Why I Chose To Do A Residency

First and foremost, I’m new to this whole blogging, so bare with me.  Anyway, my name is Joe O and I graduated with my DPT from Stockton University in 2013.  I was recently offered a position as an orthopedic resident at the University of North Carolina.

So lets go back to where it all started.

While in PT school, I attended CSM in Minneapolis and learned what a residency was and the basic components involved in a residency.  After that conference, I knew I wanted to do a residency once I completed PT school.  As school progressed and graduation came closer, I still really I wanted to do a residency.  However, as graduation came and went and I was more focused on passing my boards, the last thing on my mind was a residency.  After passing boards, I decided to go into the work force and put all this great knowledge to use.  I figured if I could get a mentor, do I really need to take a pay cut and participate in a residency.  Plus, the thought of paying my loans was weighing heavy on my mind and wallet…

So I started working in an outpatient PT facility, which was PT owned.  When I first started out, everything was great!  I was learning a lot, getting great mentoring, and was finally helping people move and feel better!  However as time went on, my mentoring decreased and practice became more about the bottom line and productivity.  Now don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with needing to be productive at work and meeting a certain standard because at the end of the day, it is a business and I get that.  In my head though, I’m still growing and learning as a clinician and my priority is to not only help people get back to their lives but to improve my skills and knowledge as a clinician.  Unfortunately, time continued on and my mentoring never got back to the level I would have preferred.

During this time, I have been listening to podcasts including The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes, PT Pintcast, Therapy Insiders, plus many others.  In various podcasts by the aforementioned shows, a fire was reignited inside of me, the same fire that was burning when I went to CSM in Minneapolis.  Through those podcasts, as well as support from friends and family, I decided to revisit my goal of participating in a residency.

I immediately started searching for orthopedic residencies through the ABPTRFE website.  I found about 14 residencies that interested me and researched every single one as best as I could.  Obviously something that is a requirement of all residencies is mentorship, which is the number one thing that I was looking for.  I wasn’t necessarily looking for anything specific for my residency to have such as manual therapy focus or spine focus, because I just wanted a residency that would give me a good overall and comprehensive skill set in orthopedics.

After researching thoroughly, I came to my top five choices with UNC being number one.  The things that attracted me to UNC were numerous.  First, UNC Health Care is ranked #2 for primary care in the state of North Carolina.  Second, the DPT faculty at UNC are well known and world renown for the teaching, practice, and research (look them up, it’s incredible).  The UNC DPT and orthopedic residency philosophies were very similar in that they want to practice with the most recent evidence, give back to their community, and preach excellence in practice.  Lastly, they have options for an elective while you’re a resident so if you wanted to go into research, teaching, work with UE athletes, or be manual based, etc., it’s all an option as long as it is well within reason and a mentor is willing to help.  I’m skipping ahead a little right now, but after getting a tour of their clinics, especially the ambulatory care center, there is such a broad range of conditions you can see as well a very diverse community that I will be working with, which was super attractive for broadening my skill set.  So luckily at that time, the application for UNC was still open and I could meet the deadline. (Depending on the residency timeline, applications for some may be closed as they may not be accepting residents, for example nine months from now)

Once I knew I was going to apply to UNC, there were various items that they required, in addition to what ABPTRFE required, so that my application would be complete.  It’s nice that the ABPTRFE site is well laid out and user friendly, however if you do have any problems/questions you can always contact them, as their customer service was pretty quick.  Also, feel free to reach out and ask questions to the residency director about the program or supplemental application items, which I had done during the process.  Some items that were needed for the application were: basic background information, verification from school that I graduated, plus my transcripts, three letters of reference, and three essays.  I worked frantically to get everything completed in time so that I could meet my deadline.

After about 2-3 weeks of waiting in anticipation, I had learned that I had gotten an interview with UNC!  At the time I was super excited and then my nerves set in because I needed to go down to Chapel Hill put it all on the line to reach my goal.  After knowing that I landed the interview, I began to research questions that may be asked during an interview for residency.  In my research, it was pretty much all related to medical residency, but the good thing is that most, if not all, potential questions I found are relatable to PT.  I started to prepare general answers for the most basic of questions that I could be asked on my interview.  I didn’t want to memorize anything specifically because you don’t want to sound robotic when you’re at your interview.  Through my research and talking with many people, I learned the best thing that you can do is BE YOURSELF!  I also did a lot of research on UNC itself, UNC Health Care (which the residency is associated with), the UNC DPT program, the PT professors, and the mentors within the residency.  As the interview date got closer, I scheduled a mock residency interview with career services at Stockton to help prepare me for the situation.  In addition to all of this I continued to listen to inspirational and motivational podcasts.  I also watched various TED talks for motivation and for tips on interviewing.

I flew down to Chapel Hill a day before my interview and got acquainted with the area.  I made sure that I knew the route I needed to take and how long it would take me to get to my destination.  On interview day, I put on my Sunday best and made my way to the clinic.  On my way there, I did my normal routine that I do to get me pumped up and in the zone, listen to some serious bass pumping hip-hop.  I also listened to a two minute speech by Steve Weatherford, whom I find to be super motivating and inspiring.  When I got to the clinic and while I waited, I got to meet the other candidates interviewing for a position as well.  Once we were all there, we received a tour of the clinic and then were transported by one of the mentors to campus.  Once on campus, we received a tour of the ambulatory care center and the PT classrooms.  After that, we broke up for interviews.  I had two separate interviews with two interviewers in each.  After those interviews, my clinical thinking skills were tested with a case study.

That was it!  Once I was done I felt like a huge a weight was lifted off my shoulders.  We then got to meet and talk with current residents have a private Q&A session about the residency and life during the residency.  After being dropped off at the original clinic, the director told us that we would hear back probably in about two weeks regarding the position.  I flew back home after taking a few more days in Chapel Hill and Durham, soaking in the southern hospitality.  Which if you have never been in the south, southern hospitality is real and it is absolutely awesome!  Anyway, I flew back home and was waiting in anticipation.  Luckily for me, I was given a call about two days later saying that I was being offered a position as an orthopedic resident at the University of North Carolina!!  I was beyond excited and thrilled knowing that everything I had done was worth it and that I was gonna be able to achieve a goal that I set for myself about 4-5 years earlier.

This is part one of this blog post as I hope to update everyone about the residency once I start!  I am also contemplating starting my own blog about the residency and everything about it while I’m going through it.  As noted earlier, there is not much out there on PT residency and I’m hoping to be able to document my experience and give people an idea as to what it is really like.  Also as mentioned before, this is my first ever blog post, so I hope it was enjoyable, somewhat comprehensible, and that you got something out of it.  Please feel free to ask me any questions through this post or through Twitter, my handle is @orbonacle.

About Joe:

I graduated from Stockton University in 2011 with my B.S. in Biology and in 2013 with my DPT.  Most recently I have been certified as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.  I have been working in orthopedic PT since graduating and have seen an array of orthopedic cases.  I have a love of helping people feel and move better.  I also have a strong love for sports medicine and athletes of all types.  I begin my orthopedic residency in January 2017 and I can’t wait!  As mentioned I am looking at starting my own blog about the residency itself, leadership, motivation, and other PT matters.  I am currently taking suggestions regarding the title of my blog.  You can follow me @orbonacle at pretty much all social media outlets.


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