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.


  1. I would just like to welcome Sarah, as the first non-New Professional contributor, to the blog. By asking so many good questions, she does a perfect job of illustrating that many NP conundrums begin and are carried over from our time as students. Developing a peer network like Move It is a great opportunity for us to support each other and seek solutions. I look forward to the insight of Sarah and other students around Move It in the future!


  2. Great post Sarah C. It is great to have decisions. I am sure you will find a great balance of getting paid while waiting for the residency. If you know neuro is the area you want to start your career in then residency is the best way to do it. I myself did not go through an official residency but I did an 18 month "mentorship" which was structured very much like a residency with the learning and all. You have the choice to be thrown out into the world and figure things out for yourself or be taught the right way to do it. It seems to work pretty well for the medical world. I think PT school has to avoid being too specific in one area thus not allowing for you to master one area short of an amazing long affiliation. Good luck to you Sarah, keep us posted.

  3. Hi Sarah! Your post accurately portrayed my feelings just one year ago as a new graduate Physical Therapist! With all of the pressures of boards, student loans, and job interviews there was only one thing I was sure of and that was my love for Orthopedic Physical Therapy. I was positive that I would work in an outpatient orthopedic setting and I wanted to sharpen my skills in this area.

    I was completely sure of the areas in which I wanted to practice, therefore it seemed that participating in a residency was the best option. My program also began in January, however after becoming licensed I was able to practice as a PT at the same clinic that I would be working at during the residency. This helped to supplement my income between graduation and the start of my residency.

    Overall, I am very happy with my decision to participate in a residency program after graduation. Please feel free to contact me Sarah if you have any specific questions about my experience as a resident! Good Luck!

  4. I'm on the older side of the NP group, and will be receiving my NCS this year at CSM. I did it without a residency, but it took me 4 years after I graduated to feel ready to commit to the exam. I had to seek out learning experiences because I worked in an inpatient rehab facility where I saw a large patient mix, and had to find the opportunity to rotate into specific stroke and SCI units (Had my original position been on one of those units, I probably would have been able to take the exam sooner). To have all of those opportunities provided in a streamlined fashion sounds like a great opportunity.

    On a professional level, I think it would advance our profession for more PTs to complete residencies. However, this change will likely be slow. There are a lot of fantastic neuro workplaces that do not currently provide structured residencies (mine has been thinking about it for years but the high ups are not PTs and aren't willing to invest the $$ to start it quite yet). However my job included great mentorship and learning opportunties that helped prepare me to sit for the exam (although you might have to wait a year longer to acrue the required hours). If you plan on working in neuro that entire time, and have found a great job, I have a hard time imagining that it will be a waste of time.

    Every practitioner that completes a residency and gets a specialist certification helps to help advance our profession. Since Neuro residency programs are still few and far between, most NCS's do not have the opportunity to complete a residency before sitting for the exam. If the residency works for you, I say "go for it." You will be able to find a way to make it work. For me the best career move (based primarily on location - Chicago) was to take the great job without a residency. I still had great learning opportunities (albeit more self-initiated/directed). Although I wouldn't change my career path for the world, it would have been nice to have some of those opportunities provided more readily and with protected time for them. Feel free to contact me directly if you have questions (