plenty of fun mixed into the week, and students enjoyed time at the beach, local restaurants and breweries, and mingling with the PT students and professionals from around the country.  It was invaluable to build that camaraderie amongst one another and within the PT community as a whole: it was refreshing to take a step back and see how other schools and clinics operate than the ones in the immediate Regis community.

 

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Anaheim, CA hike

In regards to the actual conference, I thought it was well organized and there were a plethora of talks to attend.  The lectures I attended ranged from topics of trunk stability and pelvic performance, running mechanics, concussion rehab in pediatrics, and even one concerning “burnout” in the PT profession.  It was super cool to engage in a number of topics, especially ones that are less emphasized in our own curriculum.  To put it bluntly, some speakers were better than others.  In that sense, I definitely had my favorite talks.  But, overall, being able to learn and engage in a variety of specialties was an extraordinary opportunity.

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With so much time off, I also got to see a lot of family.  I stayed with my grandparents and visited my aunt, uncle, and two cousins out there. The majority of students crammed into hotel rooms together, but as part of the Regis PT family, that is no weirder than a normal palpation lab.  Overall, this was an excellent opportunity to step back from the daily work of school, learn from professionals, and spend quality time with friends and peers.  A- experience (if it hadn’t rained the first day…then A+).

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

Name: Mason Hill

Hometown: Tacoma, WA

Undergrad: California Lutheran University

Fun Fact: I think I have a cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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