It is 11 pm and I have just made my way to bed. I pick up my phone to set my alarm clock for the next morning. No sooner do I put the phone down does the screen light up with a text message. Against my better judgment I roll over and see that one of my old college friends has just sent me a text. Again, against my better judgment, I open the text to read, “Dude, my shoulder has been killing me. Every time I swing my tennis racket my whole shoulder hurts and it has been popping like crazy. Help.” I sit upright in bed. I am no longer dreary eyed or sleepy. I think I actually know what may be wrong with my friend. All of the differential diagnoses are running through my brain, the different special tests and screening measures that I would want to run to rule in or rule out my list of potential possibilities. All of a sudden, a huge rush of excitement floods over me. I am beginning to think like a physical therapist. I know what needs to be done. And I now know how to do it. It is in this moment that I truly understand just how far I have come over the past year. But before getting to this point, it may be good to take a look back at the past year and a half.
I still vividly remember the first day of orientation and classes at Duke DPT. I remember this funny feeling of total excitement and complete fear about starting a new program as I walked in to meet my new” family”, the members of my Team Based Learning group. Would we get along? Would we all make it through? How am I supposed to work with these people day and day out for the next 2 years? All of these questions and fears went out the window the moment I sat down at the table and introductions commenced. I remember thinking to myself that I had finally found my people. My team and I worked through the trials and tribulations of the first year of physical therapy school. We overcame cadaver lab and the anatomy course, we made it through Dr. Len White’s Medical Neuroscience course, and we became acquainted with all of the lines, leads, and equipment that one may find in the hospital setting. My teammates continually pushed me to be the best possible student and future clinician each and every day. We worked through team applications, tests, and quizzes together sharing our different thoughts and perspectives with one another and learning how to collaborate and communicate as healthcare professionals.
When my team wasn’t in the classroom, we were all out on our STEPs clinical experiences. It was always bittersweet to say goodbye to my teammates (for a whole week!...) and go jump into the clinical setting. These weeks were a great reminder of the steady progress that we were making as physical therapists. My first steps rotation was in an outpatient orthopedic setting. Although I hadn’t yet learned specific outpatient ortho skills, it was still a great opportunity to put into practice all of the skills we did know. From goniometry to manual muscle testing, patient intake to exercise prescription, I could see my STEPs team and I really starting to put it all together. Each week we went back and showcased a new set of skills that we had picked up in the classroom. And each week, I left feeling like I was on the right track. The pieces were slowly starting to fall into place.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot about Cameron Indoor… When we aren’t in the classroom or playing intramural sports in our free time you could probably find us in the first several rows along the baseline of a Duke Basketball game. Some of the most incredible memories I have from the last year were made in this arena. Being a physical therapy student is a whole lot better when you have season tickets to Duke Basketball…
All of this gets us to this text message I am reading right now. Just last week I learned how to put it all together and perform a proper examination of the shoulder. I know how to sort out the problem, and how to help treat whatever the problem may be. I understand that I still have much more to learn over the next half of a year, but I am thrilled to be able to fire some questions back to my friend. I ask about the history and mechanism of his shoulder problems and see the little text bubbles pop up immediately. I am in the middle of my very own treatment session. Wish me luck!