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Journey of a DPT Student

Utilizing Downtime

Published January 6, 2014 6:13 PM by Lauren Rosso

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!

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I love knowing that you had a CI that truly wanted you to have the best possible experience at during your clinical. It is inevitable that there will be downtime over the course of the day, whether patients cancel, no show, or just don't want to come to therapy. I often found that my clinical instructor on my last outpatient clinical wanted to utilize the hours we had open during the day as well. We made a mental list of things throughout the week that we could go over together when we found an open hour or two in the schedule. I had time to practice joint mobilizations and soft tissue massage techniques. I gained exposure to new tools such as a t-bar, TRX, and foam roller and learned cupping techniques. We reviewed various parameters of different modalities and importance of billing correctly with a billing quiz. We even had a couple sessions where we focused on advanced exercises for a sports population. Treatment is not an area that is taught thoroughly in school. You learn the basics and what you need to know and expand on that knowledge during clinicals and once you're out working in the field. Looking back, I'm so glad that my CI valued our downtime as an educational opportunity to teach me new techniques and help me practice ones I already know. I hope that I will be able to continue to utilize my downtime well once I have my own caseload in the future.

Sandy March 23, 2014 9:12 PM
Greenville NC

The impact that shadowing as well as clinical experiences have on students is often vastly underestimated. When a practitioner really takes an interest in helping students learn and fully understand concepts in the clinic it can make a large difference in the experience of the student. Clinicians also impact potential physical therapy students just by the observation and shadowing experiences that they provide before a student applies to a graduate program. Physical therapy is based on movement, therefore a lot of the learning needs to take place outside the classroom. The clinical experiences are pivotal to learning and attaining a solid level of understanding and effects how proficient of a clinician a student will become.

Hannah Parrish, PT student March 12, 2014 2:07 PM
Greenville NC

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