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.
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.
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.
“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!
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
More about Miss Blount😊!
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!
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!
P.T. school isn’t really hard. It’s just the amount of material may be a bit much to handle so it requires a lot of discipline. That is why it is so essential to develop a schedule or method that works. This can go for P.T.A., nursing, P.A. or medical students. Honestly, whoever can benefit.
Study what you can. The material is dense and you’re not going to remember it all.
There are many branches of P.T. so be open to learning them all before sticking to “outpatient”.
You are going to love and hate your classmates (maybe hate them more) but remember you all are there for the same reason and amount of time.
People will fail out. Just be prepared to see two or three faces missing the second semester/year.
Make sure this is the right career for you so observe physical therapy in different settings.
Be as mature as possible because you will be dealing with REAL patients in unfavorable situations 97.4 percent of the time.
Buy the book you feel you need. I only bought 3 books a semester and they were all older editions.
Work if you need the money but do not work full time.
Study or go over your notes the day you get them.
Ask for help from professors before classmates. (they do not know everything)
Stay after class to practice the new skills that you’ve learned in lab.
Bring food with you everyday (mostly healthy snacks).
Try to get out on the weekend to avoid burning out from school work.
Find a study/practice buddy who is willing to work as hard as you to pass competencies/practicals.
Stay off of social media (delete the FB, IG, Twitter. Snap chat accounts off your phone).
Don’t get distracted and text during class. You can miss a whole lecture zoning out for only 5 minutes.
Work more than 15-20 hours a week.
Get caught up in any outside nonsense that will cause you to lose focus.
Cheat on your exams. You are better off bombing it and studying harder for the next exam.
Be a book worm and study 24/7. Allow yourself free time.
Have a boyfriend or girlfriend. They need attention that you can not give them while you are focusing on school.
Be afraid to speak up and give your reasoning in class. Professors love this. They want to see you use your critical thinking skills.
Doubt yourself! Prove to yourself you are there for a reason.
Get hung up on grades. No job or patient will care about that B- in ortho or that A in patient management.
Lose focus of why you are in P.T. school. If you feel unmotivated or uninspired, think about why you are there and the end result (Hint: $$$$$).
Have a “buddy” instead of a full blown boyfriend/girlfriend.
Get all of your books if you want. But Google was my best friend.
Have a drink or two every week (not a day).
Vent to friends and family about your experience.
Some other things I did were make friends and hang out with people in my class. After all, we have 3 years together. I also worked out and tried to eat right (minus the beer). I thought I didn’t have time to go to the gym and ate junk which resulted in 16 extra pounds. I had to remember the field that I was in and that I had to promote health. Something else I used to relieve stress was Li music. It’s one of my favorite anti-stress methods and it really helped me get through. Some of my favorites included Drake “Started from the Bottom” and “Worst Behavior”, M83 “Midnight City”, Sia “Chandelier”, Kendrick Lamar “Sing About Me” and Kid Cudi “My World” just to name a few.
These are some things that worked for me. It may be different depending on your support system, location, finances, availability of faculty, or whatever the case may be. P.T. school is a time for personal growth so use it wisely. Remember that you are great and that it is okay to take another leap to be greater!
My first year of P.T. school was tough. It sucked saying good bye to my family, friends and a 28,000 dollar a year salary as a tech. Moving 8 hours away was a stretch for me considering my undergrad was only 40 mins away from home. But, I knew that I was close enough to drive my 1997 Toyota Corolla home in case of an emergency. It was so weird being in a different state not knowing anyone! I had to rent a room for $550 a month using my refund check from school. At this point, I was relying on federal loans for financial support. I am grateful for them but paying them back is going to be brutal! Anyway, I was so far away from people that I knew. But I was close to McDonald’s, Walmart, Subway and the liquor store which was convenient. It felt close to home.
I remember calling my sister about my first day of class complaining that I hated it already and wanted to come home. After listening to my mini-rant, she said, “You did not come all that way to stop now. You will be fine. You worry too much!” There was no one in my position or with a story to tell. All of the other kids in my class had it easy. Half of them were there because they had physical therapy for a broken ankle or back problems. What pissed me off even more was that ALL of them only had 20 hours of observation. I thought to myself “What the hell is that?”. My 10,000 hours was shitting on their “day” of exposure. Not only did I feel like the elephant in the room because I was black but, I felt like I couldn’t relate to anyone. I quickly shut down inside. I didn’t have anyone to talk to or ask for advice in P.T. school. I was alone. I didn’t have much guidance and literally did everything on my own. Luckily, I found a weekend job which helped to cover gas and food for the week.
I had to study every night for gross anatomy! I couldn’t memorize the material any more. I had to actually learn and use the information. Ugh! I was feeling uninspired. It sucked having 6 classes, 7 to 8 hours a day, and studying for the upcoming competency/examination. What me time did I have? I almost thought that P.T. school was a mistake. Just thinking, “Three more years of this bullshit?! I can’t.” They were asking for too much but eventually I learned how to manage my time better. After school, I would come home, eat, and watch an hour of television. Once that hour was up, I turned off my phone and read my notes from each class. I would go to the local library to get away from home distractions. After 4 hours, I would have the key points retained which felt good. I knew that I had to get at least an 80% on each assignment to pass. After all, it is a grad program. I followed this method up until practical and finals week which was stressful. I starting going to the gym to relieve stress. Those first 15 weeks of P.T. school was brutal but I made it.
When the semester was over, I was so happy to see a 3.4 GPA. It was proof that I was smart and I busted my ass to be in that program. After my first year was complete, I was ready for my summer clinical at an outpatient facility back in my hometown. This was so different from being a tech. It was intimidating but, it was so cool seeing the patients that our professors told us about. It felt good being in charge of someone’s recovery. I didn’t really like my clinical instructor because I could already tell that she was one of those P.T.s that I used to work with. One of those “I’m better because I’m a doctor and I have 6 years of experience.” Or “You’re a student so you don’t know how to do many of the techniques that I know.” Even though I wasn’t too fond of her, she taught me a lot. I was grateful for my experience and I was now 104.6% sure that I chose the right career!