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Journey of a DPT Student

The End of the Road

Published April 28, 2014 4:01 PM by Lauren Rosso

There is no simple way to sum up my life since college. Unlike a lot of physical therapy students, I didn't take the traditional path. In fact it may have been the least efficient way to achieve a DPT degree. But looking back, as cliché as it may sound, I would not change a single aspect of this incredible journey that has resulted in a deep love for my career and pure excitement for the future.

We were doing a lot of reflecting this weekend. I started the program three years ago and couldn't tell you a single origin or insertion for the entire musculoskeletal system. I thought I was by far the least prepared to become a physical therapist, and I honestly questioned whether or not it was the right move. For those of you starting your programs, I hope you find comfort in the fact that despite my initial feelings, I have succeeded and excelled in my program. I traveled abroad for a clinical rotation that I will never forget. I passed my boards early. I earned the respect of my clinical instructors and faculty. Don't lost hope -- it gets so much better. My professional growth has been the direct result of the confidence I've gained by allowing myself to be challenged throughout my education. It has been an incredible ride.

Despite an amazing education, I recognize that my most important accomplishment lies in the relationships I've formed at the University of Pittsburgh. I have friends that will last a lifetime and colleagues I can contact for their expertise. There were a lot of tears this weekend as we recognized that departures are looming in the near future. If you had asked me three years ago if I thought I'd create an entirely new social circle who I care for deeply, I would have said you were crazy. It remains that the capacity to build relationships is at its best when you are challenged within that group -- during the worst finals weeks, long clinical rotations, and endless group projects. There is a bond here that can't be broken and I'm so grateful for that.

So here I am, at the end of the long and bumpy road. As with all endings, it feels bittersweet. I can't express my excitement for the future, but a small part of me will always yearn for the days when I was surrounded by some of the best friends and faculty you could ask for. I know I'm not alone in my feelings, as I'm sure many of you who are graduating (or have graduated) have felt the same.

To everyone who has read this blog over the past few years, thank you for your input, encouragement and support. I wish you all the absolute best in your career endeavors and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to chronicle my experiences as a physical therapy student. Let my journey as a new clinician begin!

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I had the same feelings of nervousness and self-doubt upon entering PT school.  After discussion with my classmates I learned that this is a common feeling to have.  We depended a lot on each other over these past three years, to overcome these fears and blossom into the entry-level professionals we are today.  After spending essentially every day with the same 28 individuals for the past three years we have become family.  I feel that even as we all go our separate ways we will always have a special and unbreakable bond!  I will forever be thankful for my friends, my professors, and my mentors that I had the opportunity to meet on this journey.

Alex April 26, 2016 9:39 PM
Greenville NC

This post perfectly sums up the emotions that have been running through my mind over the past month. I was so excited yet anxious to have finished my last clinical

Chris Fightmaster April 26, 2016 10:10 AM

Being on the brink of graduation in less than 2 weeks, this blog post hit home for me. I took 3 years off between undergrad and beginning PT school; part of me thought this was a bad idea because I was out of the "school loop", but the other part was grateful for taking time off to experience the real world first.  These 3 years of school have been difficult, but rewarding.  Even though I am practically done, and already have a job lined up, I still feel unprepared at times.  But when I think about how far I have progressed since 3 years ago, I am confident in my ability to be an adequate PT.  It's really amazing how much can happen and how much an change in only 3 years!  As challenging as it was at times, I wouldn't change anything about the process.  I am excited to take on whatever the next chapter of life has in store for me!

Jasmine April 25, 2016 6:35 PM
Greenville NC


I have kept up with your blog over the last few years and it is incredible how similar the feelings are throughout a PT program over 3 years. This last one really hits home now as our class looks to graduate. Again, all of these words I feel as if I wrote myself. The realization that this level of continued training with faculty revered as experts will have to be totally with my own drive (and finances) is scary. I wonder how your entrance into the professional field has gone/ if you continue to blog? Part of me regrets journaling less now that we are at the end of the 3 years, your blog has been so helpful in not only inspiring me to keep pushing forward, but also now to take a second and appreciate all of the feelings of the crazy ride that was the last three years. These relationships will be our colleges and friends, connections for crazy patient advice/stories - now except we do not conveniently required see each other after several weeks after clinicals to talk about them any more. It is such a bittersweet ending to a exciting beginning! Thank you for recording your thoughts/feelings over your DPT experience.

Jennifer Warren April 25, 2016 5:49 PM
Greenville NC

I, too, am approaching the end of my road as a student physical therapist here at East Carolina University, but it is just the start of lifelong learning which I am thrilled to pursue as I begin my career. This is a time of both excitement and challenge, looking toward my own (currently very unsettled) future and furthering the relationships I have cultivated with my peers and with my professors and clinical instructors as I go through the process of developing my skills toward helping people. There is a healthy amount of nostalgia as I reflect back on the past three years; I took somewhat of the road less traveled in that I worked in research for two years between undergraduate coursework and pursuit of my graduate degree, which I believe helped me greatly to reset my mind and refuel my passion for the profession. You talk about the value and significance of the relationships you formed with your classmates and professors at the University of Pittsburgh; I can definitely relate. Over the past three years, I have overcome many significant life hurdles with the support of those around me, many of whom are my classmates and will remain lifelong friends. These people mean so much to me, not only as intelligent, driven professionals and peers, but as the best friends I could have ever asked for, people who I continually trust will always have my back through thick and thin. As much as I value my didactic education, my clinical experiences, my interactions with patients, and all of the other small, important details which contribute to forming the well-rounded and well-prepared physical therapist, I value the human relationships I have formed the very most of all.

Elisabeth Flannery, Physical Therapy - SPT, East Carolina University April 24, 2016 1:16 PM
Greenville NC

Lauren, I know this took place a couple of years ago for you but at this time in my life and PT student career as I look forward to graduating in two weeks all I can do is agree with you.  I echo many of the sentiments that you brought up in your post, especially when you were talking about the great relationships you have made along the way.  The people you are surrounded with for those 3 years is crucial to your experience at PT school.  I can honestly say that I have been blessed with a class full of love, care, and character.  I am excited not only for myself but for everyone else to graduate and find their niche in this world!  I know we will all excel and succeed in life.  I have seen the determination in everyone's eyes the past three years at one point or another, and I know they will not take average as an answer.  My only regret will be leaving my school and not knowing each individual in our class even a little bit better than I do today.  These are truly great people - ECU DPT Class 2016 - thank you for being great!

Zach Blank, ECU DPT Student (for now) April 23, 2016 9:58 AM
Greenville NC

I am extremely excited about this time in my life, and I completely relate to your journey. It is so bittersweet to leave all the classmates I have gotten to know and love so well, through long 8-5 hour classes, finals, and countless group projects. It is also a stressful period where we are all scrambling to find jobs and decide where we will be moving to in the next few months. I remember going on my first clinical and being completely in awe of all the knowledge the physical therapists possessed. I remember thinking, how in the world will I ever be ready for this in two short years?! Much of the knowledge I have gained in this experience is due to my peers and amazing professors. I now know I am ready to enter into practice, armed with the lessons and knowledge I gained from my journey. These past three years have been an amazing and emotional ride, and it has helped me to shape me and teach me to succeed in my career and as I venture into this next chapter of my life.

Mary Greyard, Student Physical Therapist April 22, 2016 9:47 AM

It was literally earlier today that two classmates and I were walking up to our school and reminiscing about the first time we ever saw the place! It is very surreal to think that I will only walk into this building a handful of times before I am out practicing. Just like you mentioned, my social circle has changed drastically and I have made so many connections in PT school it is almost hard to imagine my life before PT school. I have had a theory for a couple of years now that we all age in dog years in PT school, thus meaning it has really been 21 years since I first started physical therapy school. It is funny to look back on the naive kid that thought he knew so much and think about all the things he has learned since then. Makes me wonder if I will look at myself after 3-5 years of practice and think the same thing. I am graduating my DPT program now but I know that in order to stay active in this profession I will need to be a life long student. I like the idea that this isn't the end of PT school but instead the beginning to the rest of my career- that makes me much more hopeful and less nostalgic about PT school ending.

Amir April 20, 2016 3:41 PM

I am less than 3 weeks away from graduating from PT school, so it only seems appropriate to comment on my own “End of the Road”.  Unlike you, I did take a traditional route to PT school, and have been in school for the last 7 years in college with only a 2 day break between undergrad and grad school.  It has been a long time coming, and I am super excited to get out and work as a clinician!  It is amazing to look back over these last 3 years and see how far my classmates and I have come from and the future clinicians we have grown to be.  We recently took a Scorebuilders class and a comprehensive exam.  While I did attempt to study for the exam, with all of the information we have learned over the last 3 years, some things are rustier than others, but I know that some extensive review is needed! I am very nervous for the boards exam, but I am sure that with the right study schedule and combination of active and passive learning, I will be able to succeed!   I can totally relate to you in that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for my classmates.  I have formed some great bond and lifelong friendships.  It would have been impossible to make it through these last 3 years without the support of great friends and classmates who were always there to encourage me and lift me up when I was down.  We have become a family, though dysfunctional at times, each person in my class has made some sort of impact on me that I will take into the future.  The faculty in my program has also been very supportive and invested in our success all 3 years, even when it was a tough semester.  It is going to be bittersweet to graduate.  I have been in the school mindset for so long, and really enjoy learning and being a student.  But I have learned over my last clinical that while I’m not done learning, I am prepared to go out into the world and start my life as a physical therapist.  I don’t have a job lined up yet, and so many other things are unknown for me at this point, but I know that I am ready to move into the next chapter of my life and start a wonderful, rewarding career.

Megan Monteith, Student Physical Therapist April 20, 2016 1:28 PM
Greenville NC

As I begin to think about the end of my journey through PT school the first word that comes to mind is surreal.  Its hard to believe that my journey through school is about to be over.  It has almost just become the norm to study and be with my classmates who have become like family to me.  As relieving as it will be to finally be done with all the late night study sessions a part of me will miss the camaraderie of attacking the books with my classmates as we take on and overcome the challenge that was brought forth to us.  As I move on I focus more on the positive influences that have occurred throughout the years. More than just the academic knowledge that I was taught during PT school to prepare me for the PT field, I believe PT school has taught me how to succeed and be prepared in life in general.  It was a difficult program that required dedication, persistence, and discipline.  All things that will benefit me moving forward, as it is a big turning point in my life, and for the first time in three years the future isn't certain.  I will be venturing out away from friends and family following my dream.  However, I know with what I have been taught and been through with PT school that I will be able to succeed at the next step in life.

Chad Womble, physical therapy - SPT, ECU April 18, 2016 2:47 PM
Greenville NC

Paul K, also writing from Greenville, NC, uses the term "bittersweet." That struck a chord for me. In my experience, coming to graduate as a DPT has been a journey among many in my life, but this one, more of a quest. When I'm feeling the most rugged after a day of bowel management in the neuro complex inpatient rehab unit, I feel more bitter than sweet. When I think of the results that I experienced with my patients, I feel much more sweet. I feel strong when I think of the experiences gained with medical Spanish, with medical culture, with surgery and tough decisions. It's a bittersweet spring in the south.

Laura Kraich, Student Physical Therapist March 29, 2016 3:16 PM
Siler City NC

I can't believe how "the end of the road" is the beginning of what is appearing to be a very stressful transition period. My husband and I have moved to Winston, I'm commuting to Greenville that last 6 weeks of graduate school, and am trying to wrap all that is left in school while also thinking about the Boards and finding a job. After seven years of being in school, I will now be working full time for greater than 10 weeks on a clinical rotation (after I pass my Boards of course). I will miss these friends that have become my best friends including all of their support and love we have shared with each other- getting us through it all. I know we will keep the support alive even when we may be scattered throughout the state. So hear is a cheers to my classmates, my friends for getting me through the most challenging years of my life thus far!!

Sarah March 20, 2016 9:10 PM

This moment I thought would never come. Graduating from a DPT program seemed like a surreal goal 3 years ago. Time has flown by as I have made some life long friends and memories that I will never forget. This feeling of nervous expectation reminds me of undergrad graduation. Everyone is going their own seperate ways to start a new era of their lifes and fear and excitement are overwhelming. The only difference is that these friends are now colleagues who are available to help me progress as the a therapist and a person as I step into a new stage of life.

Tyler Johnston, SPT April 21, 2015 11:58 AM
Greenville NC

After reading this post I couldn't help but compare your recent feelings to the way I have been feeling. Graduation is looming and my classmates and I are all getting very excited about embarking on our next adventures. When I look back on the beginning of my journey as a DPT student I too remember feeling inadequate, unprepared and very overwhelmed. I questioned whether I deserved to be here and if I would even succeed. Like you I too have succeeded and can't believe how far I have come. I definitely would not have survived this journey without all those who have supported me and help nurture my education. Over the last three years I have created a group of friends that will last a lifetime and gained an infinite amount of mentors to guide me, in my professors, CI's and now future colleagues. I could not be more grateful for the knowledge I have gained from each and every one of them. Good luck on all your future endeavors we have so much to look forward to.

Sarah Billings, SPT March 27, 2015 10:32 AM

I just read your "End of the Road" blog entry, and I have to say it really hits home for me.  I have had so many family and friends ask me if I am excited to be just about finished with school.  I feel that is kind of a difficult question to answer easily.  Of course I am excited to be so near starting my new career, but for me, I can't help but feel a bit of nostalgia for the end of a chapter in my life.  I too was a non-traditional student, having been out of school for 7 years between undergrad and grad school.  When I graduated from undergrad, I knew I was going back to school for something, but now that I am about to graduate again, I know that this will be the last time I will be in school (at least in the traditional sense).  I never thought that I would meet the people that I have and built such a close relationship with my classmates.  It has been one heck of a ride, but I have had the most wonderful group of people around me, and although I am happy for the next step, I am not quite ready to let go of the people I have experienced the journey with.  I suppose that is the beauty of technology, and conferences, and reunions.  Bittersweet is a very appropriate way to describe the way I feel about graduation.

Paul Kruchesky, Physical Therapy - SPT March 23, 2015 3:31 PM

I just read your last 15+ posts and reminisced about the past 3 years... I literally went through a crazy ride of emotions.  It seems like just yesterday when we realized that we were both PSU alums!  I can't wait to see what the future holds for us and our classmates!

Tyler Hassinger May 12, 2014 8:17 AM

I have been lurking for 3 years Lauren! We made it! So glad to have met you and even more glad to start our professional careers in PGH!

Eric Lehman May 8, 2014 11:26 PM

It seems only a few weeks ago that you were wading through the flood waters of Gateshead to get home from your first clinic in England. I shall never forget your story of nearly getting swept away by a buses tsunami. You brought fun and excitement as well as growth to our staff.

I speak for the whole staff in saying what an honour it was to be part of your journey. Although you may have doubted this moment would come, we never did. You have been a pro right from the start.

I look forward to hearing more about you accomplishments as your career advances! Eeeeee howay pet! All the best from across the pond.

Dean Metz April 29, 2014 4:03 PM

Thank you for written this blog while completing your DPT. It has been one of the things I look forward to every week. My path towards physical therapy is also one that is less efficient/untraditional, but it's my path nonetheless. Will you chronicle your experience as a new DPT??

Cedric April 28, 2014 9:14 PM

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