In my opinion, there are three little words that are on the minds of all Duke DPT prospective applicants and newly matriculated students: Team Based Learning (TBL). Before interviewing with the program, I was uncertain as to how I would feel about being a part of and participating in TBL-style learning. Important questions surfaced - "What does this new way of learning have to offer?" and "I am used to studying and performing academically on my own, so what will happen now?"
After two semesters in the DPT program, I have learned significantly more than I would have on my own through team applications, team assessments and thorough discussions of difficult concepts. My classmates help me think critically about patient cases and often practice clinical skills with me. Their robust backgrounds, which range from neuroscience and anatomy to exercise science, physiology, research and so much more, have stimulated many exciting discussions. I also bring a unique perspective that contributes to the success of my team's learning.
A few days ago, we had one of our Readiness Assessments in the Cardiopulmonary Patient Management course. After reviewing the material prior to class, I felt well prepared and ready to tackle questions regarding standard pulmonary PT evaluations. The individual assessment took about 20 minutes to complete.
From there, we transitioned to the group Readiness Assessment, which consisted of the same inquiries. From that point on, the room was abuzz with all 11 teams having group discussions on these questions. In my own group, opinions were voiced about a patient's Forced Expiratory Volume and whether or not it indicated the necessity of bronchodilating medication. Once we finished the group Readiness Assessments, we had a period of time when groups could pose questions to the professor and other teams.
I thought to myself, "This is what Team Based Learning is all about" – active learning, debates, questions and solidifying understanding of concepts. All of my initial concerns about TBL have been put to rest. I am so happy to be at Duke and able to learn from and interact so candidly with my classmates and professors.
My experience with the Duke DPT program is full of memories, but one event that took place during my second semester particularly stands out. The activity was part of my Foundational PT Interventions course and was being held at night, after a long day of classes, at the Duke Sports Medicine Clinic, which is relatively far from the main DPT building. I'm still very glad that I made the trip.
We had previously gone to the Sports Medicine Clinic to learn about VO2 testing, percent body fat testing, prescription of different exercises, and related topics. On this night, we entered a separate part of the building where athletes and patients are treated on a daily basis. The event consisted of clinicians offering three case studies for groups of students to discuss and evaluate. The cases included rehabilitation after a torn ACL repair, a torn rotator cuff repair, and recurrent lateral ankle sprains. It was motivating to be in the clinic and able to apply the concepts we had learned about during our previous lectures.
Better yet, the clinicians had years of experience and were able to answer questions and provide examples from what they had seen throughout their careers. It was beneficial to use – really get our hands on – all of the equipment in the clinic. When a student suggested an intervention, like using a body blade to strengthen a young pitcher's rotator cuff, it was acted out and the clinicians asked further questions and provided tips. It was a great event and a fantastic ending to a busy day.
When patient cases are presented to me, I want to be able to use evidence-based clinical reasoning and communicate effectively with different health practitioners. I have found that experiences in the past year like this one have been particularly valuable to me. The various labs and events not only supplemented the course material well, but they reminded me of why I am in the program and why it is important to try and master the rigorous course content.
The week-long clinical experiences have done the same. I have worked alongside four of my classmates and a clinical instructor in the Duke Hospital Acute Care clinic. Reading patient histories, measuring vital signs, performing patient interviews, and communicating with other health professionals have all helped to make the first year of my Duke DPT education challenging and stimulating.
For the past several weeks, I've been interacting with the third year students who have just returned from their final clinical rotations. It's been an inspiring experience! They are ready to graduate and start their careers as Doctors of Physical Therapy! It's exciting to envision what lies ahead of them and what impact they will make on our profession and the future of health care. For me, what they are experiencing seems so close, and yet so far away.
Two events were held at the end of our first year to allow our class to engage in PT-related topics with the third year class. In the first event, we divided into small groups and rotated through stations run by different third-year students. For me, the most memorable station was the one where I took on the role of a physical therapist and the third-year student was my patient. I was presented a scenario where the patient suffered a stroke and I needed to perform a patient interview to obtain necessary details about her past medical history, lifestyle, and goals for physical therapy.
What I first remember is that large chunks of information started speeding through my mind. I paused, gathered my thoughts, and went on to successfully complete the activity. After the interview, the third-year student gave me useful, constructive feedback on what I did well and what I could do to improve. I received positive comments on different aspects of verbal and non-verbal communication, but there were some key questions about the patient's medical history that would have been beneficial to ask. It was a safe, helpful and exciting activity. I look forward to offering a similar experience that will hopefully also have a positive impact on the Class of 2015.
The second event was Poster Presentation Day for the Capstone Research Projects, a program that third-year students participate in for several months during their study. This event was held mid-week and was a refreshing break from my usual schedule of morning lectures. I know that I speak for my fellow classmates and faculty members who were in attendance when I say that the projects were exceptional. The research topics ranged from current health policy to specific musculoskeletal interventions.
Interacting with the soon-to-be graduates has made a lasting impression on me. It has given me an idea of where I am heading and what I will be able to offer to upcoming students, my peers, and the scientific community. As a Duke DPT student, I feel the calling to go above and beyond expectations. I want to be a leader like our third-year student who served as the director of the APTA Student Assembly. I want to contribute to other students' day-to-day learning like our phenomenal teaching assistants have done for me. I can't wait to provide unparalleled service to my future clinical site. Just like the classes before me have done, I want to push myself to excellence and extend the reputation of the Duke DPT program.