Farewell Tom McPoil!

Name: Thomas McPoil, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Hometown: Sacramento California

Fun fact: I like to play golf – at one point, I became a 10 handicapper

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As we approached the end of July, the Regis Physical Therapy family prepared to say goodbye to some very important members of our family. With heavy hearts, but happy smiles, we say our farewells to Tom McPoil and Marcia Smith, as they are retiring and moving on to new adventures. Following 45 years as a physical therapist, 35 years of teaching, and teaching over 1800 students in over 35 states, Tom sat down with me, and I asked for any last words of wisdom. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. How do you advise that we keep a life/work balance?

“I think it’s really hard. I think that’s going to be the hardest thing for a student to figure out. I just look at the struggles you face: you want time for your personal life and clinical care. You may have to stay late and do charting. You get home and you want a break, but you want to keep up with the literature. You are worried about debt and you are worried about loan repayment. If you can, set up a time where you can read 1 or 2 papers a week, and then maybe try to establish a couple of people that want to discuss them with you. Eventually, you have to come to grips with the incredible amount of research out there…I mean it’s almost too much. That’s where the systematic reviews come in. As a clinician you’re not going to have the time to read 27 articles, but you can read one paper that summarized 27 papers for you.”

  1. What makes the difference between a ‘good’ PT and a ‘great’ PT?

“I think that’s a hard question to address. Part of it has to be your feelings of confidence about yourself. Have confidence in yourself, you know a lot. So much is thrown at you, and so quickly, that you feel like you don’t know anything. But when you go out to clinic and you come back and talk to a first year, you realize how much you do know. I think the other thing that makes an exceptional therapist is one that will always question or ask, “what is happening? What is going on?” There is one person on your shoulder that tells you, “hey, have confidence in yourself.” But there should also be another person on the other shoulder that says, “hey, you’re still learning.” And because of that, you tend to be much more aware of things. The longer you are in clinic, the easier it is to say, “well it’s just another total knee.” You know the old ad, “it quacks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it must be a duck”…that to me is where you start to see the difference: a good therapist will just treat the patient, but the exceptional therapist is the one that says, “but really, is it a duck?” and takes the time to really look at those things. The person who is always striving to do their best is sometimes going the extra mile.”

  1. Because we are Regis, we are going to reflect a little bit. What are you taking away from your time at Regis?

“Some great memories from interacting with some great students, that’s number one. As a faculty member and physical therapist I am very, very blessed, because of the fact that the individuals who are drawn to physical therapy (I know I’m speaking in generalities) really care about helping people. And I think that’s just engrained in them. I think that as a result, they’re very interested in learning to help other people. That makes my job as a teacher and as an instructor much, much easier. I think that’s the thing that I’m taking away from Regis, and why I was really happy to come here. I love the fact that the values go beyond just getting an education. And yeah, they are Jesuit values, men and women for other, the cura personalis, the magis, all the buzzwords. But I really do think, here, as a faculty and as Regis, we really help instill that on our students and I think that as a result, the students that graduate from the Regis Physical Therapy program are better humans. I think they’re better people who are going to serve society. The thing here is the sense of community. What I’ve enjoyed as a faculty member is that I really do feel like I’m involved with a community that is very caring. They’re concerned about others. I mean, they’re taking those Jesuit values, but applying it to the whole university community. There is a sense of mission and the need for people to really help one another. One of the saddest things I had happened in my career was when we had a student die in a car accident four years ago. I tell you the afternoon we heard and I had to announced it to the second years, the response from this university was phenomenal. We had counselors down here, within an hour I was meeting with the president and the director of missions, we had a service for the students here on campus. I realize that would never have happened at any other institution I’ve ever been at. Yes, people would’ve been upset, but it’s that sense of community. Yes, we’re a part of physical therapy, but we’re all a part of Regis. That to me is the piece that I’ve really enjoyed the most, and I think we do a really good job getting our students to embrace that before they leave.”

  1. What is your biggest accomplishment as a teacher, a physical therapist, and in your personal life?

“Oh that’s a hard question to answer. Well in personal life, hopefully, I was a good husband, a good father, okay with my son-in-laws and an okay grandparent. That’s what you hope for. Ultimately, you hope that God thinks you did okay. What you really hope for is that in the really little time I had with students, I was able to install firstly knowledge that they needed to go out and be successful, but also hopefully I’ve provided some type of a good role model for them.”

  1. What are you going to do now that you’re retiring?

“I really want to do some volunteer work…that’s what I really want to do! I found out about Ignatian Volunteer Corp, which is for 55 years plus people. I’ll start out doing 8 hours a week, so I’m excited about that. I’ll like to go to Denver Health and help with the foot and ankle clinic. I’ll like to get back to playing golf and pickle ball. And I’ve got the 5 grandkids.”

  1. Where do you hope to see the profession go in 10 years?

“In the 45 years I’ve been in this profession, we’ve made huge strides. What I hope for with the profession is that we work to get increased reimbursement…I think that’s huge. We have to do more to convince the public that we are primary care providers. I hope that the future physical therapists will have direct access, that they’ll be recognized as a primary care providers for neuromusculoskeletal disorders, and that they’ll have the ability in their clinic to use diagnostic ultrasound.”

  1. Any last advice for our class?

Keep at it! Remember you have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information. Just try to balance things, and it’s not easy. Try to balance it so you don’t feel like you’re neglecting your personal life or your work.”

 

Thank you, Tom, for your dedication to the betterment of our profession. We will miss you very dearly at Regis, and we wish you all the best in your new adventure in life! Congratulations!

 

Tom also wanted to make sure that everyone knows he will have his Regis email, listed here (open forever) and it will be the best way to contact him. He will love to hear from people! tmcpoil@regis.edu

 

Written by: Pamela Soto, Class of 2019

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!

 

Budget Tips for Students

Name: Jaegger Olden

Undergrad: Central Washington University

Hometown: Aberdeen, Washington (on the peninsula, no not by Seattle)

Fun fact: my spirit animal is a hangry Terry Crews

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I have been in college for almost a decade. So you could say I am what comes close to being a professional student. However, with that title comes heaping amounts of debt. Fortunately, I have learned the art of budgeting, scholarships, and sucking up to my extreme-couponing-and-geologist wife so my debt is incredibly low. Unfortunately, most students finish their graduate degrees with six figures of student debt. I am here to share my secrets and help you avoid evil student loans (well, as much as you can).  

Budgeting

I can’t stress this enough: BUDGET YOUR MONEY. This is the key to being able to:

A) know how much money you need in scholarships/loans/income and

B) decide where your money goes

Budgeting is fairly straightforward. Create a spreadsheet with all of your expenses listed out. It is easiest to do this for each semester because, as students, we are charged tuition and given financial aid only 2-3 times per year.

Some of the categories my wife and I use are:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Gas
  • Groceries
  • Internet/Cable
  • Insurance/Medical
  • Car Maintenance
  • Entertainment
  • Emergency Fund

All of this goes into our budget Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t use Excel, then you should start now. There are plenty of tutorials online if you need to refresh on the functions or even through the Regis Library/Learning Commons/Tutoring Center on campus. The best part about budgeting like this is determining how much in student loans I need to take out.

Tip: Avoid taking out your max student loan amount each semester AT ALL COSTS. This is a great way to reach your lifetime federal loan allowance (which is $138,500 with no more than $65,000 subsidized).

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Loan Repayment Strategy

I’m sorry for using the L-word, I promise you it gives me a lot of anxiety just thinking about the hole I dug for myself, but that is just our reality as students. One day, we will need to repay these loans and it’s important to have a strategy to do so.

After plenty of research, my wife and I have decided to use the Debt Snowball repayment plan. This is the famous strategy created by financial expert Dave Ramsey that bases debt repayment on the combination of psychology and interest percentages. Instead of paying off debt based on interest alone, the Debt Snowball creates a system that pays off debt based upon the total value of each individual loan to create a psychological reward as well as paying off debt as quickly as possible.

This method, along with plenty of other financial tips and advice, is featured in his incredibly successful book The Total Money Makeover, which I can’t recommend enough.

Housing

I know too well what “money dump” apartments are and how getting a cheap apartment can come with some hazards. This is typical in Denver. As of today, three students just in my class have had their cars stolen from their apartment parking lots while their managers refuse to install security cameras. Because of this, it actually can be both safer and cost effective to slightly splurge and find apartments in low crime areas. The Denver Police Department maintains a great crime map that is user friendly.
However, if you can manage it, then I suggest trying to buy a house or condo. You’re probably saying, “this guy is crazy!” but you’re putting money into someone else’s bank account every month with no equity. Not to mention a mortgage payment is less than Denver rent. So if you have enough savings to go into a down payment, or can have family help, go for it! If you’re going the family route, then I suggest giving them a return on their investment via the equity upon selling. It is truly a win-win.

Shopping

Shopping is easily the biggest way we save money. I am infatuated with couponing and am getting pretty good at it…to the point of saving up to $30 a week on groceries. I’m currently a part of a coupon club that sends me coupons daily…go figure. I also use the Krazy Coupon Lady. The last major strategies I use is shopping at Costco or Sam’s club for bulk items such as meat to freeze, fruit, vegetables, and nonperishables.

However, if you are really interested in saving money and time on healthy meals, check out my wife’s blog post about eating healthy in college. She goes over our full healthy cooking system and how we save money on our groceries.

Read more about cheap and healthy eating in college HERE.  

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Saving Money at Regis University

Being a graduate student at Regis University does have its perks! Take advantage of the amenities. My favorites are the gym, 10 free local transit passes a week, and 2 free swimming passes a week for any Denver Parks and Recreation’s Aquatic facility. One of the better pools close to the university is the Berkeley pool attached to the Scheitler Recreation Center.

Some of the other ways I save money during class are bringing my own food for lunch, bringing K-cups from Costco instead of purchasing coffee (there are two Keurigs in Claver Hall, which ends up being 34 cents a cup), getting a beer with classmates at Walker’s pub during happy hour ($1 beer), and taking advantage of free food events. I also frequently use the classroom electricity to charge devices and shower at the gym to reduce water-heating costs at home.

Income

One of the most daunting factors about being in graduate school is the lack of income. However, there are plenty of great ways to have an income with minimal time commitment. One of the easiest and best ways to do that is to turn your hobby into a job. One great way to do that is to start a money-making blog! There are countless benefits to creating a blog in college. THIS is a great post that breaks down the reasons why you should start a blog in college and THIS is a great post to help you understand how to do it!

Another great way to make money is to donate plasma. I personally donate twice a week and receive about $300 a month for less than 3 hours a week of sitting in a clinic. All plasma is donated to medical research facilities and nearly everyone at these clinics are amazing and professional people. Despite what the stigma is against plasma donations, it is a requirement that you have a home in order to donate.

Some of my other classmates use their skills as a small income like instructing rock climbing lessons once or twice a week for gym memberships or baby sitting/house sitting for friends.

A small amount of income comes a long way, but take precaution based on your performance in class. You’re a student first!

Utility Saving Tips

I got bills! Of course the more energy efficient your household is the lower the bill. One of the more helpful strategies to adapt daily is running appliances that have a high energy cost during non-peak hours. For Denver (consumers of Xcel Energy), the best times to run your appliances (dishwasher, dryer, etc.) are between 9pm and 9am.

In addition, here is a list of other easy tips:

  • Sealing doors/windows/sinks
  • Running the fan in reverse during winter
  • Don’t use heat dry in dishwasher
  • LED lights in bulk and swap out when moving out
  • Read your electricity statement: Xcel sends personalized saving tips
  • Reduce standby power (printer, TVs, gaming systems)
  • Minimize cooling by opening the windows at night (if safe)
  • Deduce shower time

Having Fun

Now I know it seems like you are not going to have time, but make time to do what you love. This will prevent getting burnt out and being miserable.

Some cheap ways of having fun is getting outside to hike, trail run, rock climb, mountain bike, or cycle. The National Park Service has an amazing yearly pass deal that pays itself off in under 8 visits.

If you’re a skier/snowboarder, then I have heard the Epic pass is fantastic. It has a student pass and pays itself off after 4 times of hitting the slopes. If you like to hangout and watch tv, save money by streaming via Netflix and Amazon Prime. If you get Spotify premium as a student, you save $3 a month and get Hulu for free.

Also, if you’re a book worm, then go get a Denver library card in combination with an app called Overdrive. You can access the ebook library, audiobooks, and most movies currently out on Redbox.

Do you have any favorite budgeting tips? Were these strategies helpful for you? Feel free to comment and share with us!

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How I Lost the Most Valuable Ligament

Name: Erin Lemberger, Class of 2020

Undergrad: University of Northern Colorado

Hometown: Littleton, CO

Fun Fact: A one humped camel is called a Dromedary and a two humped camel is called a Bactrian.

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Let me just tell you about my first semester of PT school. I’ll start off by saying that PT school is a lot of work, so of course, the first semester was stressful. But regardless, there are 80 of your closest friends that make studying, adventuring, and everything that happens in between a whole lot easier. I started the semester by buying a season pass to ski all winter long and to use as a major de-stressor when school became difficult. I have been skiing since I was a little tike, so what could go wrong? I had never been hurt skiing nor seriously injured so it couldn’t possibly happen now. Here’s my advice, kids. When the mountain does not have enough snow to open up more than one run, there’s not enough snow. Just trust me.

 

So here’s how it went. I go to Arapahoe Basin (lovingly known as A Basin) with my now boyfriend, Preston, and we’re having a great time just enjoying the weather and the snow. We ski about three runs before the resort is flooded with people also trying to ski the one run that is open. We spend about 20 minutes waiting to get on the lift that will take us to the top, so the decision to get to the top, ski all the way down, and head on home is smart. I’m happily skiing along trying to keep up with Preston, but when I get to about 50 feet from the bottom, realize I’m going a little too fast. Preston is down at the bottom and I go to stop and my ski catches a patch of ice (remember the not enough snow comment?) that takes me out. I flip over backwards and roll hard, and although the details of that fall are fuzzy, I’m sure now it was a classic plant and twist. My skis don’t pop off and my right knee is screaming in pain; I can’t stand on it, so I get my first toboggan ride down the mountain to meet Preston.

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About 20 minutes before I fell. The view is pretty right?

I’m going to start this part of the story with the advice that I would not recommend getting hurt in PT school, but I want to brag about our professors for a little bit. I think I was in denial that I ruptured my ACL, so I went to Dr. Tom McPoil and asked him to check out the knee. Tom tapes me every morning for about 2 weeks while we are trying to get MRIs and doctors appointments scheduled; he was a saint. After a few days of taping, he decides Dr. Mark Reinking should check out my knee too, thus getting two amazing faculty giving me advice. You probably know what happens next: I have surgery to reconstruct my ACL with a semitendinosus/gracilis autograft (they took my hamstrings to make a new ACL). I was thankful I could do surgery over winter break. Over the month that we had off, I got time to recover and relax instead of worrying about school. I started PT off campus and then switched to seeing a PT in our faculty once the new semester got closer. Our faculty are incredible, understanding, kind, teaching, inspiring humans who are the reason I am fairly active for 5 months post-op. My PT, Nancy, is one of the many reasons I am certain that I want to go into this profession because she makes me laugh when PT for an ACL reconstruction is painful. Although I would not recommend tearing your ACL, I have gotten more perspective than I could have imagined from the process.

 

Okay, now go back. I tore my ACL. It was an absolute pain (in the knee) 90% of the time. It was hard watching my friends all ski while I was stuck at the lodge, it’s terrible that I still have pain running even though it’s normal, and I have a huge mental block doing most physical activity now, which is hard. Here’s my advice: Take care of yourself. Have fun, but within healthy limits for yourself. I recommend you also know that life simply happen. Having a positive outlook has made a huge difference for me. Sometimes you just have to see the brighter side. That all being said, I am here, I am passing, and I am chugging along just fine in PT school. So, if you do injure yourself while in school, remember that it is all doable. That’s a promise!

Here’s some other friends that are going through injuries in PT school and some advice they have for dealing with it:

Ryan Pineda, Class of 2020: Lisfranc fracture, surgery completed, in PT currently

“Find a good Netflix show to break up the studying and try not to think about

how much fun your friends are having. Also make sure to buy pass insurance for

your ski pass.”

 

Gabe Lawrence, Class of 2020: meniscal tear, surgery happening this week!

“Make sure to stay active and find something to take your mind off the injury

while you’re rehabbing. It’s easy to be lazy when you have an excuse. Just

because you‘re down a limb doesn’t mean you can’t use the other three.”

 

Jake Berndl, Class of 2020: bilateral inguinal hernia, surgery completed, progressing back to normal physical activity

“Don’t sustain a more serious injury like the above three. Put a positive spin

on your down time – catch up on studying while your classmates are out

having fun instead of studying. This way, when tests or finals roll up, you’re

prepared. Also, don’t forget to ask your surgeon the important questions…”

 

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!

How to Avoid Burnout in PT School

 

Name: Brad Fenter, Class of 2019
Undergrad: University of Texas at Tyler, TX
Hometown: Vernon, TX
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Burnout is an interesting thing, mainly because it only happens with things that we love. No one gets burned out on things we hate or even things we just feel a little “meh” about. The concept that we no longer want to be around or indulge in something we love is very unsettling . No one has ever gotten burned out on onions; no one loves onions. We tolerate them and can even enjoy them, but love them? No. And if you’re thinking to yourself, “I love onions!” Then you’re most likely an alien trying—unsuccessfully—to assimilate with human society.

No, burnout is only possible with something we love. For me, I love Clif Bars—specifically the white chocolate macadamia flavor. If you think another flavor is better, that’s completely fine. Just know I’ll be judging you until the end of time. Unfortunately for me and my love of Clif Bars, I went on a backpacking trip a few years ago with an entire case in tow. Every day I crammed those delicious little bars in my face until, one day, I just couldn’t eat them anymore. I wanted to eat them, but I just could not do it. I was burned out.

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My sadness is palpable.

After the trip, I had just one bar left and it has stayed in my pack as a sad, dilapidated reminder of what once was. I want you to learn from my mistakes and avoid burnout. Since this is a PT blog, here are 3 ways to ensure your time in PT school does not become a macadamia Clif Bar.

1. Pace Yourself

This is most important for when you’re first starting out in PT school. That first semester you tell yourself you’re going to read all the textbooks, watch all the online videos, and take excellent notes. If you do everything at top gear, you’ll be out of gas by October. Then what will you do? There are approximately…all of the semesters left at this point. Instead, take the time to learn good study habits and you won’t have to worry when you feel a little fatigued halfway through a semester.

When we discuss long commitments, the analogy of a marathon is always used: “Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint!” When I ran my marathon, though, it took only part of 1 day and I was finished by noon. To contrast, PT school is 8 semesters—which is around 3 years—which equates to…A lot of days. A better saying would be, “Remember it’s a 3-year commitment.” It may seem long right now, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a long time. If you start with the right pacing in mind, then you will be better off. Do not be the brightest star for the first month only to flame out spectacularly for the next 32 months.

Had I paced myself a little better, Clif Bars and I would still be going steady and I would have my first love second love. My wife, of course, is my first love (as the bruise on my ribs proves after writing that previous sentence).

2. Get Involved (but not too much)

This point may seem to run counter to my previous one, but it will all make sense in the end (just like neuroscience except for the sense-making part). There are many opportunities to get involved with things outside of the main curriculum. You can run for a position as class officer, you can be a part of the puppy program, you can join a student interest group. You can go to conferences (quite handy since some of them are required, anyways) and get to know practicing PTs. All of these things are important. Getting involved in more than just schoolwork can remind you of why you started PT school in the first place.

The way I stay involved with my classmates is through Ultimate Frisbee. If there’s a pickup game going on after class, I’m there. I get to interact and stay engaged with my classmates outside of the lab or lecture hall; it’s great. I enjoy the exercise, competition, and group aspect of the whole thing. But all of those other things I listed before? I do exactly NONE of those things because I’m antisocial and don’t like new situations. Now, that may sound like the ramblings of an angry old man who wasn’t hugged enough as a child, but it is actually a larger part of my point. I have time to play a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee and enjoy a drink at the brewery afterwards. I don’t have time to attend the fellowship meeting after class, play frisbee, participate in the puppy program, volunteer to pass out flyers at commencement, and also do well on my finals.

You may be thinking, “I can do all of those things and still be successful!”

Is it possible to do? From a strictly physical standpoint, sure. If you want to end up like this:

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The point is not that all of these things are impossible. But, you will be drained by the end of each semester—just in time for finals.

3. Keep Perspective

This is, I believe, the most important point. I put it last to weed out the unworthy people who get scared of words milling about in groupings of greater than 140 characters. Now that they are gone, we can discuss the most important tool we possess to avoid burnout.

Perspective goes both directions in time. It’s important to remember the future we are working towards as practicing clinicians, but it is also important to see where we came from. If I were not in PT school I would still be plugging away at my old job with little satisfaction and a feeling that there is something more I could be doing. Anytime I feel a little down on myself, I think about how stressed I was beforehand; this serves as great motivation for the present. If you’re one of those young folks and have not had a previous career, then your perspective should be forward. Most people in life will never have the opportunity to work in such a fulfilling field as physical therapy or even get into PT school! When we zoom out from our studies, case assignments, skill checks, and lab practicals, we can see just how great we really have things.

You may be thinking, “I know this is important! But how do I actually accomplish this?” My most important tool for keeping perspective is to prioritize time for myself. Whenever a day is available, I will try to get outside and hike. Or bike. Or camp. Really, anything outside will do. Even when it’s just a weekend and there are exams on Monday, I will take a long bike ride to a coffee shop to study. That way I get to study with the addition of sunshine and exercise thrown in. If you hate all of these things for some unfathomable reason, there’s still hope for you. Maybe you like going to the movies or reading books. That’s great. Make time to do those things because if you do, you will be more successful.

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Making time for myself on a hike to Handies Park

 

For me, outdoor activities allow me to see the wider world and keep perspective on how insignificant many of the major stressors in my life really are. Regis’ DPT program is very good at pushing you to the edge and then pulling back just in time. But what happens when you feel like you’re going over the edge? What happens when you feel you’re on the road to burnout? Do you have the tools to pull back from the bleary-eyed, emotionally drained abyss? If you can pace yourself and get involved (but not too much) and keep perspective, you will be better equipped to avoid burnout. Remember, life doesn’t get easier once we are done with school, but this experience will prepare us to handle the difficulties that come our way.

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Here’s me, fellow student David Cummins, and more friends after tackling another one of life’s difficulties