This is the second of a 3-part interview series with Gloria, a recent D.P.T graduate. Gloria graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health and from the Physical Therapy program at Samuel Merritt University in May of 2015. She will be taking the NPTE board exam in October.
FitBUX: If you just met somebody who is about to start PT school, what advice would you give?
Gloria: With respect to study habits, time management is important, but it obviously depends on the individual. I’d also advise others to take advantage of school resources, such as tutoring services or office hours. With a smaller school, such as SMU, I’ve also found fellow classmates to be extremely helpful.
For clinical rotations, it depends on where the school is located and what clinics the school has relationships with. In areas where there are several PT schools in the surrounding area, it may be more difficult as clinics may have limited positions guaranteed to each school. Here, there are UCSF, UOP, Cal State Sacramento, and SMU. There are all these students looking in and around Northern California for rotations, so it is competitive. Therefore, see if your school or clinic coordinator can arrange something out-of-state, particularly if you aren’t constrained to staying local. Also, find someone who can suggest or refer a clinic. You don’t want to go out-of-state and find out that your mentor may not be a good fit for you. And if you don’t feel like it’s a good fit with the clinical rotation, speak up early. This happened in one situation with someone in our class. Thankfully, the school was able to help the student move into another rotation that was a better fit for the student. If you can do the research yourself, it makes the search much easier. Furthermore, one of my biggest issues that I encountered was that a few of my clinical instructors didn’t provide the level of guidance and instruction that I expected. Although I did learn a lot from those experiences, it was because I learned a lot through self-learning. If it’s your first time treating a patient, it’s nice to have someone who can provide guidance and mentorship. Therefore, try to do your research and ask others who already attended the same clinic what their experience was.
With respect to financial aid, our school advised us to pay off the interest during school, if possible. With graduate loans, you accrue interest along the way. Unfortunately, I did not pay and that gets added on whatever I owe.
Finally, don’t let your 3 years in school be all about studying. Have fun, but realize that that comes with time management.
FitBUX: Did your program promote social events to get to know your classmates?
Gloria: Yes, we have a soccer team and we play softball once a year. Each class/cohort at SMU has a President and a social chair to organize social events for everyone, such as Friday night art festivals and volunteer events that are open to everyone. Our chair invited not only our class, but also the other cohorts at Samuel Merritt.
FitBUX: You talk about the fact that it can be difficult to find a good, local clinical rotation? It seems that most schools publicize that they have affiliations with hundreds of clinics, nationwide. With respect to your experience and those of your peers, was it common for students to go out-of-state for their rotations?
Gloria: For our class, I know that a lot of students were willing to go outside of the Bay area and even out-of-state as many of us like to go out and explore. But it’s not common for some classes, like the class before us. I believe many of them wanted to stay in-state. It depends on the class and the students. I know that there are opportunities available at Samuel Merritt for students; for instance, we have an affiliation with Boston University for 2 students; the only thing is the students have to cover their own cost of living. We also have affiliations with Fresno and Humboldt within California.
FitBUX: What are you currently doing and what do you think about your career so far?
Gloria: I am finishing up my PNF residency at Kaiser Permanente Vallejo with 2 more weeks to go to finish my 6 month commitment in their program. I first started at the PNF program during my last internship in school and I decided to stay an extra 3 months. Students in the PNF program can actually choose to stay an extra 9 months, or even up to a whole year. That’s where I am now, and I’ll be entering the job market once I take the board exams after October.
Join us in Part 3 of our series that concludes our interview with Gloria. If you found this article helpful, please subscribe and like this article.