How to Spend your Time before Starting Physical Therapy School

Name: Kelsie Jordan

Undergrad: Oregon State University

Hometown: Portland, OR

Fun Fact: I hiked Longs Peak the weekend before finals week (along with some other classmates – who needs to study, right?)

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Take a deep breath. Now, let it out slowly. Soak in this feeling of relief. At least for this moment, you have nothing to be stressed about – you actually are  accepted into physical therapy school. The applications are over, the interviews are complete, and you’ve survived that awful waiting period when your future was in the hands of an admissions team. Now, after what may have been a grueling process of endless pros and cons lists for some, you have finally decided which physical therapy program you are going to call your own. Doesn’t that feel amazing?

So…now what? Well, the good news is you’ve already done the hard part and this period between being admitted to PT school and actually starting is pretty much smooth sailing! Here’s what you can do to navigate this in-between time:

Study and review anatomy

Just kidding! Do not worry about reviewing anything. You’ll have the entirety of PT school to do all the studying your heart desires. You’ll also have a whole semester dedicated to learning anatomy, which will likely be much more in-depth than your undergraduate course, so looking over muscle attachments before starting school won’t give you any advantage. So please give your brain a break. Don’t review any material. Seriously. Don’t do it. Got it?

 

Graduate college

If you’re still finishing up your last year of undergrad, finish strong. Enjoy your last couple months of college, and then really enjoy your last true summer vacation. After all, you’ll have summer classes during PT school and afterward, you’ll be out in the real world!

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My mom and I at the Portland Shamrock Run 15K…it rained the entire time

Get in touch with your classmates

Most, if not all, programs have some sort of Facebook page for their incoming class. Join it! Introduce yourself, ask questions, creep on your classmates, etc. It’s always a little awkward trying to get to know people you haven’t met yet, but down the road, it’s always fun to share stories about first impressions of profile pictures with all your friends. Plus, this is a great way to find roommates, if you’re looking.

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Using extra free time to visit friends in Seattle.

Take care of logistics

Check your new school email regularly to make sure you stay in the loop by receiving all the updates and information regarding your cohort. There are probably a few compliance requirements you need to take care of, such as submitting immunization records and getting CPR certified. Also, don’t forget to apply for financial aid and scholarships – FAFSA is due on April 15th! Non-logistically, it might be a good idea to make a bucket list of things to do in your new home so that once you’re waist-deep in midterms, you don’t forget all the fun adventures you want to try.

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More hiking in Portland, just prepping for life in the Rockies.

Find housing/roommates

If you’re moving somewhere new for school, you obviously need to find somewhere to live. Again, if you’re looking to live with classmates, Facebook is a great tool. Zillow is also your best friend. Better yet, if you can swing it, try to visit the area so you can take a look at housing in person. I’ll say from personal experience that living close to campus is pretty great, but there are a lot of other factors that determine your ideal place to live. Definitely use current students as a resource because we all have varied experiences.

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A year without IM sports? Might as well join a city league team!

Sleep

Don’t set an alarm and instead sleep in on the weekends. There will be fewer opportunities for this in grad school, so sleep it up!

 

Spend time with your friends and family

If you’re moving away for school, you’re going to leave a lot of friends, family, and maybe even significant others behind. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll grow apart, but you’ll obviously have less time to spend with them. So before you move, do as many things as you can with all of those people! Maybe even plan ahead and figure out what you will do to keep in touch. Even if PT school is in the place you currently live, it does take a lot of work to balance your new schedule, new friends, new responsibilities, and new life with all the people in your old life. So make the effort to prioritize those people more than ever before you transition to grad school.

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My friends and I spent 4th of July weekend on a houseboat on Lake Billy Chinook in central Oregon.

Travel

Spend some time traveling, whether it’s to another country, another state, or just that one part of your hometown you’ve never been to before. While there are plenty of school breaks, those breaks won’t allow as much time or flexibility for travel as you have right now. Trust me, I’ve enjoyed a bunch of trips during PT school, but when there is an academic calendar to adhere to, vacation time tends to be a little more structured. Also, if you don’t feel like you have the time or money to take an extravagant trip, try to make a road trip out of your move to school. That’s what I did, and it was a blast!

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My extended family had a family reunion trip in South Carolina, so I had fun being a history nerd in Charleston

Have fun and honestly do whatever you want

Relax, take a breather, and let your brain rest (especially if you just finished undergrad). Even though there will be plenty of free time to explore and have fun during PT school, most of the time those experiences come alongside the knowledge of looming deadlines in the back of your mind, so enjoy the freedom to do what you want without anything making you feel like you need to study. Travel, sleep, drink at a beer festival, read a book, binge watch Netflix, go to a concert…If you currently have a job that you’re planning to leave right before grad school, think about leaving a few weeks early to unwind. Also, I would honestly advise that you not worry too much about saving up money – you’re already investing a lot in your education, and the couple hundred dollars that you might save by not enjoying your freedom right now won’t make much of a difference in the long run. This in-between time should be a period of rest and fun, so make that your goal.

Basically, all of that advice can be pretty much summed up into two words: do nothing.

Take care of the things you need to take care of to be compliant and financially prepared when you start school, but otherwise, just take a step back and enjoy your time however you see fit. As always, feel free to contact Erin, the Class of 2020 Admissions Representative, and I with any questions. Congratulations on finally reaching this step, and good luck in the Fall!

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“PT school, here I come!” –Me, when I finally got to Colorado.

My email address: kjordan002@regis.edu

Erin’s email address: elemberger@regis.edu

Lessons Learned During the First Clinical Experience

Name: Kelsie Jordan, Class of 2019
Hometown: Portland, OR
Undergrad: Oregon State University
Fun Fact: I spent the summer of 2014 studying in Salamanca, Spain.
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When I tell people I was in California for my first clinical rotation, everyone’s minds seem to jump to the flashy big cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco. Sorry guys, I wasn’t lying on the beach or treating the movie stars; I was working more in the realm of Middle of Nowhere, CA in a small town called Orland. If you’ve ever driven to or from Oregon along I-5, you’ve probably driven right past it without ever even knowing it existed, as I actually have multiple times. I have lived in or near major cities all my life, so I had no idea what to expect from working in a rural setting. I was worried I was going to be bored, and that being away from everyone I know would make me lonely. But Orland, with its farmers, high school football, and Dollar General stores, turned out to be the best place I could have been for my first clinical.
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Welcome to Orland!

Here are just a few things I learned along the way:

Work schedules > school schedules

I’m not going to lie, clinicals are exhausting. Being on my feet all day, both literally and figuratively, drained the life out of me, especially in that first week. The good news is, I immediately discovered how great it is to come home at the end of a long, demanding day and have nothing–and I mean nothing–to worry about. After a year straight of exams, projects, and endless studying, I forgot how nice it was to have a mellow evening without feeling guilty about procrastinating. My clinical instructor (CI) once asked me what I generally do after work and I had to laugh; my nightly routine was pretty much eat dinner, drink an occasional glass of wine, and re-watch early episodes of Game of Thrones. Call me lazy, but I look at it as taking advantage of the free time I never get to have during school.

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Wine tasting in Sonoma!

It’s never easy, but it gets better

As barely a second year student going into this rotation, I was pretty much inexperienced in every sense of being a physical therapist. Even the skills I was most familiar with had a different feel to them when working with real patients instead of practicing on healthy classmates. Luckily, my CI was an amazing teacher. He did a great job of layering on responsibilities for me so I always felt challenged but never felt thrown into the deep end. After an observation-heavy first week, I was tasked with doing the subjective interview portion of every evaluation and taking over the exercises for a couple patients. At the time, that honestly made me nervous and it felt like a lot of independence. But fast forward to my final week: I had somewhere around 10 patients all to myself, I was flying solo on pretty much every lower extremity and back evaluation, I was completing all documentation, and I had discharged three of my patients. We had a packed 8-5 schedule and it was never easy because my CI always gave me more to do before I got fully comfortable. It was demanding, I made a lot of mistakes, and being challenged every day sometimes made me feel like I wasn’t improving or I shouldn’t still be struggling. But looking back at what was difficult for me in that very first week compared to what I was able to do by the end, it’s easy to see how much I learned and improved!

Confidence takes practice

I have always struggled with my outward displays of confidence in patient interactions because I get nervous and tend to doubt myself. I’ve always been told, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” but that’s a lot easier said than done; I guess I just don’t know how to fake confidence. Instead, my confidence builds gradually as I experience success and overcome challenges. And that’s exactly what happened during my clinical. From prescribing and teaching exercises on my own to completing several full evaluations in Spanish, I was definitely challenged, but I was also successful. Sure, I felt like I didn’t quite know what I was doing half the time, but I learned to not dwell on mistakes and to push myself out of my comfort zone. Most importantly, I gained confidence in my own knowledge and abilities, and I now feel more prepared to take on the rest of PT school. If there’s anything I learned from my clinical, it’s that I am capable of doing far more than I ever thought I was.

Solo adventures are good for the soul

I’m usually go go go from one thing to the next for fear of missing out on any fun, so being alone in a rural area was definitely a change of pace.  Although I was lucky enough to reunite with some college friends during trips to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, I actually probably spent more time alone over the six weeks of clinicals than I did throughout the entire first year of PT school. It allowed a lot of time for self-reflection I didn’t even realize I needed. I was itching to get out and explore, and my weekend adventures were definitely worth all the miles I put on my car: I took my first solo camping trip, discovered a National Park I had never even heard of, and hiked upwards of 35 miles by myself. Of course I missed my friends and my normal crew of camping/hiking buddies, but I learned how to embrace time alone without being lonely.

I enjoyed the opportunity to appreciate silence and just be.

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Support systems are necessary

As a class, we spend so much of our lives together throughout the year that, I have to admit, it was oddly nice to be away from everyone. No, I’m not saying I was sick of my classmates, but those 6+ weeks apart allowed me to actually miss my friends. And, although I already said I enjoyed my time alone, man did I miss them. When you go from sharing all of your time together to none of it, all while you’re being thrown into a new situation, there’s a lot to catch up on after just one day! I did my best to reach out to my friends here and there to see how their clinicals were going, and sometimes those check-ins turned into 2-hour phone conversations. Shout out to the two friends who kept up a group text with me every single day–we practically shared a play-by-play of our clinical experiences, from funny patient stories to weekend plans. Knowing everyone else was having similar challenges was reassuring, and receiving daily encouragement and sharing my accomplishments kept me excited to keep learning.


In a rural setting, a physical therapist needs to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, as my CI once told me. As a result, I got to see a little bit of everything. Sure, there were quite a few back, shoulder, and knee injuries, but I also did some detective work with more neural issues, and I got to observe several vertigo treatments as well. I absolutely loved being in Orland, not only for the varied learning experiences, but also for the people and the small town charm. I found out the correct way to pronounce almond is “am-end” (according to Northern California farmers), and I even joined in on the tradition of wearing blue on Fridays in support of the high school football team.

“You are enough!”

That’s what we were told in our final pre-clinical prep session over the summer, and it turns out it’s true! At first it was easy to think,“I’m just a student” and feel as though I had to run every thought and decision by my CI. However, as he let me become more independent, I realized even as a student, I really did have enough knowledge and skill to make a difference in patients’ lives all on my own. Now, when people ask me how my clinical went, I have nothing but good things to say. I was pushed into recognizing how much I was capable of, and humbled into realizing how much more I still have to learn. Although it was a short period of time, those six weeks were like a refresh button to help me overcome the burnout I had experienced after a year in the classroom, and allowed me to come back to Regis ready to keep expanding my knowledge base before I head back into the real world again.

 

Why Become a Physical Therapist?

 

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

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After a 48-hour mission in Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Diesel, my service pup, learning how to palpate vertebrae

 

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

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

 

 

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Thanksgiving: DPT style

 

 

Coming from another career: Meet Katie Ragle

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

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

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

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

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

Katie

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

Transitioning to PT school: Meet Chris Lew

Christopher Lew

Hometown: Eugene, OR

Undergrad: University of Portland

Fun fact: I have a whistle reminiscent of various fairy tale soundtracks…or so I’m told.

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On the first semester and transitioning into graduate school:

First semester of PT school: check. Reflecting on how PT school has been thus far will now, hopefully, be more objective following a month of winter break and relaxation (thank goodness no one asked me how it was going in the middle of finals week). To sum up how the first semester was, I would say that it was definitely challenging and frustrating at times but, overall, it was better than expected. Despite the initial fears that I –as well as many of my peers– had at the beginning of the semester of having to remediate classes or, even worse, failing out of PT school before even really getting started, I survived with a little bit (read: a lot) of hard work, determination and nights far below the recommended hours of sleep.

My favorite class of the first semester was our Biomechanics and Kinesiology class; it consisted largely of applied anatomy and I could easily see how it related directly to our practice as physical therapists. I would talk to second and third years who would mention roll and slide when doing manipulations so I knew what we were learning was valuable. However, the great thing, in my opinion, about Regis is that all of our classes, in one way or another, directly relate to our practice. Whether it’s learning how to measure vital signs in MAP I, review PT literature in Critical Inquiry or palpate the piriformis in Anatomy, it’s all relevant. It’s remarkable, really, to look at how much we’ve learned in three short months of PT school. I remember practicing palpation on my boyfriend the day before our exam and thinking how cool it was that I could name practically every bony prominence and major superficial artery, vein and nerve on the human body. Just thinking of how much we are capable of learning in such a short period of time gives me motivation and the desire to want to learn and do more so that I can become a better physical therapist.

For those considering PT school, I’ll say that it’s similar to undergraduate education; however, there are a few pretty significant differences. To start off, you will be in class a lot more than you were in undergrad. As a double major in college, I mostly took the maximum number of credits allowed and still managed to have whole or half days off each semester. In PT school, be prepared for long days of lectures and labs from 8AM to 5PM at least a few times a week. As far as workload/intensity, I would say that PT school is definitely more difficult—although not unbearably so—than undergrad. Given that it’s a doctorate program, a lot more is expected than simply skimming the surface of the material. You will spend entire days studying and preparing for exams and assignments, and oftentimes will have to begin preparing days or weeks in advance, rather than hours. However, in the end, the formula for survival/success is essentially the same: dedicate yourself to your education, be and stay motivated and routinely give yourself a break to prevent burnout and preserve the aforementioned qualities.

Just like any new major endeavor in life, there will be some bumps in the road when starting PT school. I think one key thing for anyone starting PT school is to acknowledge and appreciate what method of studying works best for that individual. It took me a couple of weeks to get into the groove of being back in school, and those first few weeks were some of the roughest I’ve had in a long time. Nevertheless, once I learned how to study for Anatomy, prioritize my workload and juggle multiple classes and commitments at once, things got a lot smoother. Oh, and one last thing: be kind to your classmates and help each other out. These are people you will be spending practically every day with for the next three years, so you might as well be friends. I’m grateful for the fact that I (objectively) have some of the kindest and most genuine classmates I could ask for. I can count on multiple people sharing their study guides before an exam as well as being willing to help teach me something I’m struggling with in one of our classes. Having a community of peers who experience the same joys and pains of school is probably the most valuable thing for me in times of distress as well as celebration. And it’s pretty awesome to think that in a short 2.5 years we’ll be walking down the same aisle as all we graduate from Regis  together.