Ninety first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students received patches for their white coats on June 20 at the 8th Annual Clinical Practice Ceremony, representing the transition from academic coursework to their first full-time clinical internship.
Marjorie Johnson Hilliard, PT, MS, EdD, associate chair of professional education in Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences (PTHMS), welcomed students and faculty before introducing Nora Francis, PT, DHS, OTR, assistant chair of clinical education in PTHMS.
“We as physical therapists are uniquely permitted to share seminal moments of patients’ lives when they are most vulnerable,” said Francis. “Even though you are likely feeling a bit nervous and uncertain about your upcoming clinical practice, I hope you will soon discover that even with your incomplete skill set you can significantly connect with your patients and positively affect their functional abilities.”
Francis presented Christopher Meachem, PT, DPT, center coordinator of clinical education at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, with the Outstanding Clinical Partner Award.
Meachem shared his thoughts on what first-year students need to know as they start their clinical internships.
“Be open to learning and willing to digest new experiences and new information. Consider the phrase, ‘I imagine’ when talking with patients, and know that your instructors are prepared to share their knowledge and experiences with you,” he said.
Bridget Coghlan McMillion, a second-year DPT student, spoke on lessons learned during her clinical internship and gave guidance to first-year students.
“I truly believe that the people in this room have some of the biggest hearts and the brightest minds on the planet,” she said. “I encourage every one of you to never stop looking around to notice and learn about the people who sit next to you…it is important to remember each of you brings something special to the table.”
She added that students should engage and learn about every patient they encounter.
“Ask them about their story,” she said. “On top of being one of the best learning experiences you get, I believe these interactions break up the monotony of class, ground you in the more personal aspects of PT and will remind you of why you are pursuing this profession.”
Physical therapy patient and recipient of the Care Award, Mark Stephan reminded students to empathize with their patients, who look to them for hope and support. He shared stories about his time recovering from a bike accident and attributed his recovery to his physical therapist’s out-of-the-box thinking.
“I encourage you to use your own creativity, use your own outside-the-box thinking,” Stephan said. “You are being taught terrific talents and skills, but you each bring individuality to your training. Apply it, use it and I wish you all the best.”
DPT students next recited an oath, pledging to accept the responsibilities that accompany the practice of physical therapy. Following the oath, students received patches for their white coats.
“Today’s ceremony represents an important contract between you, the Department of Physical Therapy faculty and Northwestern University,” Dr. Wayne said. “As a school, we value compassion and excellence in clinical care and in our ability to treat disease through research.
“Faculty present today have honored you and affirmed their confidence that you possess the requisite skills to fulfill your scholastic requirements and bring honor to your profession. At today’s ceremony you pledged to uphold the lofty ideals we treasure throughout your time at Northwestern and your career. I express my full confidence in your abilities to make this goal a reality.”
Students and faculty closed the celebration at a reception following the ceremony.
“Today is really exciting and it is special to share it with my classmates because we are like one big family,” said Erin Foster, a first-year physical therapy student. “It is nice to put everything that we’ve learned together as we transition to the clinic. It refocuses why we are here in PT school.”