By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, OCS
You may notice that we usually have one or two students around the clinic at any time. As a physical therapy clinic, we get the opportunity to host Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) program students from all over the nation as well as undergraduate interns mostly coming to us from Fort Lewis College.
The DPT students come here seeking an enriching, hands-on experience in order to put the skills they have gained during their didactic curriculum into practice in a real-life setting. Their time with us, whether it be a short 6-week rotation up to a longer 12-week rotation, is supposed to be the time where a lot of the actual learning happens, especially in learning how to treat patients with their hands and communicate effectively, all with the end goal of making you, the patient, feel and function better!
The undergraduate interns, which are mostly exercise physiology majors from Fort Lewis College, are utilizing their time here to learn more about the profession of physical therapy. This helps guide many students to decide if they want to pursue further graduate education in order to become a physical therapist, versus other healthcare professions that they may be interested in. These students are not so much hands-on like the DPT students, but they are in more of an “observation and shadowing” mode so that they can assess the day-to-day of a physical therapist.
Regardless of which type of student we are hosting, the benefits to the clinicians are immense. Not only does hosting a DPT student end up in higher productivity levels for the provider1, the clinical instructor that is assigned to the student gets to refine their clinical reasoning skills by being challenged to teach and explain why they are doing what they are doing. As new research and evidence regarding best physical therapy assessment and treatment comes out and is taught in professional-level DPT programs across the nations, we get to keep our pulse on the latest and greatest research that may change the way we practice for the better in order to ultimately get each patient better, faster. Also, the patient gets to become much more of a learner as to the “why” of PT, as they get to take part in the learning experience that is very much reciprocal between each clinical instructor and their student. All in all, it is a “win-win-win” situation for the three people involved!
Next time you are in the clinic and you get to meet one of our students, make sure to take time to appreciate the learning and benefits involved in their presence in our clinic!
- Pivko SE, Abbruzzese LD, et al. Effect of Physical Therapy Students’ Clinical Experiences on Clinician Productivity. Journal of Allied Health. 2016;45(1):33-40.