To start I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the Experience Series here on creatingapt.com. It has been received very well. If you are a DPT, PTA, SPT, or a SPTA and you are interested in contributing send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org._________________________________________________________________________________
My name is Dalin Hansen and I recently graduated from PT school. I grew up in Utah. Through high school I wrestled which helped me gain a work ethic and to love exercise. I served a 2 year mission in the Philippines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Upon returning home from the Philippines I went to Utah Valley University where I graduated Cum Laud with my BS in Exercise Science. While in my undergrad I got married to a beautiful woman and had two kids. After graduation I applied for PT school and ultimately got rejected after a painful process of waiting lists. After finding out I did not get accepted into PT school my wife and I moved to Corpus Christi for 8 months, returned to Utah, and applied for PT school again. This time I got an acceptance to the University of St. Augustine ATX. When I did not get accepted to PT school my first try I was devastated and crushed but now that I look back I feel like I needed that growth opportunity for some reason. While in PT school my wife and I added to our family with a third child. After graduation my wife and I decided to move to Southeastern New Mexico (2 hours north of El Paso, Tx). So far small town livin’ has been pretty nice.
• How was the transition/learning curve when starting your first job?
Honestly the transition has been smooth. I was so worried that I was going to have a tough time after getting going in the “real world” as a PT but it has been awesome. I accepted a job in SE NM which is a pretty small place. Because it is such a small place I feel like we see a wide variety of diagnosis in the clinic. When I was in school one of my clinical instructor's co-workers said she was finally starting to feel comfortable as a PT, I asked her how long ago she graduated and she said 3 YEARS AGO. This really freaked me out! I was thinking I am screwed when I graduate but that has not been my experience at all. The company I work for does an excellent job of helping you transition into a full case load (which at my job is 50 patients per week). I am by no means saying everything about being a new grad is easy, there are some challenges like getting notes done and knowing what to do when you have patients that say they have 12/10 pain, etc. Physical therapy allows you to investigate ones condition and facilitate their healing. Sometimes I feel like Sherlock Holmes and I figure out the mystery that is reeking havoc on ones body. Other times I feel like a small fish in big water just trying to figure things out. Really the biggest things I would say about the “learning curves” have been the paper work/notes and the psychology on pain. The paper work is self explanatory… paper work stinks. The psychology of pain has been somewhat difficult to deal with. In short pain is so much deeper than tissues that have been damaged, there is such a huge cognitive component to pain and dealing with it. In other words, get out you abnormal psych book and start studying, just kidding, but seriously.
• What your work load is like or what a typical day is like for you?
Well, let me see if I can get you into my shoes and walk with me for a day. I arrive at work at 7:30-7:45 to look over my schedule for the day. During this time I like to make a mental note as to who needs an updated HEP and who will need a progress note or a discharge summary. If I have time I will put together the HEP and have it printed and ready to go so I don’t have to try to put it together while the patient is there. A few minutes before 8:00 I look at the first pt and see if it has a body part listed and if there is I will open up a note for that body part. I get my lap top and put it where I am going to bring the pt to, then I go get the pt. We see everything from head to toe (so if you’re a PT student and you think you are going to refer your hand patients to an OT think again… go study up on your carpal bones). After my evaluation which is a one hour slot I see people I have already evaluated who are on my case load. Depending on the insurance and what they require I see one or two patients at a time. I do that until 12:00 when I have lunch. I try to get my notes done while working with the patients but usually have a little bit that is not finished when lunch rolls around so I spend the 15-20 minutes of my lunch finishing up morning notes and trying to finish writing my assessment, goals, and plan from my eval. I eat lunch until about 12:45 then get back to my desk to prep for my afternoon. From 1:00 to 3:00 I see one to two people at a time then have an eval from 3:00 to 4:00. From 4:00 to 5:00 I have one or two more people. Again I try to get all my notes done while I’m with the patients but I usually end up spending anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes tying up loose ends as far as notes go and then I go home. All in all I see anywhere from 8-14 people in a day and my weekly visit goal is 50 patients. The company I work for is awesome. My boss had a review with me to see how things were going and he told me he wants me to get out of work sooner so I can spend more time with my family so I have been trying hard to get notes done while I am working with people. If you are going to graduate soon or if you are a DPT and you are interested in an awesome company shoot me an email (email@example.com). The biggest change to my schedule was mentioned above… I finish with my notes and I go home. During school I would finish class and then study and then go home and study more. It felt like my life was fully encompassed with school and studying. I feel like my work schedule is busy but I actually get to enjoy my off time. On that note something that has been a bigger change than I would have guessed is school and studying are busy but if you are busying studying you can take study breaks every so often. This has not been the case since I started working, if you have people coming in one right after the other you can’t just take a 10 minute break to refresh. Not that I would take tons of study breaks but I definitely took them every couple of hours.
• What do you wish you would have known or been prepared for after graduating?
I wish I would have had a better grasp on what daily notes are like. We did SOAP notes and things like that but I would write a novel. I am trying to note just what is important and pertinent to the case. I was really worried about this transition from school to clinic and not knowing what I need to know but it has been fine. I wish I would have had a better understanding that if you get people moving in a safe way and help them improve their impairments they will get better than when they started. A lot of the things I wish I was better at are really just things that come with practice in the clinic, such as: scheduling, managing a case load, and taking care of paper work/notes.
• What is it like/managing student loans on a physical therapist salary?
Alright this to me is the elephant in the room. It is not fun to talk about and I just happened to go to a private for-profit school. It was $13,000/semester… yes you read that right. I wish I would have been a little more aware of how much money that actually is but I was so excited to get accepted to PT school I did not worry much about the bottom line. Now that all is said and done the number is huge and it is painful! I will break it down a bit further. I was at school for a total of 7 semesters. That means 13,000x7 which comes to $91,000. Alright, that is a large number and we’re only talking tuition at this point. Now, I had to live during those 7 semesters and I just so happen to have three kids and a wife. As a family because we were so poor during PT school we qualified for Medicare and for food stamps (as a proud person this was not easy to accept but we had to do what we had to do). Anyways to make a long story short we ended up with all in all we ended up with a few loans which are as follows: $67,110.66, $2,329.16, $49,592.17, and 52,870.14. I know what you are thinking… HOLY MOLLY! This all comes out to a grand total of $171,902.13. I know I am pulling out all the numbers but I think it is important for prospective students to see this before they just dive in head first. I wish I would have looked at the financial implications a little closer before going to school. I am not trying to scare anyone away from PT school but only help others make informed decisions. In total honesty if I had to do it all over again and this was the only option I had I would do it again. That being said I would make sure I didn't have any other options. We are a single income household which makes things a little tighter. Our average interest rate on these loans is about 7.5% so we are in the process of trying to refinance and get a lower interest rate because these loans will eat us alive. I plan to break down our loans and our payment plans here in the next few weeks.
• Additional thoughts
Overall, I would say school is so hard! I thought getting in was my it, that I had finally arrived so to speak but later learned I was just getting started. There is so much pressure to pass tests and perform on practicals. It sends your stress levels through the roof but then you just do it and you suddenly graduate after all the sacrifice and you suddenly realize why you did it. I take so much satisfaction in my job and it makes me realize that even though PT school royally sucked it was worth it.
My other thought is don’t complain. Yes your professors are not perfect and maybe they wrote a question on a test that was impossible. Just enjoy the journey (easier said then done). As long as you pass and you move forward don’t fret. I am yet to have a pt ask me what my GPA was. Yes it is fun to get As but seriously don’t argue with your professors over one point (unless it is the difference between passing and failing, then you can argue all you want).
Final word about PT school… get in and get out as painlessly as you possibly can.
Thanks for checking out my blog here on creatingapt.com. If you think you have some good words to share let me know I would love to post them here. Find me on Twitter @dpt_usa or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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