A Beneficial Way of Escaping "School Mode"; Jessica Werth, SPT

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While attending Salisbury University for my undergraduate degree, I always found time for school, work, friends, family, and myself. It was a good balance between studying and experiencing life. However, the past year in PT school has felt like I am walking a path that seems to have no end in sight. It is almost like I have been programmed to tell myself I have no time for anything but study, there is simply not enough time in the day.

One of the major challenges I have found is that I get into a never-ending cycle of “school mode.” I find myself complaining about the intense amount of work and studying I have to get done, counting the slides in my PowerPoints, and trying to copy down every little detail so I don’t “fail” an exam. I forget the real reason I am studying one hundred and fifty slide PowerPoints late at night after having spent 8 hours in class that day. So, I have to take a step back and forget about all the minor details to look at the big picture- my future patients.

My experience volunteering in the community during school at physical therapy related settings has been crucial in reminding me and motivating me as to why I am working so hard. It is a reminder that I am learning this not to pass a test, but to improve my patients lives in the future so they too can do what they love, whatever that may be. When I see patients in the community, it motivates me and makes me excited to go back and learn because I know eventually these patients will be counting on me.

Another thing I have gained from volunteering my time, not just physical therapy related, is how important it is to be able to interact with people. Social skills are crucial as a physical therapist because you have to listen and teach patients, which is not something you can practice sitting at a desk for endless hours. All patients speak, learn, and perform differently so the more experience as a student you have working with a variety of people and populations, the better off you are working with patients when the time comes.

Finally, I have learned that not everything is as easy as it seems, unfortunately. It is easy to hear and read complications from surgery or psychological effects from a chronic condition, but it doesn’t really mean much until you actually see it or experience. When you meet people that have dealt with these issues, you can hear it in their voice and see it in their face the true affect it can have on somebody. In a way, it can be grounding to experience this and put things in perspective. These experiences are something I am able to learn from and carry with me as I continue school and enter into the real world when treating patients. Patients are not just their injury or condition, they are real people with lives, troubles, and triumphs.

As hard as it seems to make time, it is extremely valuable and necessary to branch out and volunteer in the community while in PT school. It might not always seem like it, but you are learning more than you think taking a step back from the books. As students, we need to get excited, get social, and get experience so we can all become better therapists for our future patients.

Jess Werth, SPT