Interview with a Recent D.P.T. Graduate from Samuel Merritt University (3/3)

This is the final part 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: When you do start the job search, what type of position will you be looking for?

Gloria: Obviously, I’d like to stay in neuro. That’s where I feel comfortable and that’s the population that I really like. Either that, or pediatrics, because I also did a rotation in that specialty. But again, I’d prefer neuro.

FitBUX: Given that your most recent and longest clinical experience has been in neuro, how difficult would it be for you to go into pediatrics, or even something like orthopedics?

Gloria: Most people would think that in my situation, someone like me would have to stay in neuro. But really, with neuro, you can apply the knowledge in the ortho setting as well. With the research that is out now, experts are finding out that even ortho patients require re-education in neuromuscular subjects, which is basically what PNF covers. I think I will be just fine working in a setting like that. With pediatrics, it generally requires at least one year of training under supervision. With that, you couldn’t just get a job in it.

FitBUX: With pediatrics and neuro, I would assume the primary places that hire entering PTs such as yourself would be hospitals, and not private practices? What other settings are you considering for employment?

Gloria: In pediatrics, you can go to California Children’s Services or even schools. For instance, there are school districts that hire PTs and OTs for kids that need treatment. At California Children’s Services, you also see a lot of kids with neurological conditions.  For the adult-population, it’s mostly hospitals, but, for instance here in the Bay area, there is Rehab without Walls, a private home health service offering physical therapy. So there are definitely other options available.

FitBUX: How are you studying for the NPTE exam?

Gloria: After we graduated, one of our classmates set up a weekend prep course through Scorebuilders. That was very helpful. It gave us tips and gave us mini-tests to tell us in where our strength and weaknesses are and what areas to focus on. I’m currently using the Scorebuilders book to study. If there’s something I need a refresher on, I go to my textbooks and notes, and even Youtube videos that cover those topics. I’m a visual person, so it helps to see images of the subjects. On Youtube, the Khan academy is one resource that covers certain subjects, such as cardiopulmonary or biomechanics. Forming study groups also helps to verbalize what you learn. Finally, I’m using a study plan provided by Scorebuilders that recommends tests at certain stages of the suggested study timeline.

FitBUX: Does your school offer resources to prepare for the exam?

Gloria: We are generally on our own for studying. However, our class is proactive in setting up study sessions, and we also invite UCSF students to come to our study sessions as well. I know that other schools, such as Azusa Pacific University, do have mandatory prep sessions. During school, they are required to take a practice exam similar to the board exam in their last year, and they have to pass with a certain percentage. That’s helpful, because it forces you to really nail the material, and is something that we lacked at Samuel Merritt.

FitBUX: What worries you most right now?

Gloria: Right now, the exam, because that’s the most important thing coming up. I have to pass it, or else I’ll have to retake the exam and pay the fees again. I’m not too worried about the job market right now. For our classmates that have already taken the exam, it hasn’t been difficult for them to find a job. A lot of them already had offers before graduating and those that didn’t were able to find jobs relatively easily. Some of my classmates actually took the exam in July rather than the typical timeframe in October. It’s a bit complicated as they had to rush a few things, like paperwork and studying.

FitBUX: How difficult was it for those who took it in July?

Gloria: The test was in July and many had their last clinical rotation end in early June. So those individuals generally had about 6 weeks to focus solely on the exam. That helped. I know one of my classmates in the PNF program signed up to take it in July and she passed. I don’t how she juggled it, but she passed and she managed it. She would study in the morning, during lunch, after work, and on the weekends.

FitBUX: Is it the case that the vast majority usually take it October?

Gloria: Yes, usually…but I feel like this year, I think 15 of my classmates took it, out of a total of 36, which is a pretty big percentage. I know in previous classes, there were maybe only 6 to 9?  But you have to rush paperwork, and plead to the board up in Sacramento to take the exam. It’s an extra step for those in July to take it. It’s also not guaranteed, because you need to request permission to sit for the board exam.

FitBUX: Thank you so much for your time and good luck on the exam. Can we follow-up with you after you start working?

Gloria: Sure!

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