I guess it's inevitable that in a city (Pittsburgh) with cold, snowy winters, there are bound to be a ton of cancellations in the winter months. Add that on to an already light caseload (which I assume is also related to the winter months), and it can make for some very slow days. Take last Friday, for example. I only had six patients on my schedule for the day, and a grand total of two showed up.
My clinical instructor, with some amazing foresight, knew this would happen so we started to populate a "lessons" list that we can work on when the clinic is dead. It started with basic modalities like setting up cervical traction and different NMES parameters. Then we decided to try a functional electrical stimulation device for treating foot drop, which was useful since there's a patient who may benefit from it in the next few weeks.
The list has expanded to include complex gait assessment and appropriate techniques, prosthetic education, amputee-specific interventions, and other more functionally based measures. We're even focusing on manual therapy techniques, tweaking my hand placement, and discussing more advanced interventions. I've also managed to sneak a few boards questions into the mix, which is helpful during the study process.
Despite the excessive amount of downtime, I feel like I'm learning some incredibly valuable clinical assessment and intervention skills in a very learning-friendly environment. I appreciate the effort that my clinical instructor has put forth to make the best use of our time. I encourage anyone who is a CI for a full-time student to take a similar approach to recognizing learning opportunities -- it won't go unnoticed!