Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Residency Pros and Woes for the Soon to be New Grad…

I have to admit that when Ben asked me to participate in posting on the Move It blog website, I was flattered and a little (ok a lot) intimidated. I spent a lot of time reading other posts, found them fascinating and then thought… “What in the world am I going to say before I’ve even entered the :Real World:?” (I am a 3rd year PT student preparing to graduate in May.) But, alas, true to my extroverted personality, I realized I have a LOT to say, and even more to ask. I am honored to be in the presence of these amazing new professionals, and it gives me a lot of encouragement and inspiration as I embark on my journey into the professional world coming up here in May. It is exciting to see all of the opportunities available to me as a new graduate, between residency programs, research fellowships, and multitude of settings and specialties.

Again, however, that intimidating feeling returns. I have had many discussions with classmates of mine about our near (much nearer than we believe) future in this profession. We have spent 3 years of blood, sweat, and tears (well at least some tears for sure) pouring our brains and hearts into this profession we feel passionately about. Now our caffeine riddled, sleep deprived bodies face the reality: How do we put all of this information we’ve learned to its best use for our professional lives?Many students, including myself, are concerned with being “stuck” in an area of PT once they start out in it. What if we (Gasp!) don’t know if that’s definitely the track we want to be on for our entire professional career? While the opportunity for specializing in areas (NCS, OCS, WCS, etc) offer amazing enhancements to the profession, it also adds some pressure to decision making process. Should I specialize right away? If I do, what if I want to change career paths? If I don’t, am I not advancing my career the way I should? Many of the same questions arise regarding residency programs. Several friends of mine are pursuing residencies because of the unique and beneficial opportunities they present.

I myself am/was considering doing a Neurology residency. It would provide me with a wide knowledge base in advanced skills that would not have had the opportunity to master in PT school. I would be exposed to a variety of patients with many different neurologic diagnoses, and it is also attractive to think of being able to sit for my NCS after one year and seemingly “fast track” my career. However, some more practical notions come into my considerations that make me hesitant. This particular residency I am considering, for example, does not start until January. I graduate in May. Though I would be perfectly fine (and happy) to wait until July to begin working, I cannot wait until January secondary to financial pressures (student loans anyone?) and the desire to put my degree into practice! It has been offered as a suggestion to work prn somewhere, but I fear my own personal anxiety of not having a very stable work schedule/ income would make that 6 months quite tumultuous. In an ideal world, I would love to find a place where I could work full time, gain neuro experience, practice my skills, do the residency, and come back to my position. (I know, I’m a dreamer J ). Then there is the question of value for the profession. Residencies are fairly new to Physical Therapy, and have already been met with skepticism, not just from students, but from seasoned therapists. I have listened in on, and endured many “What’s the point?” conversations and have not myself had a very good answer to provide. Any thoughts and feedback (HELP!) would be very much appreciated for this soon to be new graduate DPT.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pushing Practice

I've always been a little indecisive. When I was a kid and someone would ask me what my favorite color was I would say "All of them. No, wait, purple. No, shiny metallic blue. No, no purple with shiny sparkles! Final answer." Well, I guess I haven't changed much in the past 26 years, because it has dawned on me that this is the exact quality that is beginning to shape me as a physical therapist. And, I'm realizing that isn't such a bad thing. Throughout school I loved EVERY topic we covered... even the practice areas I never thought I'd be interested in. I always had trouble choosing sections to be a member of, courses to attend at conferences, and don't even get me started on considering a residency after graduation!

As we went through school, I kept thinking that I'd figure it out before graduation. Well, it didn't happen. So, I decided to create my own little unique experience for my first year of work (now that I think about it, its kinda funny that I was an interdisciplinary major in undergrad... ha ha... I never quite realized how in line that was with my personality!) Anyways, for my first year of work I worked 4 days a week in an outpatient orthopedic private practice, where I was given the opportunity to take my interests and run with them. Little did my boss know what he was getting himself into! The calm quiet orthopedic clinic in a very affluent Atlanta suburb was suddenly filled with dizzy people, kids scooting around on the scooter board that had only ever been used for the occasional balance exercise, Spanish being spoken across the gym, and the occasional screaming baby who just wasn't in the mood for therapy that day (in the newly converted baby treatment room in the back of the clinic.) Outside of my 4 days a week at the outpatient clinic, I worked PRN 1 day a week (theoretically just one day...) at a pediatric acute care hospital, where I got to cover ever floor from ortho to neuro to trauma to oncology to cardiac and even some wound care. I managed to weasel my way into just about every practice area I was interested in.

It was the hardest thing in the world for me when I decided to uproot my life and jobs that I loved to take a new opportunity recently that just kept clawing its way into my thoughts until I gave in. So, I put all of my stuff in storage, said a teary "see ya in a year!" to my wonderful friends in Atlanta, and headed out to Vegas to live the life of a showgirl!!! Well, sort of. I took a job as a physical therapist on a traveling Broadway show.... And we are currently in Vegas for a few months. I work nights, eat in the casino underground dining hall for employees every night, have crazy roommates (a pirate in the treasure island show, an acrobat in cirque du soliel, and a go go dancer!), and still don't believe that this is all actually happening. I've had alot of time to think out here... mostly cause I spend alot of time lying around resting my sore hands!!!! So, I've been reflecting on all the great experiences I've had already in my almost two years of practicing. I've started to realize that I may never fit clearly into a section or a clinical specialty or even any specific job that is out there.... and this has now started to create an idea in my head that keeps clawing its way into my thoughts! And we know how that goes! I know its a little ways off, but I now have this concept growing in my head of what I may want my own clinic to be someday. Somewhere that combines physical therapy, wellness, community, laughter, and life; a clinic I can make my own and push the normal practice patterns that are divided up for us in school.

I'd love to hear if any of you have ideas for pushing practice patterns, as well!!! I'm fascinated with this at the moment. Anyways, to conclude, I'm quite happy to say that once I set myself free of worrying about boundaries and of needing to decide in which area I belong, I am finding myself very much at peace with my identity as a physical therapist. And, also, quite happy that purple with shiny sparkles is still my favorite color. =)