Why I Chose to do a Sports Residency – A former athlete’s perspective

Back in August, Mark asked me to do a guest blog post regarding the theme “So you think you want my job?” At that time, I was just beginning the sports residency program at The Ohio State University. I was still finding my way as a new sports resident and as a brand new clinician. Who are we kidding? I am still trying to find my way, but I do believe the residency is doing its part in trying to accelerate the process. It goes without saying that as a new grad you will experience many highs and lows. Before I get in to the specifics of why I chose to do a sports residency, I believe it is important to understand the ups and downs that I myself experienced as an athlete. These experiences have helped shaped who I am today, teaching me many important life lessons that can be very applicable in my decision to pursue further education and training.

Throughout my youth and all the way through college, I played sports – basketball, specifically. For me, there was no better feeling than competing on the court and well, of course, winning. I am sure if you asked most people to describe me, one of the first words that would come to mind would be competitive. Sports just so happen to be more fun and enjoyable when you are fairly decent at it. For the longest time, it was that joy of competing and the desire to be the best that drove me to a Division I scholarship. That meant hours on the weekend or at night spent running an extra mile or shooting an additional 500 shots and less time spent having fun with my friends. But when you want to achieve something, that is exactly what you do because working hard and putting in effort requires zero skill.

When I played my last basketball game of my career on March 11, 2011, I felt lost afterwards. I did not know what the next step would be. I had no idea what I wanted to pursue. When you do something for so long, it becomes part of your identify and it is often difficult to separate from what has consumed more than half of your life. My senior year of college sports was far from perfect. In fact, it was probably the exact opposite. Most people envision ending their career riding off in the sunset, ending it on their own terms, and finishing it off with a championship of some sorts. The reality is, for most, the season ends on a loss. There can only be one champion, after all. My team finished my senior season with a record of 9-22. I battled injuries for most of the season, spending countless hours in the athletic training room just to prepare for a game, both physically and mentally. At times, I would wake up in the morning and wonder if making it through the game was even feasible. The majority of my season was played with bilateral navicular stress fractures. The problem was going on much longer than I even care to admit or cared to share with anyone else while it was going on. As a sports medicine major in undergrad, I was fairly in tune with what was going on with my body. So naturally I waited until the pain became unbearable and until it was too late to medically redshirt before I admitted to anyone I was injured.

Athletes just want to play. Everyone knows that. This comes as a surprise to no one. Despite the injuries, I knew it was my last season and that I wanted to do whatever I could to play through it. And that is exactly what I did. For the longest time, I did not take practices off. I did not take games off. I did nothing differently. I just played as hard as I could because that was all I ever knew. It was not until the middle of January during the season when I began resting during the week and participating in pre-game practices only to save my body for games. Deep down, I hated that. I felt like if I couldn’t do it during practice then how could I expect myself to perform during a game? In actuality, it was the best plan for me. My legs felt fresh during games and the pain was much more manageable. While I questioned at one point if I would make it through the season, this plan gave me hope that I would indeed be able to make it through the rest of my senior season.

That plan changed on February 5, 2011. Just 9 minutes in to our annual breast cancer awareness game, I dislocated my thumb. At the time, my only perception of dislocated fingers was the time Kobe Bryant did it. I remember him walking over to Gary Vitti, the Head Athletic Trainer of the Lakers at the time. Gary popped it back in and Kobe immediately went back to playing. I obviously did not factor in the difference between a thumb and a finger. I had my finger reduced, asked to be taped up, and then requested to be put back in the game. Only 2/3 of that went as planned. I would not reenter the game and would miss the next 7 days of practice including one game. I returned just in time for Senior Night with my thumb heavily taped. I was very frustrated, though. One thumb changed not only the way I dribbled, but how I caught and shot the ball. I felt that was how my season ended – with pure frustration. I lost my starting job and could not compete at 100 percent for multiple reasons.

When I sat in the locker room following the final game of my career, I had no idea what the future would hold. I tried desperately to hang on to the sport. The following season I became a graduate assistant women’s basketball coach at a university while simultaneously pursuing my Master’s degree in Kinesiology. But it ultimately did not seem to be where my heart was. Physical therapy came up as a career option multiple times throughout my one-year of coaching both through conversations with several of my friends who were currently in PT school and with athletes who suffered from injuries and were forced to pursue rehabilitation. At that time, I thought I had no chance of getting accepted into a physical therapy program. My grades during undergrad were not stellar. I decided to pursue it anyways.

The passion that I had about pursuing my DPT degree felt similar to how I once felt about the game of basketball. I spent an additional year finishing up pre-requisites and working as a physical therapy tech as I applied to several PT programs. I received multiple rejection letters, placed on the wait-list by a few, and a couple of acceptances. I ultimately settled in on attending Angelo State’s DPT program. I chose Angelo State for multiple reasons, but after undergoing the recruiting process for basketball, there is something to be said for the importance of a good atmosphere and solid support system being in place. During my interview at Angelo State, it instantly felt like family and that meant a lot to me. Additionally, it felt like a great place and opportunity for me to fully invest in my future profession as a physical therapist.

You may be wondering what does this all mean in terms of why I chose to pursue a sports residency. From the time I began PT school at Angelo State University in June 2013, I knew I wanted to pursue a sports residency. I feel that much of my past helps explain this. I think about my time as an athlete and the amount of hours I spent honing my skills. I take that same approach with me as I develop as a clinician. When you want to be good at your craft, you have to be willing to put in the work and effort that will help you excel. Surround yourself with people who know more than you do and will challenge you because they want to make you better. Put yourself in a situation that makes you want to go the extra mile to be successful. But most importantly, remember the ultimate reason for wanting to pursue further training – your patients. When I competed on the basketball court, I never wanted to let a teammate or coach down. That is why I competed as hard as I could for every practice and every game. As a physical therapist, I want my patients to get the best possible care. In a residency, you are not necessarily competing against anyone else per se, but you are most certainly competing against yourself to become the therapist you desire to be. During any given week, I could be preparing for an upcoming lecture for students in the DPT program, a presentation to faculty members of the residency program, a practical for an on-field scenario, or many other learning opportunities associated with the residency. While many may view this as just more schooling similar to the curriculum they just completed in PT school, I view it as an opportunity to become a leader in the sports medicine field. I view these as opportunities that I may not have had the opportunity to pursue had I not chosen to do a residency.

A residency may not be the best option for everyone to achieve their goals. You must consider multiple options. I knew a residency was the best avenue for me to pursue my goals. We will all learn through trial and error at some point in our careers. In many cases, we will reflect on our treatment of patients and think to ourselves the many ways we could have had our patients achieving their goals for therapy 4 weeks faster. Don’t get me wrong; as a resident, I still experience this type of learning. However, between the mentoring I am provided with both during and outside of treatment time, serving as a teaching assistant in musculoskeletal labs, providing event coverage for the OSU rugby team, participating in physician shadowing and surgery observation, partaking in a clinical research project, and performing various skills check-offs and practicals – I feel confident that this allows me to push myself in a way that I could not achieve on my own. It reminds me of the countless ways I used to pursue my dreams as an athlete. Both of these are experiences go to show you that a little extra work can go a long way in accomplishing your goals.

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About the author: Jennifer Fath, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS
Jennifer completed her Bachelor’s Degree with a major in Sports Medicine at University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA) in 2011. While at Pacific, she competed as a Division I athlete on the women’s basketball team. Prior to completing her DPT degree, Jennifer served as a Graduate Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach at The University of Texas-Pan American (Edinburg, TX) during the 2011-2012 season while completing her Master of Science degree in Kinesiology. She earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from Angelo State University (San Angelo, TX) in 2016 and was awarded the “Outstanding Service” Award upon graduation. During her time in PT school, Jennifer served as Class President, the APTA Student Assembly Texas Core Ambassador as well as President of the TPTA Student Special Interest Group. Additionally, Jennifer worked as a Graduate Assistant, mentoring and assisting first year students throughout her time in PT school. Immediately following PT school, she pursued further education and is certified in the Selective Functional Movement Assessment, the Functional Movement Screen, and Y-Balance testing. Currently, Jennifer works as a Sports Resident Physical Therapist at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

The Weightlifting Librarian – Pelvic Physical Therapy and Lifting Weights

So I am fortunate enough to have a very special guest for this blog post.  Katie Montague, aka “The Lifting Librarian”, is an elite level Olympic weightlifter currently completing her graduate coursework at Rutgers University.  I have had the pleasure to known her since our undergraduate studies together at Stockton University, formerly the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Besides lifting weights and enjoying reading manuscripts in the library, she also runs her own blog at TheLiftingLibrarian.com.  In this interview, Katie is going to discuss her experience with Physical Therapy as a high level, competitive athlete.  


Mark:  So Katie, could you tell us about yourself?

Katie: Hi, guys! My name is Katie and I’m 24. I met Mark while completing my undergraduate degree in Literature at what is now Stockton University. It was during that year transition from working out of college to last September when I began my graduate degree for a Master’s in Information with a focus in Library Science, that I began my weightlifting career. Over the last year and a half, the sport of weightlifting has helped shaped me into who I am today. For that, I am forever grateful. I am currently on the job hunt for all things library and archive related. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to work part time at the Princeton Theological Seminary Library and lift and coach forever. Growing up, sadly, is going to be a part of my near future, but I think I’m ready!


M:  What piqued your interested into Olympic weightlifting? Books and weightlifting seems like an interesting combination.  

K: Like so many others who’ve made their way into the weightlifting sector, I was first introduced to the lifts through CrossFit; however, then, I hated the Olympic lifts. I skipped the days when they were programmed and I made little effort to enjoy them. My coach, owner of Absolute Strength Gym, encouraged me to enter into their Sinclar Total (body weight to pounds lifted) unsanctioned meet, in memory of their weightlifting coach who had passed away that Christmas. I reluctantly agreed. And I won. By a lot. We realized I should continue with this, that I really had a chance to be great one day. Ya know, in like five years because that’s how long it takes to develop a great weightlifter. Good thing I’m a patient person 🙂 or at least I’ve grown patient since my journey began.


M:  I hear you have earned yourself the nickname of “The Lifting Librarian”.  Could you tell us a little about that?

K: Right before leaving for Senior Nationals in April of this past year, I was interviewed by New Journey Channel 2 news. After the reporter asked what I was studying. It wasn’t until the piece was aired that they mocked me: “New Jersey has their very own Weightlifting Librarian. Interesting mix.” It’s really interesting actually, the weightlifting community is really diverse. So many lifters are incredibly intelligent possessing Master’s and Doctorate degrees. And so many are incredibly dumb. Maybe there is an easy medium?


M:  What have been your experiences with physical therapy prior to your olympic lifting career?

K: When I was a senior in high school, I tore my ACL in a lacrosse scrimmage. I was in intensive physical therapy for four months before leaving for field hockey preseason at Stockton University. That’s where I met Mark. I continued my intensive session with their athletic training program until the Spring semester.

I have been lucky enough to remain healthy long after my knee issues. However, I am currently being treated in physical therapy again. Since September, I have been working very closely with Inner Dynamics Physical Therapy, a pelvic floor physical therapy office in Oakhurst, NJ. Tamra Wroblesky, my physical therapist and co-owner of the practice, is the reason I am still lifting today.

The squat is absolutely vital in weightlifting. If I can’t squat, it’s impossible to complete full lifts.

M:  When did you start to feel that something was “off?”

K: In early August, I began feeling sharp pains near my coccyx when squatting. The squat is absolutely vital in weightlifting. If I can’t squat, it’s impossible to complete full lifts. I felt this excruciating pain while squatting and when lifting from the floor.

I never would’ve guessed that this pain was stemming from my pelvic floor. The body is incredible.

M:  What made you start to seek help; particularly pelvic physical therapy services?  Did you know that physical therapists were able to help you out?

K: I was coaching a CrossFit beach WOD for local gyms in the area towards the end of August when I ran into an old friend who just graduated with her physical therapy degree. After explaining the symptoms, she recommended Inner Dynamics as she just finished her clinical with them. Had I not seen Lisa Ricker, who knows how long I would’ve dealt with this pain before discovering the source. I had stopped the full lifts for almost a month at this point, I was seeing a chiropractor and doing research and we continued to emerge empty-handed.

Mark also recommended physical therapy as I used to have problems urinating during heavy cleans, but I never would’ve guessed that this pain was stemming from my pelvic floor. The body is incredible.


M:  How has your experience been with a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health? Is it helping you get back to lifting heavy and staying competitive?

K: I took it easy until November, a month prior to the American Open. It took about three months to lift to 80% strong and pain-free. The American Open was a coming back meet, of sorts. Tamra has done a great job of working with me so I am able to continue to lift through the physical therapy. She’s even made visits to the gym during my recovery to ensure that I’m moving and bracing properly.


M:  Before you were first treated by a Pelvic PT, what did your expectations for your first visit?  What surprised you the most?

K: Honestly, I had no idea that a pelvic floor physical therapist was a real thing. I was unsure of what to expect, only that Lisa said internal work was probably necessary and that I would be painful. She was correct.


M:  I’ve heard that your PT also does CrossFit; how has that influenced your care?

K: Tamra does CrossFit-type workouts to stay in shape for hiking and climbing. She’s reached the summit of multiple mountains across the world.

So many females pee while lifting/jumping. I’ve never had children. I’m 24, and I’ve been peeing my pants during physical activity since I was 14. It’s not ok.

M:  Do you think that pelvic health is an issue in the Crossfit/weightlifting community?

K: YES. So many females pee while lifting/jumping. I’ve never had children. I’m 24, and I’ve been peeing my pants during physical activity since I was 14. It’s not ok. There are people who are trained to help. Countless women who’ve given birth and who haven’t pee during double unders, box jumps, front squats, and cleans. The issue is that we’re not taught how to brace. The pelvic floor is a muscle, it can be healed and strengthened like any other muscle. Learning how to properly brace and use those muscles is key.

I would tell them it’s necessary to go. It changed my life. The way I sit, the way I brace, the way I lift.

M:  Would you like to say anything to someone who is considering pelvic Physical Therapy? Would you recommend it to your friends who are have the same or similar issues?

K: I would tell them it’s necessary to go. It changed my life. The way I sit, the way I brace, the way I lift. This process has been extremely difficult for me as I have been spending the last six months relearning how to move and lift. I’m relearning how to work through positions in the correct way. It’s no longer about getting the weight up. It’s about doing it correctly, using proper muscles. I don’t lift to be the best today, I’m lifting to be the best in four years. The body is complex, it will take time.


M:  Any final thoughts or words you would like to say?

K: In so many instances, physical therapy can be utilized to help resolve issues that we may not even know we have. Be open to help and body movement. Movement is medicine. I’m proof. In October I was unsure I would be able to lift at the American Open. Thanks to Tamra, I was healthy enough to lift. Even with so much time off, I managed top ten. I’m continuing therapy for prevention as the last six months were so difficult and we work weekly to ensure that I stay healthy.


Thank you so much, Katie for answering questions about your experiences with physical therapy.  I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors and look forward to seeing you on the platform winning gold one day.  Just remember the little people when you make it big!  


A special shout out to Dr. Tamra Wroblesky.  Be sure to check out her at Inner Dynamics Physical Therapy: Pelvic Health and Wellness Center in Ocean, New Jersey for your Pelvic Physical Therapy Needs.

What I learned at CSM 2016 is…


I just attended my first American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) this year.   I am fortunate enough to have been allowed time off from my current clinical experience to attend this event;  my clinic as well as my CI are absolutely amazing!  My CI fully supported me going to this event as she had an overwhelming positive experience when she attended while she was in school.  Thanks so much!

For those of you who have never attended one before, this is THE conference to go to for those in the physical therapy profession whether you are a PT, PTA or a student.  I believe this one was the biggest thus far with a whopping 11,000 people attending this year! Holy cow!

I flew out early so I could sightsee, meet people and settle in without being in a rush; plus I had to be there early for our volunteer orientation on what else?… how to scan people into their sessions – super fun right?  I reserved a place on Airbnb for the conference, which was super convenient for me and my roommates in which we only spent $100 each for 5 nights.

When I arrived at the place, I was greeted by one of the owners and their dogs.  It was my first time doing Airbnb and I was pleasantly surprised.  The couple that owned the place are really nice and the place we stayed matched with their personality.  I was properly greeted by their two lovely dogs


Later that night, one of my roommates flew in and of course we have to experience the In and Out Burger. Yum!


I am fortunate enough to network with some really cool PTs and #DPTstudent beforehand on Twitter so I was able to hang out with a couple before everyone else flew in the next day.  I had so much fun getting to hang with some big names in the Twitter world.  I got to reunite with Sarah Haag (@SarahHaagPT) the day I flew in, which was awesome!  I got to talk shop with Sarah, her business partner Sandy Hilton (@SandyHiltonPT) and a bunch of their colleagues.  Sarah apparently likes to introduce me to her friends as the “Famous @MarkyKev on Twitter” because she says to me, “you’re kind of a big deal now on Twitter.”

The next day was just as exciting as I got to have lunch with the famous Ben Fung (@DrBenFung) and Gene Shirokobrod (@therapyinsiders) at Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney.  

The next few days were a whirlwind of adventure.  It was literally nonstop action where I would wake up early, get to the convention center, do my volunteer shift, sit in on sessions and/or meet with my Twitter friends in real life, wander the exhibit hall, eat, drink, sleep and repeat.  It went by so fast; to think I spent a whole five days here in California! Honestly, I think the flight over to California from New Jersey felt longer.  I guess time flies when you’re having fun.

During the times that I wasn’t scanning people into their sessions or listening in on talks, I was networking and talking with professionals and students.  It was great to finally put a face to a name that I only knew from Twitter.  It was so cool to be approached by people and have them ask, “You look familiar, are you Mark from Twitter?”  I mean, how cool is that?!  I even had a fellow student come up to me thanking me for  my blog posts; heck, I didn’t even know people read my stuff.  He thanked me for inspiring him with my blog posts to keep writing for his blog.  That’s an amazing feeling to know how much of a positive influence you can have outside of the clinic.

I talked to so many people throughout this conference that I actually lost my voice and sound like a prepubescent boy with my voice cracking every 5 seconds; my friends during the last days of CSM can attest to that.

The one thing I learned during my time at CSM was not during an educational session, but when I was interacting with people in our very own profession.  Every PT I got to interact with, I felt like I talked them to death #SorryNotSorry and picked their brains with so many questions I had.  It was really heartwarming, as cheesy as this sounds, to hear so many words of support and encouragement from all the PTs I have talked with at CSM.  The massive amounts of positive vibes has definitely recharged me to not only return to my clinical affiliation in full gear, but also to have something to look forward to after graduation; having an opportunity to call these people my colleagues and getting to learn and pick the brains of some of the brightest and coolest people in the profession.

“Jobs don’t care about what school you went to or your test grades”  – Monique Caruth (@mjcDPT)

As you probably already know, I’m currently in my clinical affiliation which happens to be at a Level II Trauma Center; so I’m seeing everything under the sun from strokes, gunshot wounds and motor vehicle accidents.  It’s really challenging as a student because these are medically complex cases, but on the other hand it’s a really awesome experience; very few, if any, of my classmates are getting the same experience that I’m getting.  That being said, I had second thoughts on what I wanted to pursue after graduation;  I had a new found interest in Acute Care, specifically trauma ICU because of my time at this clinical affiliation.

“. . . re: trauma hospital… you are LEAGUES ahead” – Ben Fung referring to my clinical placement at a Trauma Hospital.

I was really torn about deciding Acute Care vs a Sports oriented outpatient clinic for my last clinical affiliation; and seriously debating on whether I wanted to pursue a sports residency after graduation.  I think attending CSM re-kindled the fire and passion I had for sports PT and sports performance.  I talked to some bright minds in the profession which gave me some perspective on the future.  The one big piece of advice came from my talk with Kyle Ridgeway (@Dr_Ridge_DPT).  He gave me some interesting insight and thoughts on directing my path as a future Physical Therapist.

“No matter which path you choose, you can’t go wrong.  That’s the beauty of our profession.”

Some advice for those who are attending conferences

Get yourself on twitter!

  • Twitter seems confusing, but once you get the hang of it, it’s simple and addicting.  I remember Jess Schwartz (@DPT2Go) say to me “I remember when you just started on Twitter and to see you all grown up now is amazing.”  You’d be surprised what social media can do for you.  I’ve made so many connections on twitter that when the time came to coming to CSM, it was just a matter of meeting each other. . . with hugs especially if you meet Ann Wendel (@PranaPT) for the first time.  

Bring a power pack for your mobile devices!

  • If you’re like me and always on twitter, your phone is going to die fast!  Bring something at least rated 4,000 mAh.  Plus, you’ll be using your phone to snap photos, text, and checking out the sessions with the official CSM app.  

Bring a decently sized backpack

  • Remember you’re allowed two carry-on items; one for the overhead bin and one for underneath the seat in front of you.  Personally, I like only traveling with carry-on luggage.  It’s easier to tote around a backpack to carry every day items like a jacket/sweatshirt, snacks, charger and all the free swag you’ll accumulate during your time at the conference.  I personally recommend the GoRuck GR1 and their Civvy kit.  They look cool, but also are really tough and functional.  Plus they’re made in America #Merica.  

Bring snacks!

  • Food will be seriously overpriced at the conventions especially at the hotels.  Bring something to nibble on in between sessions to get you fueled and ready to go.  

Put yourself out there and talk to people!


  • Personally, I’m a really introverted person.  I find it very difficult to put myself out there to complete strangers.  But if you don’t ask, the answers will always be no.  You never know who you will meet and the new opportunities that could come from just introducing yourself to someone.  Remember, most PT’s have been in your shoes before and are more than willing to pay it forward and help you out.  


Look to help cut the costs

  • I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on flying out here for the conference.  Look up ways to help cut the costs.  Look for scholarships both private and if your school offers some.  Try to look for alternative places to stay like AirBnb and splitting the rent with people you networked with on Twitter (Use this link to save $20 off)  Volunteer!  APTA has volunteer opportunities for students during conferences that reimburse all if not most of the registration fee.  I highly recommend that if you’re interested, make sure you try and sign up the day that they open because they go FAST.  I was fortunate enough to be selected as one this year.

Wear comfy shoes

  • You will be walking A LOT.  I felt like Forrest Gump at the end of his run…


Suck it up

  • This leads to my next suggestion; don’t to bed early.  Sure, there will be educational sessions during the day, but the real magic happens during the late night where you truly get to meet and talk to people. This is where you network! Remember, you never know who you’ll meet.  You’ll have plenty of time to sleep on the flight back!


Choose, but choose wisely

  • My suggestion to choosing what sessions is to pick something you’ve never learned but are interested in.  For example, there were a lot of ACL talks, but since I’m a student, most of the information we already learned about in school.  I was a little bored.  If you do choose something that you never heard about and are interested, you’ll be more engaged in listening instead of snoozing off and trying to find another session to hop in on.

In conclusion…

So far, this has been the most exciting experience in my physical therapy career (you know, besides that feeling when you get that acceptance letter to PT school – I don’t think anything will ever top that… errr maybe passing the boards? haha).  I’ve met so many awesome people during my time at CSM and I would highly recommend for professionals and students who are on the fence about going, to go.  So what are you waiting for? Start planning! I promise you won’t regret it!


Some memories of all the new friends I made during CSM; It was a pleasure to meet you all!

The Struggles of Being a Small Physical Therapist

Dr. Jennifer Palmer

No, this isn’t Elite Daily or Buzzfeed. I’m not going to tell you the 37 reasons why being a physical therapist is “THE BEST” while using completely opinionated rationales.

This blog post, however, is based off of my opinion as well as from my not-very-extensive-but-still-valid experience of how being a smaller person has affected how I treat patients, how I treat colleagues, and how I have overcome others’ opinions of what smaller people CAN do in this field. Just FYI – I’m a 5’2″ petite girl.

To get you in the right mindset and to help you understand where I’m coming from (especially if you’re a normal sized human being)… Let me first give you a few quotes that have stuck in my head and/or are repeated on a constant basis from either patients, patients’ visitors, nursing staff, and/or other health professionals:
1) “You can’t lift me, you’re the size of my thigh.”

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Clinical Experience from the DPT Student Point of View

Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey I put forth on social media about your clinical experiences.  I apologize again for the sheer length and amount of open ended questions the survey included.  I really do appreciate your honest feedback.  It is my hope that it will help students who are about to embark on their next clinical affiliation.  Just remember, you are not alone in this endeavor!

These are direct quotations from the survey.  Some changes and edits were made such as spelling corrections or shortened to reduce redundancy.

What we look for in a clinical instructor

wanting to be a CI for the student to learn not just for the student to do all the work”

“Someone who is genuinely interested in teaching because he/she wants to better the PT profession.”


Positive, encouraging”

A CI that will tell me what they expect from me, demonstrate new skills, give me space to treat my own patients but still be available if I have questions”

reasonable caseload to allow teaching time”

I like it when they take time to regularly talk with me about how I am doing and my goals and what they would like to see me doing better with as a student. I like it when we work together to gradually increase my independence as a clinician instead of just throwing me in there when I don’t feel comfortable. I also like it when they respond to clinical questions with other questions that help to guide my thinking”

A good CI is one that has the ability to let go of their patients and allow the student to take a forward role as appropriate for the student’s education to that point. The CI should always be available for questions, and should regularly question why they student treats the way they choose to.”

Flexible on teaching style”

willingness to let me jump in and discuss treatment options with me.”

Good communication”

setting mini goals with the student so that both are on the same page with the student’s performance, strengths, weaknesses”

Flexible on teaching style. . . also willing to let you learn from them and not rely solely on what you are bringing to the clinical”

Someone who challenges me as a student in order for me to develop my clinical decision making skills”

“Someone who takes time to give the student feedback, both positive and negative.”

Someone who keeps eye contact with their patients, and remembers they are human beings in need of expert healthcare.”

Someone who is a lifelong learner.”

What we look for in a clinical experience

Interdisciplinary exposure”

Opportunities specific to the setting”

Being in a setting that is not high pressure for productivity”

“Good work environment: approachable and helpful coworkers, an aim for learning not just productivity, application of evidence based practice”

other therapists that I can work in close proximity with so I can learn from multiple styles.”

Variety in case load, independence to choose treatments”

I think that the CI can make or break the clinical experience”

“Good CIs are hard to come by, from what I hear.”

Having good communication and the site appreciating the student and vice versa. – Feedback and communication are key.”

What we liked about our clinical instructors

day one we discussed how I best learn”

Went above and beyond and spent extra time with me”

“. . . honest yet respectful feedback”

My last CI found my weak spots and pushed me to improve them”

helped me become me as a clinician rather than a carbon copy of themselves”

We also set weekly goals and had a quick mini-meeting every week to discuss progress thus far, what to work on, etc.”

Gauges my skill and comfort levels before exposing me to new situations”

What we didn’t like about our clinical instructors

No feedback.”

I learned close to nothing, never observed her treat, had to base my sessions on what I knew coming in and what I found through research”

Her feedback is inconsistent, one day she says she wants one thing and the next day it’s completely opposite”

I did not like it when my CI did not have a plan or clear expectations for me or had difficulty allowing me to participate fully.”

“. . . not being organized”

“. . . my way or the highway type”

What we liked about our clinical experience

It was so nice to get into the field, talk with patients, use critical thinking skills.”

I learned about things in the clinic that I have yet to learn in the classroom, which will set me up for success in the classroom later.”

Humility of staff to acknowledge that we do our best but that we are always … Always. Learning”

Variety of patient population, ability to shadow other clinicians or disciplines, earned independence”

Because of the high patient volume, I learned time management and efficiency, as well as how to treat acute injuries,”

What we didn’t like about our clinical experience

Having my CI look over my shoulder all the time.”

Overly concerned with productivity”

I just wish I had a better CI. My expectations were too high going in, which made it a worse experience.”

Didn’t learn much”

sometimes the hours have been difficult or what seemed to me to be excessively long (52+ hours/week)”

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice for clinic, what would you say?

Be more vocal about the extra opportunities you would like to see.”

Take advantage of every learning opportunity and have confidence in the skills and knowledge I received in PT school.”

Communication with your CI is key to having a good clinical experience, no matter the CI’s level of expertise.”

Stay flexible, ask more questions, and don’t be scared when I get asked questions. If you’re using x technique to treat you should know why.”

Be confident!”

Talk to my school clin Ed advisor about problematic relationship issue with CI. Early. Don’t wait and think it will sort out”

Seek feedback from your CI regularly about what you could have done differently or better.”

Have more confidence. You know more than you think you do.”

“Relax. Always try to learn from each day. Reflect on paper”

“Relax and ask questions when you have them, remember this is your time to learn not to just show what you know”

What strategies did you use in clinical? 

Talking with CI, making sure there is open communication and trust”

Daily meeting/discussion about patients and plan for sessions, weekly checkpoints on good, bad and need for improvement and setting weekly goals”

We [CI and student] also discuss documentation before locking notes”

Goal settings weekly, strengths and weaknesses”

How did you manage stress during clinical? 

With CI and other staff”


made time to hang out with classmates.”

Prioritize as best as I can between clinic and home life”

“. . . prayer”


“Reflection/journal writing”

How did you manage setbacks and/or lack of progress in clinic? 

Feedback and communication with my CI

Discuss with my CI on how I can improve.”

Either spent extra time preparing, or readjusted my goals if it was clear they weren’t going to be met in this setting”

Pick something that I’m lacking and make every treatment or whatever about improving one thing.”

Patience knowing that I am learning every day even if I do not realize it at the time”

Goal setting with CI helps.”

Did you feel your didactic coursework prepared you for clinic? 

Yes. We have a great professor who has taught me how to think critically, which is exactly what I needed to be doing in the clinic. Rarely did we have a “textbook patient,” so I had to critically think about what the patient in front of me needed.”

Partially. I had the basic information I needed to start the rotation from my classes. However, for me, the actual hands on experience is way easier to retain all of the information we learn in the classroom.”

Yes and no. I was not prepared for dealing with discharging patients to hospice or losing them to death. My CI was great at helping me cope with the death of patients and helped me realize it is something commonly seen in the skilled setting.”

Yes as best as they could. Nothing is as clear cut as it is in the classroom, and the professors give a bunch of resources and try to have a good discussion about the topic, but you won’t know until they are in front of you.”

Do you feel the CPI adequately evaluates your performance? Why or why not?

“No. CPI is very subjective and not a great evaluation of the whole experience. It is a good tool but should not be the sole evaluator of the clinical experience.”

The CPI is repetitively and lengthy. I think it could be shortened and still do a sufficient job of evaluating performance.”

Yes it is thorough, hits most areas, and has an easy to use grading system”

No. It’s too long and repetitive. The comments are more appropriate for performance than the grading scale”

What could be done to improve the CPI? 

“More free box writing such as strengths, weaknesses and further study needed”

“Get rid of the grading scale, make it shorter”

“The individual PT program should do site calls or visits to thoroughly eval their students.”

A sliding scale just doesn’t seem to work well for some categories. I think it works for things like examination, or diagnosis because it depends on how much help you need in that area but things like “professional behavior” don’t really make sense on the scale. I mean, why would you need help being professional with complex patients but not simple ones? It just doesn’t really work in my opinion.”

Any comments or advice you would give students heading into their next clinical?

Be confident in yourself, you know more than you think! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s why you’re there! Try and experience as many different things as you can”

Reflect! Write a short synopsis for each day”

Prepare beforehand. Ask your CI what you should brush up on before you head out.”

Open communication is key. If don’t have it with CI… Talk with school early and often. Clinical is stressful enough without having a CI who stresses you out.”

Keep an open mind and be prepared to get out of your comfort zone. You may have to change a few adult “briefs” or clean up a patient after an accident– treat every patient as if they were your parents or grandparents :)”

“Good luck! Enjoy it and learn!!”