One of the best parts of the Physical Therapy program here at Nazareth is the incorporation of off-campus clinical education experiences throughout your three years of graduate school. You will complete one during the summer after your first year of grad school, one after the second year, and two during your final year. It sounds like a lot, but this is where you get to hone in on your skills and really gain the clinical knowledge to carry on to your future career. The best part about these clinical education experiences is that our professors do their best at getting you where you want to go.
My first off-campus clinical experience started off with a whirlwind of events in 48 hours. The morning of Sunday, May 10th, I found myself becoming a Nazareth College graduate at the Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester. There were many goodbyes said, some “see you laters”, and at least 100 hugs within a couple hours. I was lucky enough to eat a lovely lunch with my family and grandparents, but quickly had to start the 15-hour drive to the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina. The night was spent chillin’ in a Holiday Inn (catch the song reference) in West Virginia, but by 9:00am the next day, back on I-81! After another long day of driving, I finally made it to my friend’s apartment (a fellow Naz graduate) in the suburbs of Charleston. That night was spent struggling to make a grocery trip to Publix, packing a lunch for the next day, and falling asleep before the sun went down.
After a good night’s sleep, I was ready to start my seven-week clinical at Franke at Seaside. Franke is a senior living community split up into different buildings, each focused on specific elderly populations. The buildings included an alzheimer’s unit, short-term care, long-term care, and a whole independent living community. Franke was a very unique opportunity because I was able to get experience treating both inpatient and outpatient clients everyday. Our inpatient clients were lower functioning, where we focused on regaining mobility, walking endurance, and overall muscle strength. The clients who were treated in the outpatient gym came in with common injuries or pain, such as ankle sprains and low pack pain. Being able to see such a variety of patient presentations was incredibly beneficial as a physical therapy student, especially on the first off-campus clinical. I gained knowledge about planning interventions and different ways to challenge elderly patients of varying cognitive and physical abilities.
I was also lucky enough to have an awesome clinical instructor (CI), a former Nazareth physical therapy graduate, as a brilliant teacher throughout my seven weeks. The first couple weeks were spent getting to know the ropes and building relationships with the patients, as well as the other employees at the facility. Once I had a grasp of how Franke worked, my CI allowed for more freedom and one-on-one treatment with many of the less complex patients. When he thought it was necessary, he would help by stopping me and ask what I could do differently or by giving suggestions on ways to challenge the patient more. As the weeks went by, the relationships I built with the patient’s became stronger and stronger, which is the best part about being a physical therapist. Gaining trust from a patient can be the most important part of the job, especially when you are seeing the same people everyday for many weeks.
Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just all work and no play during the two months I spent down south. Charleston is an incredible city surrounded by beaches, historical landmarks, great nightlife, beaches, awesome restaurants, live music, and, oh yeah, beaches! I spent many afternoons and evenings going to the beach after work, which may be the best stress reliever ever. On the weekends, a fellow Naz classmate who was also in Charleston for her clinical and I would go into downtown Charleston to sightsee, walk around the area, and enjoy the unbelievable southern cooking; I ate enough seafood and barbeque to last the rest of the year. We spent a couple Tuesday nights listening to up-and-coming country artists play for free right next to the famous Ravenel Bridge. On Friday nights, we would spend the evening going to a beach and watching a hodgepodge of local bands play all types of music from reggae to rock. Between boat tours, wandering around downtown, eating our way through town and beach hopping, I feel as though I only scraped the surface of the hundreds of things to experience on the beautiful southern peninsula.
The seven weeks in Charleston at Franke at Seaside helped me make a tremendous leap in my abilities as a physical therapist in both clinical ability, and creating strong relationships with patients. The faculty was welcoming and made a point to help me as much as possible. I was able to collaborate with occupational therapy, speech therapy, nursing, doctors, and social workers, which was a great look into the interprofessional world. Although my first clinical flew by, I won’t forget the amazing people I met, and the irreplaceable experiences I had at Franke.