One of the most exciting parts of going into clinical rotations as a third year student for me was being treated as a future colleague by my clinical instructors and other staff members. It was also awesome to be able to apply the things I learned during the didactic coursework and then to be able to give sound clinical justification to my treatment approaches. Throughout my three terminal clinical experiences, I got to work in the surgical intensive care unit, surgical intermediate unit, and two different outpatient orthopedic clinics. I spent several days in inpatient rehab, observed three surgeries in the operating room, and shadowed both an aquatic therapist and orthotist. I also presented two in-services and participated in journal clubs. Throughout these experiences I built lifelong relationships and connections.
My first 12-week clinical experience was on the Surgical Intermediate Unit where I worked primarily with patients recovering from multi-trauma injuries including orthopedic and neurological conditions. I was scheduled to work four 10-hour days per week. Every morning we had a variety of new admissions such as a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, cerebrovascular injury, burns, or respiratory failure. Each day brought a new challenge like having to handle an external fixator that spanned the patient’s entire leg, thinking of appropriate interventions for someone with a traumatic brain injury, or communicating with someone who has global aphasia. These challenges made every day exciting and at times overwhelming. My last two clinical rotations were both outpatient orthopedic settings that were heavily manual based. During those clinical rotations I had the opportunity to work with pre-ACL reconstruction, post-surgical shoulder and knee pathologies, postpartum spinal and pelvic joint dysfunction, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, as well as a variety of other orthopedic conditions. I even had the chance to learn how to dry needle on my CIs and I utilized the graston and cupping techniques with some patients.
It was different to not have my STEPs teammates there to save me when I was uncomfortable at times, but my CIs knew that if I gave them "the eyes” it meant help me. I was grateful to have a CI in each of my rotations that was invested in my success. During my first clinical rotation, I learned that discussing things like my strengths and weaknesses, my learning style, and both of our expectations early on in the rotation allowed my CI and I to have an open communication. So, with each of my rotations, I had the same discussions with my instructors. Each week my CIs and I established goals that progressed me appropriately to my skills and knowledge and also to meet expectations. Some days required me to come in early to prepare for my day and other days had me stay up later so that I could review some old or new concepts.
Third year of PT school flies. We no longer have to attend class, go to lab, or study for a practical or exam. We are all focused on developing our clinical skills, staying on track to meet/exceed expectations, and some are also studying for the licensure exam as well as applying for jobs. Although I did not have a chance to stop by at Erwin to say “hi” to the professors and staff at Duke DPT during clinical rotations, they were all available via email and phone. I am forever grateful of the support I received from the professors and staff when I had questions about clinical rotations and job searches. Each year brings on a different challenge, but Duke prepares and supports you well through it all.
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