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Journey of a DPT Student

Pediatric Therapy

Published July 26, 2011 4:04 PM by Lauren Rosso

With our first clinical assignments coming up, our coordinator has been trying to get a feel for our individual interests, which I am assuming are taken into consideration when determining our placements. Just the other day, we received an email asking about our interest in pediatrics. For me, this was a tough call. I always thought I would want to give it a try, but faced with the actual decision, I really didn't know what to do.

I'm torn. On one hand, I think it would be really amazing to see children develop and (hopefully) have a positive impact on their lives. On the other hand, I'm not sure that pediatrics would be the experience that I am looking for. What I love about physical therapy is interacting with people - learning about their lives and finding a meaningful way to connect with them. While kids are great, interacting with them is obviously different from adults and I fear that I would not be as satisfied. (I also imagine that it takes a special kind of patience to work with children, which I may not possess).

In the end, I decided not to express interest in pediatrics. Given an opportunity in the future, I might change my mind, but for now I'm happy to explore other areas of physical therapy.


I understand your concern for being able to connect with pediatric patients in the way you enjoy connecting with your adult patients and being able to listen to their story and their concerns.  I feel as though I connect with pediatric patients in a very special way where I can feel their wants and needs without them being able to express them to me verbally.  To be a physical therapist who works with pediatric patients, you have to have a creative sense along with a great deal of patience to be able to guide your sessions the way that you feel would be most beneficial with your patients.  And just like with adult patients, but especially with pediatrics, your sessions don't always go the way you planned.

I worked in the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte for my clinical affiliation, and dealt with several pediatric patients who had endured traumatic injuries.  I seem to look past but be empathetic to what they went through previously, and focused soley on providing services to these children to improve their quality of living.  Seeing these chidren thrive through treatment brought great joy to me and to their families.  I agree with Kassi in her comment about not ruling out any part of physical therapy until you've tried it.

Kristin Laurent April 24, 2012 6:23 PM

I have always had an interest in pediatric physical therapy and now that I am graduating next month, I still have an interest and I am currently applying for pediatric job openings. You mentioned that making that connection with your patient is something you love about physical therapy and I think that this is best in the pediatric population. These patients have the longest care, other than long term care facilities, and you get to see them from the beginning and build that relationship with them. You also can build that relationship with the parents and other caregivers. As Tiffany said, these children are the happiest of any patients I know. They only know their current situation and they are just children! You also get a wide variety of patients including both orthopedic and neuromuscular patients.

Overall, I would say don't rule out any type of physical therapy until you try it. I didn't think I would enjoy acute care until I actually experienced it. The great part of our profession is that we can move around to different settings if we ever get tired or bored in our current setting and we can treat different patient populations within different settings.

Kassi Rose April 18, 2012 5:53 PM

As you said it takes someone with great patience to work with children and that is very true because they are still children who have personalities and are unique in their own ways.

I've already had a pediatric clinical rotation and I believe that it was one of the best experiences I have had.  Yes it is difficult to see children that are struggling to do the "typical" tasks that other children their age are performing.  It is also hard to accept that they may never have the quality of life that we expect that everyone should have, but on the other hand they were born exactly as God designed them.  Most of the kids I saw hadn't experienced life a different way.  That was who they were and they accepted life as it was.  It is the person on the outside looking in that thinks that they should be different somehow or that they aren't happy in the situation.  Most of the time it was completely opposite and those children were so happy and helped me to appreciate my functional abilities and reconsider what's really important in this life.

What I did learn on this experience was so beneficial for me as a therapist working with patients and if I have children of my own in the future. I would want a therapist who would be willing to go to extra lengths to help my child to gain as much function as possible and help them reach their highest potential.  This experience really pushed me to go the extra mile with being creative with treatment plans and learning to adapt to unexpected changes. I learned to be more flexible and go with the flow.  You have to learn how to make something therapeutic out of whatever it is the child is interested in along with having some fun. The best part of the experience is just knowing that you have had a major impact on a child's life that will greatly benefit their future.

I would definitely recommend a Pediatric experience if you get the opportunity to do so.

Tiffany Fletcher, , Physical Therapy Student East Carolina University March 21, 2012 11:57 AM
Greenville NC

Lori-  I didn't end up volunteering for this initial peds affiliation, but I'm hoping the opportunity comes up again in the future.  You make a very good point about waiting until we have our peds class.  I never even thought about that, but I imagine that I would have a much better experience with some sort of knowledge base.  Thanks for the advice and good luck to you in your last year!

Lauren Rosso August 29, 2011 6:42 PM

Hey Lauren, I was going through a similar thing. I am third year DPT student at UIC. I am currently doing a pediatric rotation, and it has been great! I am not sure if I will want focus on that post graduation, but for me, I had to one peds rotation to find out. I would encourage you to do the same (and also wait until you have your peds course to do it). It is fun to read your blog, thinking I was there about two years ago.

Lori August 29, 2011 10:04 AM

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