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Striving to Be a DPT

White Coat Ceremony

Published August 4, 2014 5:42 PM by Jocelyn Wallace

A few weeks ago, our class had its White Coat Ceremony. The ceremony began with speeches about the symbolism of the white coat and what it meant to wear one. Then, similar to a graduation, we each crossed the stage and our PT2 mentors helped us put on our coats. To close, we watched slideshows of the classes before us and saw those classes receive various awards. The whole event was very fun and inspiring but it also got me thinking about the responsibility of carrying a doctorate degree.

While it seems many PTs do not necessarily go by the "doctor" title, I'm finding that more and more people around me are still thinking of PTs like doctors in a way similar to how they think of other clinical professionals like dentists and podiatrists; as highly educated experts in some aspect of the human condition. In contrast, some of the older people in my life (70s and up) still seem to think of physical therapists as technicians who give people stretches and supervise exercise.

I consider the White Coat to be symbolic of this change in perception, but regardless of how the patient population perceives physical therapy, my last two months in school have shown me that we actually have enormous potential to help or harm people. We recently attended our required medical errors lecture and hearing horror stories about ways that PTs have been responsible for patient harm really highlighted the impact I can have.

Hopefully, my future patients will trust me the way patients tend to trust their primary care doctors. While that is certainly my goal, the responsibility of being looked to as an expert is also scary. In less than three years, I will have a clinical doctorate and for the rest of my career, it will be my duty to constantly update my knowledge to take the best care of my patients as I can. The White Coat Ceremony was a testament to that future role and inspired me to do the best I can to measure up.

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