First-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students celebrated the 7th Annual Clinical Practice Ceremony on June 21, receiving their white coats as they transition from academic coursework to full-time clinical internships.
“When I look back on the year, I am impressed by how much we have learned,” said first-year Ellen Mueller. “I am excited to be welcomed as a physical therapy clinician and am looking forward to beginning my first clinical experience in a couple of weeks. Throughout the year we learn an abundant amount of information and the clinic gives us an opportunity to apply what we have learned.”
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 the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, welcomed students and faculty before introducing Raymond Curry, MD, vice dean of education at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“It is becoming a tradition across the country to celebrate the transition from the classroom to the clinic,” said Curry. “This is the point where you really shift gears and think of your profession not as something you’re reading through secondhand books, through simulated experiences, or little excursions into the clinical world, this is when you start to spend your days in clinical settings with patients, developing relationships with patients, and – most importantly – developing your persona as a clinician.”
He offered his best wishes and handed the program over to Nora Francis, PT, DHS, OTR, assistant chair of clinical education. Francis recalled memories as a physical therapy student and lessons she has learned working with patients.
“I hope that you, too, will discover that you can significantly connect with your patients and positively affect their physical-function capabilities,” she said.
Francis then presented the Outstanding Clinical Partner Award to Nicole Hughes, MPT, center coordinator of clinical education at Sinai Health System, for her support, commitment, and dedication to planning and structuring clinical internships for physical therapy students.
Krista Van Der Laan, PT, DPT’03, OCS, center coordinator of clinical education at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and recipient of last year’s award, also gave remarks. She will be joining the DPT program as director of clinical education in July.
“Now is a time to focus on the process,” she said. “When you are process oriented, you can see that your role is to take all your knowledge from your first year, from all your prior work, schooling, and personal life experiences, and apply it to the patients and clients you will encounter during your clinical experience.”
Next, second-year student Jill Payaggapandha, SPT, addressed the audience.
“There are going to be days that you feel small, that you don’t know anything. I think every second year has had that moment,” she said. “If you can do one thing right, no matter how small it is, whether you take a chart review, or you get the treatment ready on time – that is one small victory you can put in your pocket and feel good about.”
She then encouraged her peers by telling them that by building these small victories, they will increase their confidence and learn that they are capable of bigger ones.
Following Payaggapandha, physical-therapy care recipient Ron Weber spoke about his experience as a patient and offered advice.
“It is up to you to show up to each session and to get the patient enthused about doing physical therapy,” he said. “And they are going to get tired and worn out, but you have to get them to keep working at it.”
DPT students then recited an oath, pledging to accept the responsibilities that accompany the practice of physical therapy. Following the oath, students received physical therapy patches for their white coats. Students and faculty then celebrated at a reception following the ceremony.