For students trying to apply to physical therapy school, finding observation hours can be a very frustrating process. Take it from me, I just went through the entire process of applying to physical therapy school and, after roughly 1,100 hours of observation, I feel like I should share my experience.
Entering The Highway
First, there is the issue of finding opportunities to shadow in a “variety of settings”. Most everyone you will talk to will stress the necessity of having observation hours in what they call a “variety of different settings”. Many therapists and admission’s staff believe “variety” refers to inpatient versus outpatient clinics. To me, prospective PT students should try their best to observe pediatric, orthopedic, neurologic, and every other type of therapy that they can. And while I agree that the traditional view of what “variety” entails in this way is important, most therapists and admission’s staff are out of touch with what true variety is and what is out there for us to learn.
“Oh you observed at a bunch of different clinics but they were all outpatient? Well that’s just all outpatient so you don’t have much variety. The PT schools won’t like that.”
What Exit To Take?
My fellow peers, let me reassure you that you can still get into physical therapy school without any inpatient experience. I tried CHOC, HOAG, Mission Hospital, and the fifty Kaisers that are located in Orange County and got rejected by all of them. Don’t let not having inpatient experience discourage you from applying to physical therapy school! Try and get as much experience as you can and just go for it. I was still able to get into USC, one of the top programs in the nation, without any inpatient hours.
The other issue I encountered was that when I did eventually get an opportunity to shadow, the clinics were very limiting and hard to work with. I had to jump around a lot because most clinics would only offer roughly 30 hours of shadowing. How am I supposed to get all the hours needed for graduate school if each clinic only offers 30 hours? Moreover, how am I supposed to see the effects of the treatment that the patients received if I only get to see them once before my time there is up? And don’t even get me started on all laundry that I did while “observing”.
Sight-Seeing Along The Way
So yeah, observing can be a very frustrating experience and it may even turn some students away from pursuing a career in physical therapy. How did the state of observation hours get to this? I am not sure. One could argue that the purpose of adding the observation hour requirement for physical therapy school was to ensure that prospective students would get sufficient exposure to the field before they started school. How are students supposed to learn about physical therapy when they spend most of their time in the laundry room?
That is where Rehab and Revive Physical Therapy came in. I met Dr. Lin and his staff in the summer of 2016 when I observed him for a session before I had to go back down to school in San Diego. That one session was more informative than the totality of the 400 hours I had spent previously observing at other clinics. That was why a year later, after graduating from UCSD, I asked him for the full-time internship position.
As an intern at Rehab and Revive, you commit to a long-term program that rewards you for the work you put in. If you want to come in everyday, Dr. Lin is willing to let you do just that. You get to see all the different techniques the therapists use, including techniques like Neuro-Mechanical Therapy (NMT) that Dr. Lin created himself. Not only is it convenient for students, since you only have to commute to one location and get a variety of different treatment techniques, but you actually get to learn and see how those treatments have long-term, positive outcomes.
While interning at R+, you are constantly challenged intellectually by Dr. Lin with questions pertaining to the human body and physical therapy techniques that will make you think. As a result, you are constantly researching and learning about topics that will better prepare you for graduate school. As you progress along with the internship program, Dr. Lin assess your growth and gives more responsibilities based on how you are performing. Eventually, you might be entrusted with helping teach patients their exercises. In some rare cases, you might even get to have a hand in treatment sessions. Both are commodities that no other clinic can offer.
Looking back on it, I feel that the best thing I can say about my internship experience was that it positively impacted my view on physical therapy. After seeing so many therapists just go through the motions, it is nice to see a doctor who not only cares about the patients, but also the students as well.
- Thomas Ting (Senior Intern)