Clinical Rotations…..You’re Almost There

when you're here, you're almost there DYC tagline“When you’re here, you’re almost there.”

Who at DYC has not seen the commercials, read the billboards, and heard others repeat these words? While maybe not the catchiest tagline, it certainly has taken on a more personal feeling with me as I navigate my final year of graduate school in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program (DPT). With two clinical rotations down and two to go, the end of over 20 years of full-time education is staring me in the face. And thanks to the experiences I’ve had thus far on my first two “Clinical Rotations”, when I do finally graduate and enter the physical therapy profession for real, I know I’ll be ready.

In short, it is akin to an unpaid internship.  As a student you will be paired up with a professional in your field and work under this individual (known as a clinical instructor, or “CI”) for several weeks.  As a physical therapy student, I treat my CI’s patients, work his hours, and slowly take over his daily responsibilities as I become more comfortable and show that I am a capable pseudo-employee.  At the beginning of your first rotation you can expect to mostly observe and possibly help out with simpler aspects of the job.  By the end of your final rotation, the goal is to function as a fully independent “entry level” professional.

Will work for free sign

Generally clinical rotations are unpaid. O well…

Every program is different in the specifics of the clinical placement process. However, no matter the program, you can expect to work closely with your professors and clinical advisers throughout the process. Their job is to place you in a variety of settings that will give you a full-body experience of your chosen career. For physical therapy this means spending at least one rotation in an “inpatient” setting (hospital, nursing home, long term care unit) and at least one in an “outpatient” setting (the physical therapy clinic down the street from your house, for example). Each program at DYC has their own specific requirements but all are with the goal of giving you a well-rounded overall clinical experience.

While there are a finite number of locations to chose from, the locations around the country (and outside of the country) are many.  Classmates of mine have done rotations in places such as Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, and Canada. While many of the clinical sites offered are in the WNY area, traveling outside of the area is an option that generally is available to the student at DYC.  For example, last spring I was able to live at home with my parents while working at a physical therapy clinic in western Connecticut for six weeks.

I firmly believe that it is exactly what you make it to be. Sure, you may get stuck with a jerk of a CI, but this situation is more rare than you may think.  Professionals who become CI’s generally volunteer to do this because they actually enjoy the experience of teaching and giving back to students. As you gain experience, your CI will give you more room to work independently, allowing you to grow as a clinician. It really can be a great experience as this is where you will learn to take all of the “book smarts” you’ve acquired as a student and apply them in real life with real people who will see you as a professional of your field, not as a student.

I leave you with a few words of advice to make your transition from the classroom to the “real world” a positive experience:

1) Contact your CI by phone before your first day to break the ice and discuss expectations.

2) Arrive early on the first day.

3) Pack lunch on the first day.

4) Make the extra effort.

5) ALWAYS remember that the client comes first.

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