First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You got into physical therapy school! Take a moment and really reflect on that. All of that hard work you did: the volunteer hours, the studying, the GRE. All of that got you here. But this is not the finish line. Now you have three more years of that hard work. Some would even say harder work. So here are some things that I have learned that will hopefully get you through some of the more difficult times and help maximize your experience during physical therapy school.
Ask the right questions.
It is easy to get lost in the weeds during physical therapy school. That brings on a lot of questions, but one thing I found helpful for me was asking the right questions. For example: the all too-often asked, “What‘s my grade?” Rather than asking about that, take some time to ask yourself if you are satisfied with how much you learned in the semester overall. Yes, make sure you study and do the assignments well, but will you really benefit from spending another hour perfectly sculpting that second-to-last sentence in your introductory paragraph?
In my last three practical exams, I did not receive stellar grades. However, the weekend prior I went to Manipalooza with some friends and had an amazing time learning about The Empathy Cycle with Dr. Rob Wainner and the opioid epidemic with Dr. Tim Flynn. Sure, I was a little disappoint seeing a few C’s but that didn’t meant I regretted the time I spent elsewhere. So branch out and take some time to find things that get you excited about physical therapy school, instead of worrying about that A+. Someone once told me not to believe everything I think. I believe this can also be applied to the questions we all ask ourselves. Instead of getting into the real nitty gritty about specific things, take a beat, step back, and first figure out if you are asking the right question.
Read read read and then maybe write.
Reading for my own enjoyment is by far one of the best things I did while in school. From hardcore healthcare economic books like “The Innovator's Prescription,” to the emotionally charged “Being Mortal,” reading helps me stay excited through the more monotonous parts of physical therapy school; it’s a reminder of what I am interested in as a physical therapist. I have learned a lot through the different classes in school, but I really think it was my outside reading that has shaped the kind of physical therapist I would like to be in the future.
And if you are feeling up to it, write! Writing is fun! Look, I am doing it now. Weeeeeeeeeeeeee. Writing helps externalize my thoughts and challenges me to straighten out the rat’s nest that is my mind. It also flat out helps me be a better person. Trade secret: sometimes I surprise myself in my own writing. When I would go back to edit something I wrote, I would sometimes think, “oh, that makes so much sense! I should do that.” So try to take some time and just put your thoughts down.
If I found one mantra that has helped in almost all aspects of my life during physical therapy school it is to be curious. Why you may ask? Now you’re getting it!! When I would become frustrated with an assignment, class, and/or those around me, reminding myself to be curious helped me get over the frustration that much quicker. Curiosity helps me become more aware of myself and everything going on around me, instead of getting wrapped up in my own thoughts. For me, curiosity is the opposite of being judgmental; it is a humble mindset. If you are like me, then going down the frustration rabbit hole is far too easy so next time try being more curious why something is, rather than being angry by it.
It is easy to be an Asshole...don’t be an Asshole.
Oh boy, it is SO EASY to talk shit during physical therapy school and is frankly the hardest thing for me to stop doing. But something that I realized a while ago is that because it is so easy to just spout verbal garbage, I need to practice the harder path. Because it is mental exercise. Do I just want to do the 3 set of 10 that is meaningless comments, or do I want to consciously progress a positive mentality and be more understanding, more sincere, etc? I do not normally shy away from the harder path, so applying it to this aspect of my life should be no different. So be better than me folks and don’t be an asshole, because it is too easy. And we are not in the business of easy.
So there is some advice from something on his way out of the classroom. I am not going to lie, physical therapy school can be a slog, but I think the best thing to help relieve some of that is to just be aware of yourself and look for things that help you during school. And again, CONGRATULATIONS!