Working as a [Black] DPT

As I approach my second year of practicing physical therapy, I look back on everything that I have learned. In August of 2016, I transitioned from rehabilitation technician to physical therapist and it felt amazing! I am a legit Movement Specialist and it blows my mind how much I know about the human body. I can honestly say that it is everything that I expected, both good and bad. The most annoying thing is justifying my role a the PHYSICAL THERAPIST  and not the tech or PTA. Deep down, I know that it is not because I look young or inexperienced. It irritates me because it comes from my patients’ doctor, nurse, family members, etc. It drives me insane that I have to say, “Yes, I am the PT” despite what’s on my badge. But, I just let my work speak for itself.

The stress is totally worth it and I love being in a role where I have a say in my patient’s care. When I first got my license, I wanted to get a ton of experience and $$$$$ to pay off my loans early. So, I had the bright idea of working in 4 different settings, 56 to 64 hours a week. I worked in a skilled nursing facility, acute care (hospital setting), acute rehab, and outpatient pediatrics. Not bad for a new grad BUT, it was a huge mistake. I didn’t have time for myself or family and I got burnt out within the first 7 months. I had to let go of peds and acute care simply because I was not learning as much as I wanted to. These loans can wait and I will pay them off when I can. I’m currently on an income driven repayment plan where I pay 20% of my income. Now, I am working full time in the acute rehab setting with a majority of patients who are neurologically impaired and I love it. In addition, I work PRN in the skilled nursing facility 2 weekends out of the month.

In the acute rehab setting, we have patients ranging from ages 18-100 years; from fall related injuries to car accidents to heart attacks. Very rarely, we get orthopedic cases such as hip, shoulder or knee replacements but when we do, it helps me to brush up on my skills. It’s tough working in one setting because you lose some things that you learned in PT school. So it’s important to expand both the breadth and depth of knowledge. Last year, I went to several courses to help me become a better clinician. The two most important courses were based on the evaluation and treatment for patients with stroke and spinal cord injuries. I was able to bring back information for my coworkers and use it in my plan of care. One day, I plan to get my Neurologic Specialist Certification which is another huge test mimicking the format of the NPTE. I love this field so much but the only downside for me is the lengthy documentation. But if you do not document, it didn’t happen so it’s important for me to “paint a picture” of each treatment session.

Overall, I have been able to re-evaluate my own life and learn from myself. Specifically, cutting out certain people and things that did not fit into my “new lifestyle”.  I now know my worth and what I am willing to tolerate as a professional in a rewarding career. Physical therapy is an ever changing field with so much to teach and learn along the way. The most important thing for me is being confident in what I do while taking on a leadership role to become the best version of myself every day.

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Working as a [Black] DPT

Brief update as a new Doctor of PT!

Hey all! It’s hard to believe that I am two years out of PT school and I have been a therapist about 18 months. I have learned a ton in the working field. It feels weird coming up with my own treatment plans and designating to the PTA or tech. I was just in that position two summers ago. Although I am no where near as smart as I was in school or while I studied for my PT exam, I am learning every single day. Over the past year, I have taken different courses and traveled over seas trying to widen my breadth and depth of knowledge. It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. On my next blog, I will discuss the several settings I worked in, where I am working, the courses I took, loans, certifications for PTs, etc. Thank you all for reading my blog and supporting me!

Brief update as a new Doctor of PT!

I am now a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy!

It was a long time coming but I have arrived. I am licensed in my state to practice as a registered physical therapist. I passed my board exam in July 2016 and finally feel free. I studied for 9 weeks straight and never stopped. Waking up every morning to go to the library for 4 hours was redundant but, I needed to make sure that the information would stick. I didn’t have a life but it was well worth it. I can evaluate and treat my own patients safely and effectively. Right now, I work in four different settings: inpatient rehab, outpatient, skilled nursing and acute hospital. The reason for this is because I want to get a ton of experience early on. It may not be good because I do need time to myself but, the money is awesome. Plus, I am learning so much. I know where to refer my patients after discharge and I can justify my reason for my decision. Although I have a ton of loans to pay back, I do not regret my career choice. It is so rewarding to assist people in functioning independently. Physical therapy is a great career choice and the learning experience is never ending. If you do decide to choose this career, you will not be disappointed. It’s a great idea to volunteer at a facility, research the field of PT or just ask someone about it. In the near future I plan to become certified in neuro and treat patients with CVAs, TBIs, SCIs and other neurological impairments.

I am now a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy!

Free at Last…Sort of!

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Last week, I finished my last academic semester of physical therapy school ever! Although grades do not really matter to me, I managed to pull a 3.6 GPA. This semester was tough. I wanted it to speed up so that I could be with my family BUT, I needed more time to study and complete projects. Either way, I completed my work and turned it in on time. The bitching and complaining actually paid off! Although I am going to miss a majority of my professors and classmates, I am so excited to be 78.8% done. Now, I can relax and focus on starting the next chapter.

Just to recap way back when, my first clinical was at an outpatient facility where I saw patients with neck, low back, hip and knee conditions. I learned a ton but, I was not enthralled with ortho whatsoever. It was almost like a factory. Everyday, I would see three patients in one hour- first patient gets heat for 12 minutes, second patient gets massage, and the third does exercises with the tech. I did not like this method at all. Although it did not seem like true quality care, the patients were getting better based on their specific treatment plans so I could not complain.

My second clinical rotation was in an acute care setting. It was a large teaching hospital with a beautiful campus and super friendly employees. I got to evaluate and treat post-op, medical intensive care, neonatal intensive care, stroke, lymphedema and wound care patients. I also had the opportunity to communicate with PTAs, OTs, SLPs, nurses and most importantly, the doctors. I made sure that I paid attention to vitals and was cautious of every cord visible to the naked eye (i.e. I.V. poles, foley catheter bags, Jackson Pratt drains, monitors). In my opinion, it is beneficial to obtain experience in each setting (acute, sub-acute, outpatient) so that you have an idea of the patient’s skills in relation to their plan of care.

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I like to think of this journey as one big meal: P.T. school was the big appetizer, graduation is the main course and my board exam is the dessert! So of course, I am still hungry for more. Next on my menu is my third and last clinical rotation. This time it is at an inpatient rehab facility  treating patients with strokes, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic issues and other neuro conditions. Even though I am scared, I have always wanted to work with patients who have neurological disorders.

After I am done with my clinical rotation, I can register for the National Physical Therapy Exam. Prior to sitting for the exam, I must have my degree (coming May 2016!) and wait for the July date. With that being said, I have to study my ass off starting NOW! It takes me longer to process information so I am going to review my class notes, text books, exam prep books and take the practice tests. Luckily, my school was nice enough to provide us with a two-day review course to help us prepare for the exam.

After taking a few practice exams in the course, I was able to pin point my weaknesses (musculoskeletal patient management) and strengths (neuromuscular patient management). I expected to be overwhelmed but actually, I was relieved. The course was helpful in that it helped me gauge where I am and to hone in on which topics/subjects require most of my attention. I am going start reviewing my anatomy and then dive into the more dense material. I am confident that I will pass my board exam on the first try and be a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy by my birthday next summer.

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Free at Last…Sort of!

Views from the [Black] DPT Student

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“If you build it, they will won’t come.”

Walking to lab every day, I pass the class pictures of the previous Physical therapy students who have since graduated. Every other year, there is one or two black students surrounded by white faces. It’s a bitter sweet feeling because I am making history yet it is history repeating itself. You don’t really see many African Americans graduating from P.T. programs at HBCUs. Somehow, white students have become the minority but still outnumber the black students in the class. I really do not get it!

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It’s disappointing that these black establishments cannot provide their children with a home to call their own. So now I feel empowered that I am attending and taking over an HWCU (and no the “W” does not stand for wonderful). Every May, I tune into WHUT to watch the graduating class at Howard University in Washington, D.C. I always cry tears of joy when I see the graduating nurses, dentists, doctors, pharmacists and of course physical therapists of color. It feels so good….spectacular….marvelous to know that I am not alone.

I cry because I know how hard they fought to be there. I can FEEL it because I am living it! I know the struggle first hand of what it is like to be black trying so damn hard to better yourself. Nobody said that it would be easy but it is definitely possible. #BeGreat #UpliftandEmpowerSomeoneToday

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Views from the [Black] DPT Student

Happy Physical Therapy Month With a Little Black History

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It is October a.k.a P.T. month. Time to celebrate those who have paved the way for current and future physical therapists everywhere. Every one in the field of physical therapy knows about Florence P. Kendall. If not, then Google her. According to many, she is one of the most influential physical therapists and educators. She is also in the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame. Kendall’s books are used heavily in physical therapy practices and schools across the nation. Not that it is a big deal but of course, she is white (which is not hard to believe since she gets so much recognition). People praise her for everything that she has done for the world of physical therapy.

On my quest to find more black physical therapists, I decided to search for influential/famous figures. You hear about African Americans such as Dr. Charles Drew and Dr. Ben Carson in the medical world but nobody in rehabilitation medicine. It is almost as if society is hiding us; yet they are so quick to show black people committing crimes or acting out like wild animals. It’s not fair at all.

So one night while I was super bored, I decided to google “black physical therapists”. I did not get many hits so I changed it from “Black” to “African American”. Some stuff popped up such as minority scholarships and HBCUs with P.T. programs. But one name stuck out: Bessie Blount Griffin (1914-2009). I pulled up the website and I was amazed at what I was reading. She was one of the first African American physical therapists in the United States. I had never heard of or saw a picture of her before. I never even saw her acknowledged during black history month. In addition to being a P.T., she was a forensic scientist and an inventor during a time when racism was so prevalent.

It sent a chill down my spine. I’m not going to go into great detail but, she contributed a great deal to the world of P.T. in the 1950s up until her death. How did I not know about her? Are they hiding us so that we cannot have our own positive figures or role models? Maybe I am over-thinking it (not really).

Anyway, click on the links below to learn more about Bessie Blount and the obstacles she overcame to build a legacy. I am encouraged more than ever to make a name for myself. People will know my face and name for all of my contributions to the community. Many do not know about her but I guarantee you that it won’t be for long. For this reason, black history month should be extended to the same length as white history year! If black lives matter, then so does black education!
http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/savior-handicapped-bessie-blount

http://mobileobits.nj.com/obituaries/starledger/obituary.aspx?n=bessie-griffin&pid=138290058&referrer=0&preview=false

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I am new to this blog thing so feel free to ask questions and I can answer them or come up with a FAQ post. Remember that we rise by lifting others!

Happy Physical Therapy Month With a Little Black History