The Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences (PTHMS) celebrated its 6th annual Clinical Practice Ceremony on June 22. The event recognizes Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students as they transition from academic coursework to their first full-time clinical internship.
“The white coat ceremony is a great transition from the classroom to the clinic. It marks an important point in our physical therapy education. We have finished a year of classes and developed basic skills, which we are now ready to validate in a practical setting,” said first-year student Darcy Hayes. “It is recognition by both the professors and students of what we have accomplished and learned thus far, and what we have to offer in a practical application.”
Hayes attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she majored in Kinesiology and Psychology. She chose Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine for her DPT degree because, “I felt as though the method of classroom instruction was most beneficial to the way I learn, the faculty seemed really involved and active in the teaching process, and I love Chicago as a city and place to live.”
Darcy was one of 80 students in the Class of 2014. Second-year students and faculty also participate in the ceremony by providing support and sharing experiences and advice.
Julius P. Dewald, PT, PhD, chair of PTHMS, gave the welcoming remarks.
“You will have the chance to use the basic and clinical science information you’ve master over the past year and start putting it into practice. You will also serve as an ambassador for our department and for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine,” he said.
Dewald introduced William L. Lowe, Jr., MD, vice dean of academic affairs for the medical school. He spoke about the outstanding faculty and exciting research.
“As you move out into various clinics throughout the country and the world, I think you will be carrying the banner of an outstanding program,” said Lowe. “This is your time to learn clinical physical therapy, to interact with patients, to understand what being a clinician is all about.
“To provide care to others is a tremendous responsibility, not one that comes lightly, and one that takes several years to develop. It is an important milestone in your education and one that you will all excel at.”
Nora Francis, PT, DHS, OTR, assistant chair of clinical education, shared her excitement for the first-year students beginning their clinical experiences, and for the second-year students to continue their rotations. She then invited Kirsten Potter, PT, DPT, MS, NCS, assistant professor in PTHMS, to present the Outstanding Clinical Partner Award. This year the award went to Krista Van Der Laan, PT, DPT, OCS, manager of internal staff development in physical therapy and center coordinator of clinical education at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for her long standing relationship with Northwestern, and for her support and commitment to clinical education.
Recipient of last year’s clinical partner award, Kim Rutherford, MPT, director of student programs and the new graduate mentor program at Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers, commented, “I have full confidence that all of you embody the skills you need to be successful in your clinical rotations.”
She also shared a secret with them as they embark on their clinical journeys, “You’re clinical instructors are as scared of you as you are of them,” and reminded them that they bring a tremendous amount of knowledge and a fresh perspective to each of their clinical experiences.
“We are all teachers throughout our professional development,” she said. “Enjoy your clinical education experience. Be a sponge and absorb everything that you can and ask questions. That’s how we all learn.
Next, second year student Jeffrey Martini spoke to his classmates about some of his first clinical experiences, and gave words of advice.
“The most important thing in your toolbox is your patient’s trust,” he said. “This is neither earned nor utilized with technical knowledge alone. The importance of solid and practical skills cannot be underestimated, but being a phenomenal therapist is not about knowing every answer. As a student and as a practicing therapist, you will always be asked to do things you don’t know how to do. What is required is that you move away from paralysis and toward action.”
Before swearing the oath for physical therapists, Jane Sullivan, PT, DHS, associate professor in PTHMS, introduced guest speaker, Jeffrey S. Waitzman, MD. A physician and medical school instructor for more than 30 years, Waitzman spoke about his experience as a patient with a stroke and the physical therapy he received.
“I encountered the special qualities and talents possessed by the gifted physical therapists that would accompany me through all of my conscience moments and dreams,” he said. “A new door opened to the next phase of my life, ‘bootcamp,’ also known as the physical rehabilitation unit. It had its share of drill sergeants and as I was soon to discover it had its share of reluctant recruits, us, the patients. I soon came to learn that unlike military bootcamp, physical therapy rehabilitation was staffed by my angels. These angels were comprised of my therapists whose mission was to restore quality of life and hope. Without their help, getting up in the morning would have been meaningless.”
He reminded students that through their efforts and dedication they can restore the quality of life of their patients.
“I can once again savor the joy of walking hand in hand with my wife of over 40 years on a sunny day. I wanted to thank you for letting me share my appreciation for the gift you and your colleagues have restored to me. The gift is literally my life,” Waitzman said.
Following his remarks, students received physical therapy patches for their white coats. Students and faculty then celebrated at a reception following the ceremony.