This is the first of a 3-part interview series with Gloria, a recent D.P.T graduate. Gloria graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health and from the Physical Therapy program at Samuel Merritt University in May of 2015. She will be taking the NPTE board exam in October.
FitBUX: Why did you choose the PT school that you attended and what advice do you have for others on choosing a school?
Gloria: I graduated from Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA. I chose to apply to this school because they have a high number of clinical hours, which gave me a chance to practice in a lot of different settings. I also wanted a smaller class setting and something that was local. More importantly, I was interested in neurology within the PT field. In my research, Samuel Merritt offered neuro-focused classes and they also have a clinic that is opened to the public, so people that live in Oakland can come in and students can actually treat real patients with neurological conditions. Samuel Merritt also has a partnership with the Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (“PNF”) program at Kaiser Permanente Vallejo, so essentially the school offered all neuro-related things that I wanted to pursue. The school also offers medical missions to other countries. Originally, it was only to a small town in Panama, but since then, the school has added a week-long trip to Cuba, and also a weekend to Tijuana, Mexico.
FitBUX: What made you choose PT as a career?
Gloria: I knew I wanted to do something in the healthcare field. When I was still at Cal, I looked through what careers I could pursue. That was initially how I first found out about physical therapy. After researching this field, I chose to volunteer at the Tang Center, the school’s health center. I really liked the experience and saw that the PTs working there really seemed to like their jobs and had a genuine interest in their patients. That’s what piqued my interest. After graduating from Cal, I became a PT aide. I got to see firsthand how PTs help people. From there, I got more and more exposed into the PT field and introduced into such areas as neuro and pediatrics.
FitBUX: What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue the PT field?
Gloria: Research and volunteering in different settings were important things that helped me figure out what I wanted to do.
FitBUX: Can you talk more about how you became exposed to the Neurology specialty in PT?
Gloria: At the Tang Center, I mostly observed patients with repetitive strains, like elbow injuries, sprained ankles, or back pain. The facility had special exercise equipment to help people in manual therapy. It wasn’t until I began volunteering at Alta Bates’ outpatient neuro clinic that I began to help patients with neurological conditions. That allowed me to observe PT’s helping patients that have had a stroke, an amputation, or a spinal cord injury. That’s where I finally got exposed to neurology in the PT setting and what eventually led me to Samuel Merritt.
FitBUX: How difficult was it to fulfill your volunteer hours?
Gloria: It can be difficult, particularly if you want to volunteer in a hospital. Depending on how many volunteers and spaces are open, there can sometimes be really long waitlists. For instance, at Alta Bates, my first 100 hours of volunteer work were assigned to me based on the needs of the hospital. However, after that, I got to volunteer in the areas that I was interested in. I ended up volunteering in their outpatient neuro and orthopedic clinics. I also had the chance to volunteer at a children’s hospital, and was able to get through the waitlist process more quickly through a referral of mine.
FitBUX: In your experience volunteering at hospitals, it sounds like it may be difficult to get into a particular specialty of your choice? Any thoughts or advice you can share with others on what to do if someone is going through the same process?
Gloria: At Alta Bates, I initially wanted to volunteer in their inpatient setting; however, they ended up giving me outpatient, but at least that got me into physical therapy. There was a long waitlist in inpatient PT. It really depends on the hospital. For the most part, in most places, they will try to place you in the area you want to volunteer. It just comes down to the fact that you may have to wait. Try going to smaller clinics or private practices. It may be easier to get in and it also gives you more one-on-one exposure with the owner or resident PT, who can help with your letters of recommendation. That’s the upside there.
Join us in Part 2 of our series when we ask Gloria to share with us some of her tips and advice for potential students who are looking to attend a DPT program. If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe and like this article.