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Journey of a DPT Student

A DPT Student with Patients

Published May 13, 2013 11:42 AM by Lauren Rosso

I completed the first full week of my six-month clinical affiliation, and things are off to a tremendous start. This past week, I was assigned two patients of my very own who I'll likely see throughout their course of care on the inpatient rehab unit. It might not sound very monumental; however this is the first time that a patient has been "mine" and solely mine, and where I'm the primary decision maker.

There's a completely different vibe when you are a full-time student assigned to a place for a significant amount of time. Obviously the amount of responsibility is much greater than it has ever been, which is likely why I'm acutely aware of the impact that my decisions will have on the recovery processes of my patients.

I find myself coming home at night and planning out my next day. I come up with a strategy for the morning and afternoon sessions, dream up a ton of different interventions, and research anything I don't know. Part of it is that I've developed a huge interest in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation, but the other part is that I feel very new to the responsibilities that have been placed on me. The only thing I can think to do is prepare as much as possible and walk in the next day with more knowledge than I had when I left the previous evening.

I'm excited and nervous to finally start developing my own patient caseload. It seems like the more responsibility that's placed in my lap, the more I start to realize the potential I have to make a different in people's lives. It's an exciting thing to realize at the start of your career!

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I just finished my final clinical affiliation and had several patients placed on my own caseload from the very beginning and it is quite frightening to see your CI just sit back and watch you perform.  You are the ones coming up with ideas.  Now you are the one who has to gather and put away all of the equipment.  You are the one who interprets their verbal and nonverbal responses to determine what/where to go to next.  This is a terrifying feeling for me, but it has also allowed for me to improve my confidence (an area in which I constantly struggle).  Being able to have increasing amounts of responsibility has allowed me to improve my clinical skills one piece at a time which I am thankful for.  I always had this idea that on your last clinical that you would immediately treat all of the patients by the end of the first week, but this was not the case.  I also was thankful to see other therapists running ideas by each other when they got "stuck" or needed another clinician's opinion.

When I graduate and take on my first job, I plan to continue to make an agenda for each patient as I did on this clinical.  It gives me a rough idea of where I want to start and also keeps me accountable for documentation purposes (ex: knowing what exercises you did with who/how you did them/what they needed).  I am looking for a job in which there will be other clinicians in the clinic whom I can bounce ideas off of when I need assistance or to lean on when I am having a rough patch.  

Thank you for your insightful posts throughout your blogging experience.  You give a true depiction of what it is like to be a PT student, including attachment to patients/other workers, how to work through difficult situations and that it is possible to make it through this incredible journey.



Susan March 21, 2015 10:48 AM

I am a first year student and about to embark on my first clinical rotation within the next 2 weeks. It is exciting to hear someone that has a very positive outlook on getting their first ever patients that are solely theirs. I have previously worked in an outpatient setting where I got to observe and assist in the management of patients but I am excited to be able to have my own patients. I strive to stay organized and plan for the next day in advance in the same way you did so that I can learn more about each patient and help them progress and meet their goals we have established. I know most people are extremely nervous when they get their own patients but it seems you were more excited than nervous and tried to be active in the clinical experience which is one of my main focuses so that I can become the best therapist that I possibly can.

Chris Fightmaster, SPT March 11, 2014 12:57 PM
Greenville NC

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