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.
More about Miss Blount😊!
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!
(Photograph courtesy of Google)
Just in case you’re wondering who is applying to P.T. school, I have provided a document with graphs depicting the stats of the 2013-2014 cycle (PTCAS). Moreover, how many of “us” were accepted. It is clear that the “others” have taken over our HBCUs just to have those letters behind their names. My question is: who were the folks who declined to specify their race? Hmm?! I really do wonder. I can’t wait to see the 2014-2015 data report. Click on the link below to read more http://www.ptcas.org/uploadedFiles/PTCASorg/About_PTCAS/PTCASApplicantDataRpt.pdf. I’m just touching the concept lightly.