Workin’ for that White Coat

Can you believe I just had my 2 year blog-iversary?? The last two years have flown by and I’m already almost done with my last semester of didactic work ever!!!.  I have almost completed six semesters of PT school and officially only have two left until graduation-but who’s counting?

Our final semester of didactic work has really been different than any other semester thus far for multiple reasons.

First, we have some autonomy and get to choose one elective course to take from a list of sports, orthopedics, rehabilitation, biomechanics, and pediatrics.  Of course, I wanted to take the pediatrics course, but it was unfortunately not offered this summer 😦  Instead, I am enrolled in the orthopedics course, which is equally as helpful as my manual therapy skills need some fine tuning, and I will always use orthopedics in any practice setting I choose to work in.  I learned so much from an orthopedic certified specialist about how to perform higher grade manual techniques, but more importantly, I refined my basic manual skills.  We are repeatedly reminded of Dr. Tim Flynn’s philosophy that “experts are masters of the basics”, and I am determined to become an expert clinician!  I am getting really good at “cracking” backs (even though if you ask any orthopedic expert, a cavitation is not necessary for therapeutic effect!)- ask all my friends, they can vouch for how much I practice on them!

Sidelying lumbopelvic manipulation on Jordan 🙂

Supine general lumbopelvic manipulation on Dana 🙂

The second big change this summer is our teaching staff.  A few of our full time professors are on sabbatical this summer, so we have more recent graduates of the program returning to substitute in their absence.  It is really interesting to see their take on PT as a practice, and how they approach treating and evaluating patients.  They are so intelligent, skilled, and passionate about our field and it is really exciting to learn from them.  I think change is good every once in a while to become a well rounded and well versed clinician!

Finally, I am really beginning to see a metamorphosis of myself and my peers as we grow into our own professional worlds.  As we prepare to go into clinical rotations full time in the fall, we are all developing into the types of clinicians we want to become.  It is really interesting to think about where we began two years ago (nervous, unknowing, and excited to start our futures), and where we are now (more skilled, more knowing, and still excited for what’s ahead).  As a class, we have all grown so much in such a short period of time and I am excited to see what we all accomplish in the years ahead.

In 10 days I will be given my white coat.  I just saw it for the first time yesterday to make sure it fits and spelling is correct.  It was surreal to see Elizabeth R. Stanek printed on the lapel of my white doctor coat- THIS is what I’ve been working toward!  In 10 days, the Slippery Rock Graduate School of Physical Therapy Class of 2019 will be presented with our white coats as we embark on our full-time 15 week clinical rotations.  I am so excited to begin this new chapter in my life.

In 11 days, I move into my beautiful new home with my best friend since first grade, Lexi, and her friend (now my friend, too!), Morgan.  The girls have been moved in for a month but our landlord let me wait until after classes finished up for me to move in.  It’s so adorable and I can’t wait to share with y’all the finished product!

Next month, I will start my first 15-week rotation at the main Trauma Center in Pittsburgh, working on the Neuro team.  This means I will be working with patients in the acute care setting who have MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injuries, stroke, and more.  I am so excited for this opportunity to learn from the best of the best.  I will work on keeping the blog up-to-date as I’m working and learning!

As my final two weeks of classes come to a close, I am pushing through and making the most of every second with friends, professors, and the didactic resources here at SRU.  I need to soak in every bit of knowledge I can before I embark on this adventure of clinicals!


Keep on Dreaming,



Queen City in Review

I just completed my second clinical rotation at an outpatient clinic in Fort Mill, SC!  Keep reading to hear all about my five week experience in CLT.


The first battle was finding a furnished place to stay for five weeks.  I searched Airbnb, VRBO, and even craigslist.  Everything on Airbnb and VRBO was far too expensive, even just to rent a room in a strangers house!  I resorted to craigslist and almost got scammed.  Luckily, I did my research and found the ad was illegitimate before I gave the person any money.  At this point, I was starting to get nervous that I would have to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a month long stay.  I reached out to my Aunt Susie and Uncle Bernie, who live in Asheville (about 2 hours away from Charlotte) to see if they knew of anyone who has a rental in CLT.  And it turned out, they had a friend of a friend looking for someone to sublease her apartment for the month of January!  So it worked out perfectly-I had my own bedroom and bathroom in one of the most beautiful apartment buildings I’ve ever seen.  Complete with a fitness center, coffee bar, covered parking, and even a movie theater- The Ashton South End was a dream!


My angel of a boyfriend drove me and my Jeep all 8 hours from Pittsburgh to the Queen City.  The building I was staying in had covered parking and the clinic I was working in was about a 20 minute drive, so it only made sense for me to have my own car for my five week stay.  On the days that I didn’t have to work, my building was right across the street from the train station so I paid $2 to get around the city.  I became a Light Rail expert at about week 2- Callie and Tim were even impressed!  When it was dark out and I didn’t feel like waiting for the train, an Uber to anywhere in the city was only about $6.

Food + Drink

I had to start a diet when I got back from my trip from all the great food I ate!  On the weekends, I tried to go to a new place every day so that I could try as many of the recommendations I got as possible.

Our first night there, Penn State was playing in the Fiesta Bowl so Andy and I wanted a good place to cheer on our Nittany Lions.  Callie told us about the Steelers/Penn State bar, Fitzgerald’s.  It was packed full of PSU fans!  We shared some nachos and had a couple of drinks to watch State dominate.  We also tried out Sycamore Brewing, which just happened to be down the street from my apartment.  It has an awesome outdoor area for when the weather gets warmer!

On New Year’s Eve, we had brunch at Tupelo Honey, right around the corner from my building before heading to Boone to ring in the new year.  Andy had the blackberry Habanero Pulled Pork Burger with potato cracklins and I got the Shoo Mercy Sweet Potato Pancakes with fried chicken, bacon, and a fried egg.  Before our entrees came out, they brought us fresh biscuits with blackberry jam-so delicious!  And of course, no brunch in the city is complete without mimosas!

The night before Andy’s flight back to Pittsburgh and my first day of work, we had an incredible meal at Seoul Food Meat Company.  It’s a Korean style barbecue joint known for it’s double fried wings.  We were starving so we ordered a bunch of small plates.  We got wings- half in spicy sauce, and half in soy garlic.  I loved the soy garlic drumettes, and Andy preferred the spicy flats-it’s no wonder we make such a great pair 🙂  We also ordered Kimchi Fries, Ramen Mac and Cheese, and a side salad (because we hadn’t eaten a vegetable in days).

Another fantastic restaurant was one that Callie and Tim took me to in a part of the city called NoDa.  Haberdish serves THE BEST fried chicken I think I’ve ever had!  And it’s not a greasy spoon either-the atmosphere is equally as good.  We had to wait two hours to be seated but it was well worth the wait.  We ordered a whole fried chicken, mac and cheese, corn bread pudding, and kale salad.  So delicious!

For Callie’s birthday, we went out for tapas at Soul Gastrolounge in Plaza Midwood.  We split asian glazed pork belly tacos, fried brussels sprouts, garlic shrimp skewers, Korean barbecue wings, and french fries with garlic-herb salt, pecorino, and truffle oil-yum!!

One night, we went out for drinks at this awesome new bar in South End called Hoppin.  When you get there, they give you an electronic wristband that allows you to pour your own drinks from over 60 local beers, wines, and ciders!  This is awesome for those wanting to try some new things without having to drink a whole glass-you pay by the ounce so you only pour as much as you want to drink. The night we went there was an awesome bluegrass band playing.

And what southern trip is complete without some barbecue? Callie and Tim took me to Midwood Smokehouse in Plaza Midwood for the best BBQ in Charlotte.  I got the “Burnt Ends” of brisket with hush puppies and smoked veggies.  I’m normally not a huge fan of brisket but HOLY COW was it delicious (no pun intended, hehe).  Topped with MS’s Eastern NC Vinegar or Fat Tire barbecue sauce on the side (or a combination of the two!), this meal was to die for!

My dad and Laurie came to visit me one weekend and we had an awesome meal at Angeline’s.  I ordered the braised oxtail lumaconi, Dad got the pork shank osso bucco, and Laurie ordered Capesante and we all shared the Queen’s chop salad.  Everything was to die for!  Their cocktails were stellar, too.  Afterwards, we went for a glass of champagne on the rooftop bar on top of the restaurant, Merchant and Trade.  It had an awesome atmosphere and a great view of the city!

The Cotton Room is a really cool little bar in the top floor of the Belfast Mill in Brevard Court in Uptown.  They have awesome craft cocktails and an intimate feel that’s really refreshing compared to other bars.  I tried the Wild Thyme and Callie and Tim got the Smoke and Mirrors-we loved our choices!


Pretty little alleyway leading to The Cotton Room

Charlotte is a city of breweries.  For a girl who doesn’t like beer-I was struggling!  Luckily, there was a cider brewery in South End that was so fun!  I had my first flight ever at Red Clay Ciderworks where they had tons of board and card games to play while sitting on cozy couches.


Things to do

I tapped into my inner yogi while I lived in CLT; Callie and I got a first month special at Yoga One in Plaza Midwood- $31 for 31 days of unlimited classes!  All the classes in this studio were heated to a warm 95°, so on top of building muscle and increasing flexibility, you break a great sweat in the process!  I am currently on the hunt for a good heated vinyasa studio in the SR area now because I think I’m obsessed…

Another favorite activity of mine in the Queen City was the farmer’s market.  Even in the winter, there were two giant barns full of local vendors of everything from vegetables, to pasta, to pastries, meat, and even dog treats!  Callie helped me pick out some great seasonal veggies and I made roasted kale, brussels sprouts, and butternut squash with hot sausage and balsamic vinegar on top-so good!!

On days that it wasn’t too cold out, it was also fun to walk through uptown to look at the architecture in and around the city.  One thing I didn’t get to do was visit the museums in the area.  Someone told me that you can get a pass for all of them for about $20, so when I go back it’s definitely on my list to try out!


Andy with the sculpture in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

The Rail Trail is a four mile running/walking/biking trail along the train tracks of the Light Rail.  It also just so happened to be right next to my apartment building!  I loved running on this trail because you get an awesome view of the city and there are also cool paintings on the concrete and buildings nearby.

For New Year’s Eve, we travelled to Callie and Tim’s friend’s cabin in the mountains of Boone, NC.  We made dinner, played some games, and watched the ball drop.  The view of the snow-covered mountains was incredible!


Coffee and Pastries

Another weekend goal I had was to get some schoolwork done each weekend at a different local coffee house.  Amelie’s is a must while in CLT!  I got a special hazelnut latte with almond milk and a chocolate croissant, my dad got a breakfast sandwich and coffee, and Laurie got a mini tart with coffee.


I had one snow day while I was working in Fort Mill, so I used that day to trek out into the blizzard and get some work done at Sunflour Baking Co.  I ordered a cafe au lait with almond milk and got an assortment of treats to take to work.  I would definitely recommend their vanilla sugar roll-to die for!

Not Just Coffee is a small chain of coffee shops/stands throughout the Charlotte area.  Callie and I visited their location in the seventh street market and got cappuccinos; yum!


If you’re looking for a really cozy study spot, Coco and the Director was awesome! It’s connected to the Marriott in uptown and has tables everywhere!  There’s also a cool flight of wide steps with pillows that you can lounge on, too.  I worked on my inservice presentation for my internship here one Sunday after church.

Last, there was a Central Coffee Co down the street from my apartment so I stopped here on my way to work once for a latte.  Their pastries were mostly vegan and looked amazing!


I worked in a small outpatient clinic in Fort Mill, SC.  For the most part, it was me, my CI, and a PT tech treating patients; we occasionally were joined by another PT when we were super busy.  My CI was awesome and I learned so much in just five short weeks.  We worked 9am-7pm Monday thru Thursday and 9am-1pm on Friday’s.  The “long” days actually did not even feel too long because we were busy most days.  On the days that we may have had some cancellations or no-shows, my CI was able to quiz me or teach me different mobilizations that weren’t covered in classes back at SRU.  She is manual therapy certified, so she has a wealth of knowledge about that aspect of the field that we don’t really get in our classes.



Officially 1/2 of a whole PT

Holy Moly has this semester flown by?!  I’ve been soooo busy and I have a lot to share with this post 🙂 I have officially reached the halfway point to completing my DPT!  I finished a whirlwind 6 finals in four days and have travelled three states in less than three weeks!

Here’s what I’ve been up to since the end of the summer and finishing my first clinical:

  1. I started my fourth semester of didactic work (only 2 more left!).  Our course load included Musculoskeletal of the Hip/Knee/Ankle/Foot, Neuromuscular, Therapeutic Exercise, Evidence Based Practice, and Therapeutic Adaptations.
  2. I completed my first full patient evaluation and plan of care.  For our musculoskeletal course, we were required to complete a comprehensive project evaluating a patient of our choice with a lower extremity dysfunction.  This semester focused on the hip, knee, and ankle, so it was our job to find a friend/family member who suffers from a lower extremity dysfunction and evaluate them!  My group evaluated a first year student’s knee problem.  We gave her a home exercise program and she is starting to feel better!
  3. I got a job!  I now work for the testing center on campus proctoring all of the education exams for education majors to become teachers.  It’s an awesome gig because i can do my homework while everyone is testing!
  4. I started my second clinical rotation in Charlotte, NC.  I am living just outside of the city in a beautiful area called Southend for the next month and commuting just over the border to Fort Mill, SC, interning in an outpatient clinic.  I am one week in and love it so far!  My CI and the rest of the staff are great and are helping me make the transition into a southerner for a month 🙂

In my two weeks between finals and clinical, Andy and I travelled all over the place!  We started off in Chicago to do Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family.  We had a beautiful brunch with Santa at the Morton Arboretum with the whole family and we got to watch Liam play soccer.  After that, we went to Kristen and Eric’s for homemade wood-fired pizzas and presents!  Andy had never been to Chicago, so we did a whole day in the city and had a great time-it was unseasonably warm so we got a lot in!!  We started at Willis Tower and were the first people up into the SkyDeck.  Then we met Kristen, Eric, and Harlow at Christkindl Market for some mulled wine and shopping.  We hopped over to Macy’s to look at the windows and the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room that soars up about 7 floors!  Then we headed over to Millennium Park to see The Bean (aka Cloud’s Gate) and got some Garrett’s Popcorn.  Finally, we did some more walking around to see the Miracle Mile and Trump Tower, and got an early dinner at Giordano’s (yummmmm).  We ended our day looking around in Eataly-best place ever!


Liam (3), Jack (2), Harlow (9 months) with Santa at the Morton Arboretum

After we came home from Chicago, Andy surprised me with a night out for dinner to the Capital Grill (what a guy!!) and the following evening his family took us to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra in concert.  We did Christmas Eve with his family, and then went to Warren, PA for Christmas celebrations with my Mom’s side of the family the day after Christmas.  It was such an awesome holiday week!!  After a few days of R&R, we were back on the road to Charlotte for NYE!  Andy helped me to get all settled in and we spent New Years Eve in Boone, NC at a beautiful cabin with my friends Callie and Tim and Tim’s friends from college.  It was a great night with an awesome view of the Appalachian Mountains!  Andy and I did some exploring around Charlotte on New Year’s Day and he had to fly back to Pittsburgh the next morning when I started work 😦


Ready to take on the new year with this guy by my side 🙂


The view from the cabin we stayed in-breathtaking!

In a few weeks I’ll give some updates on my rotation!  I am excited to explore this new city and learn new skills to become the best clinician I can be.


Keep on Dreaming,




10 Things I Learned in 10 Days of Clinical Experience

Wow, that was fast!  As of yesterday afternoon, I have completed my first clinical rotation and am officially 1/3 of a PT!  I had the best two weeks interning for Lawrence County Physical Therapy Institute in New Castle, PA.  My CI (clinical instructor) was a fellow Penn State graduate and got his doctorate from Slippery Rock.  He taught me so much in so little time, so I figured I’ll share the top 10 things I learned:

1. Skilled care is EVERYTHING our profession needs to be.

I’ve interned at various outpatient PT settings across the state of Pennsylvania, and this was the first time I’ve ever worked in a 100% one-on-one clinic.  LCPTI’s philosophy is skilled care; meaning they have one hour blocked out for one patient, and are providing one-on-one, hands-on care for that full hour.  Instead of telling a patient to go do 15 reps on the leg press, the PT’s and PTA’s stand there and watch the patient’s every move.  They do this because, 9 times out of 10 if a patient is hurting or injured and their body mechanics are not perfect so they are compensating with other muscles and joints to complete the prescribed exercises.   This does absolutely nothing to heal the injured site!!  With skilled care, patients are guaranteed to be doing their exercises correctly and efficiently to maximize functioning at the injury site.  As I go on to my next three clinical rotations, I will take this mentality with me to ensure I am providing quality care.

2. Encouragement and empathy go a long way in helping a patient recover.

You would be surprised with how well a patient responds to a little positivity and reassurance!  If the patient knows that you are on their team and want them to get better, they will be that much more motivated to do well with therapy not only for themselves, but for you.

3. Beware of “plug & chug”-ing!

Many times, a lot of the same exercises are prescribed for certain diagnoses.  This is usually alright, but just be aware of the precautions for each patient’s diagnosis/surgery as well as their personal abilities.  Also, don’t be afraid to get creative with an exercise!  We had a patient who was a bus driver and needed to be able to turn a big steering wheel, so instead of the typical rotator cuff repair exercises, we used therabands (resistance bands) to add resistance in the motion of turning a steering wheel to mimic that action and strengthen those muscles.

4. SOAP note documentation is SO important.

For those of you reading who aren’t in/haven’t started PT school yet, SOAP stands for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan and it is the standard way that all PT’s document treatment.  My CI was the best in the clinic at documentation so I was able to write a really good SOAP note by the end of my two weeks.  This was something that was talked about in class, but we really didn’t get a ton of practice with so I was glad to be able to perfect this skill at LCPTI.

SOAP notes are important because they tell the other clinicians, as well as insurance companies what you did, why you did it, and how the patient responded to the treatment.  The subjective portion consists of what the patient tells you when he/she comes into the clinic (i.e. pain level, how they felt after last session, what they still cannot do, and what they now can do that they couldn’t do before).  The objective portion is what you did during the treatment session (i.e. 2 sets of 10 reps of external rotation using green theraband).  The assessment is WHY you did what you did in objective and how it helped the patient.  This is where you show that skilled care I talked about (i.e. the patient required verbal cueing to keep his elbow in during external rotation to maximize shoulder motion and avoid compensation).  To me, the assessment is the most important part-it tells insurance companies that what you’re doing is working!!  Finally, the plan section is what you plan to do during the next session.

5. Didactic work is, in fact, 100% relevant to clinical practice.

Anatomy lab came back to haunt me!  Those origins, insertions, actions, and innervations for muscles started becoming more and more relevant in the last two weeks.  Take it from me, the next time you think: “why do I need to memorize the cranial nerve pathways or the muscle innervations??” remember that this will all come full circle when you are a practicing clinician!

6. Use treatment and down time wisely.

In the clinic I interned in, you were allotted one full hour to treat patients with very little down time to document treatments.  This meant that in the few minutes you’d have in between sessions while a patient is sitting with a heating pad, you need to be super efficient in documenting everything from the last patient or you’d be left to have to remember everything twelve hours later before it’s time to go home!

Additionally, be wise when treating patients.  For example, if the patient has an hour-long exercise program that they did two days ago and they’re still really sore, maybe only do half of the program today and use the rest of the time to do some stretching and massage-work.

7. Goniometry is not an art.

Don’t get me wrong, while goniometry is very important, exact measurements will vary from clinician to clinician.  For those of you who don’t know what goniometry is, it’s basically a protractor for your joints and it helps a PT measure the angles of motion at a patient’s joint to judge how much their range of motion is impaired.  So if your patient’s note says they were able to get 110 degrees of motion last week, and you’re only getting 103 degrees, don’t get discouraged because a difference that small is not going to change your plan of care.

8. Being a PT is not for the faint of heart.

You’ll work long hours, with little down-time, and be on your feet for most of the day.  But when it all comes down to it, just remember why you’re becoming or are a PT in the first place.  Hopefully it’s because you have a passion to help others and that will get you through the hard days.

You’ll also work with patients who have severe chronic illnesses or disabilities and sometimes it’s easy to become discouraged.  Instead, use that discouragement as fuel to provide the patient with the best care possible-remember, you are one of their greatest allies!

9. Be an active listener.

It is so common for a patient to leave out important details in their history, so it is vital to ask the right questions to fill in the blanks.  For example, a lot of times people say they’re getting dizzy; it is your job to differentiate if they’re light headed (dizzy) or if the room is spinning (vertigo) because these are two totally different symptoms and lead to different diagnoses!  Additionally, if you repeat back to the patient what they’re reporting as well as acknowledge that you understand and empathize with them it makes the patient much more willing to work with you to help get themselves better.

10. Work with what ya got.

I encountered many patients in the last two weeks who are in so much pain they are guarded (meaning their muscles are so tensed up because they’re afraid to move at all and induce pain).  If a patient is unable to relax those muscles, there is very little you can do treatment-wise.  So, utilize modalities, massage, and anything else you have available at the clinic to help relax the patient, and reassure them that if they can relax those muscles they will feel so much better.  This way, when the patient comes back next time, hopefully they are relaxed enough to be able to stretch and exercise.

Another reason you may have to improvise is if the patient provides very little information during the patient interview.  Oftentimes patients don’t have a medical background and really don’t know how to explain symptoms, doctors visits, etc.  This can make the evaluation process more difficult so you as a PT may need to use trial and error to determine what induces pain/symptoms in order to make your diagnosis and create a plan of care.


Now for a nice relaxing three weeks off!  I’m currently in Chicago visiting my dad’s side of the family and next week I head to Florida with my mom’s side!  At the end of the month I start my second year and will post updates on our classes and curriculum.

Do you have some good lessons learned during your clinicals?  Leave a comment below and share your experiences!


Keep on Dreaming,


Things Just Got Real.

It feels like just yesterday I was writing my first blog post, preparing to come to Slippery Rock, and here I am: done with my first year, and halfway done with my first Clinical Experience!!  Things really sunk in the other day when I was putting together my materials for my internship about how far I’ve come this year.  The amount of knowledge I’ve obtained in the last 330-ish days is unbelievable; as is the amount that I have grown as an SPT and a person.  I am so grateful to be given this opportunity here at SRU-each day, I am one step closer to reaching my dreams and I couldn’t be more excited to continue on my path to Elizabeth Stanek, PT, DPT.

In preparation for my first clinical experience, I put together a Clinical Binder of some pertinent information from the last year of didactic work.  I went to Walmart and got an adorable 3 ring binder.  I couldn’t find the exact binder on Walmart’s website, but it was under $10 and has the same design as the notebook below.

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When I was shopping at target, I found the cutest index dividers; and they were less than $3!  It’s hard to tell from the picture but the dots are little gold metallic pieces!

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On each of the five dividers, I labeled them the following:

  • Upper Quarter Screen
    • I printed a handout from our PT Assessments & Procedures course that compiles a list of joint ROMs, myotomes, dermatomes, and reflexes for the upper extremity.
  • Lower Quarter Screen
    • This is the same handout from PT Assessments & Procedures, but for the lower extremity.
  • Common Conditions
    • Another handout from PT Assessments & Procedures, this chart includes common conditions and symptoms that go along with them for the shoulder, elbow, wrist/hand, hip, knee, and ankle/foot.
  • Vestibular
    • My CI (clinical instructor) is a vestibular specialist, so I included some notes from the vestibular unit in Neuroscience that review the semicircular canals and otolith organs, as well as a handout of vestibular case studies we reviewed in class.
  • Functional Movement Screens/Fall Screens/Special Tests.
    • I included in this last section FMS scoring criteria and fall risk assessment instructions I got from a Pro Bono club meeting.
    • I also printed off seven special tests of the lower extremity from PT Assessments & Procedures.
      • Ober test
        • for tightness or contraction of IT band
      • FABER test
        • also known as Patrick’s test
        • for pathology of the hip or SI joint
      • Thomas test
        • for tightness of hip flexors
      • Ely’s test
        • for tightness of rectus femurs muscle
      • Femoral nerve stretch test
        • for assessing involvement of femoral nerve (L3, L4 nerve root)
      • Collateral ligament instability
        • for MCL, LCL
      • Cruciate ligament test
        • for ACL, PCL instability

To complete my clinical binder, I included a blank college-ruled notebook and a clinical skill set checklist and professional development plan given to us by our course instructor.  The skill set checklist is just a list to help us track of how much of what we’ve learned in the last year that we’re able to do on our two week clinical affiliation.  It itemizes skills such as upper/lower quarter screen, vital signs, patient interview, documentation, goal writing, manual muscle testing, goniometry, modalities, therapeutic exercise, infection control, postural assessment, postural/body mechanics training, bed positioning/draping, palpation, soft tissue massage, gait training, transfers, wheelchair/assistive device prescription, bed mobility, neurologic testing, gait assessment, and clinical emergency management.  The professional development plan requires us to start with three goals to work towards during our four clinical affiliations, and track our progress when affiliations are completed.

I also finally caved and purchased my Happy Planner from Me and My Big Ideas!  Michael’s was having a sale, so I got it 40% off (less than $25)!  Instead of just buying the planner alone, I bought a student kit which included one classic sized planner, highlighting tape, three pages of stickers, four sticky note pads, and two magnetic bookmarks.  I liked this option because for about the same price as a planner alone, I got a kit tailored specifically to my academic usage.  They also make kits for teachers, faith, and cooking!  Not to mention you can buy inserts for budgeting, fitness, wedding planning, and more!  I’m pretty sure I got way more enjoyment out of getting a new planner than pretty much anyone else would get purchasing something actually cool like a bag or new clothes- nerd moment.  But just look at it- so cute and so much organization!!

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In the bag that I’m taking with me, I also threw in my bag of PT supplies (goniometers, stethoscope, sphygmomanometer, reflex hammer, pen light, and some pens) to have on hand for any vitals or assessments I may need to perform while on my affiliation.

Now that I finished preparing my Clinical Binder and got some new supplies, all there’s left for me to do is show them how much I’ve learned, show off my skills, and learn A LOT!!  Next weekend I’ll update y’all on how everything went; I’m loving it so far, learning a ton, and getting some awesome experience doing what I LOVE.


Keep on Dreaming,




Summertime & the Livin’s Easy

I’ll admit, I thought summer school would be a total drag-given the whirlwind year I just had, I was expecting just the same schedule of back-to-back library sessions from May to August.  Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong!  Of course, we still have classes, homework, and exams scattered throughout the summer months, but the schedule is much more livable and allows for us to have a little bit of fun in the sun.

Summer classes at SRU are split into two halves.  We just finished the first half of our classes and start the second half this week.  The exception to this is Modalities, Pharmacotherapy, and Nutrition which run for the full summer term.  The first five weeks of summer classes included Evidence Based Practice I (to be continued this fall and spring), Diagnostic Imaging, Nutrition, Pharmacotherapy, and Modalities.

EBP was actually really interesting to me; research has never ever been my strong suit, so I learned a lot on how to find specific research articles, interpret them, and then apply the results to clinical practice.  Being an evidence based PT is vital to daily practice because without it, we would have nothing reliable to base out treatment plan upon.  Imaging was an exciting class because we got to see real radiographs and how diagnoses are inferred from them.  Nutrition has been a good refresher from courses I took in undergrad.  In Modalities we are learning all of the physical agents PT’s use to aid in treatment.  So far we’ve done hot and cold agents, Ultrasound, traction and compression, and diathermy.  It’s fun being able to practice with my fellow colleagues and learn for ourselves which modalities we would choose for each specific diagnosis.  Pharmacotherapy has been opening my mind to some new ideas and forms of practice.  Along with learning about different drugs combined with PT treatment, we’ve been participating in discussions regarding the various uses of pharmacologic agents in the PT setting.  Our most recent discussion was about PT’s as prescribers and cited an article on PT’s in the military.

It got me thinking about potentially working for the military when I become a PT.  As many of you know, I am a very proud military sister.  As many of you also know, I’m not really the roughest toughest chick in the world and most likely would not easily survive any type of combative military training.  So you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Liz, in the military???”.  I know, same here.  BUT I am currently doing some research on the logistics of it all to see exactly what the position entails.  It would be so awesome to help take care of the men and women who devote their lives to keeping our country safe.  I think it would also give me some peace of mind knowing that I would be caring for people like Gary (I worry about him and his peers more often than I should).  If any of you reading this know a little bit more about the process of becoming a military PT, feel free to send me a message; any insight would be greatly appreciated!


Me @ myself when the thought of being a military PT first popped into my head

P.S: this in no way means I’ve given up on being a pediatric PT!!  I’ve got plans to get more experience in that field too 🙂

Today starts day one of a few new classes for the last month of summer session.  We’ll be starting an environmental considerations for PT’s course, as well as psychosocial integration.  Environmental is all about ergonomics and different environments for patients and therapists; it sounds like it’s going to be a really interesting course!  Psychosocial should be fun too-I’ve always found psychology to be fascinating.

In my down time, I’ve been hitting the Ivy pool quite often; we’re so lucky Amanda lives there and lets us hang out so much!  A huge group of us spent this past weekend in Pittsburgh to celebrate Mariah and Karly’s birthdays.  We spent Saturday afternoon pedaling through the city on the Pittsburgh Party Pedaler and it was easily the most fun thing we’ve ever done-highly recommended!


The whole group before pedaling!

This Friday I head to Long Beach Island, NJ to visit my besties from college!  I can hardly wait-I haven’t seen most of these girls since senior week a whole year ago!

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I’ll keep y’all updated on the second half of summer classes, what I find out about Military PT, and my first Clinical rotation coming up next month!


Keep on Dreaming,


First Year in Review

I’ve officially made it through my first year of PT school!  The last year has been full of firsts.  I graduated from Penn State with my Bachelor’s Degree and moved a little closer to home to start grad school at Slippery Rock.  I dissected my first (and hopefully last!) cadaver, took my first clinically relevant course, and was assigned to my first two clinical rotations!  After the busiest and fastest year of my life, here are some of the things I’ve learned:

Do extra credit!

This doesn’t come by often, but when it does, believe me you’ll be glad to have the extra few points.  It could end up bumping you up from a B to an A, or it could just give you the cushion you need during finals week when you have to prioritize your studies.

Save your notes.

Go to Target, Staples, Walmart, etc and get yourself a nice file box with hanging folders for each class.  I store all of my lecture notes and handouts from each course in it’s own specific folder after each exam so that I have it for future reference.  As much as you may want to burn your notes after a particularly difficult course, certain concepts come back in the future and it is important to stay sharp for the boards.  I found this adorable Nate Berkus box at Target for under $20!

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Make time for things that make you happy.

Life can become monotonous in such an intense program and if you don’t make time for yourself, you’ll go crazy.  Spend some time with friends, read a book, go for a run, bake something delicious, or watch a movie to take a break from all the non-stop schoolwork.  My friends and I are big fans of Friday wine nights after a long day of cadaver dissection to unwind before a busy weekend of studying.

I also try to spend as much time with family as possible during my time off.  Last weekend, my mom’s side of the family reunited in Virginia Beach for a few days.  With my three brothers living out of state and all of our insane schedules, we are lucky to get all four kids (and both parents) together at once!  We visited the Naval Base, did some shopping, and hit the beach!


Steak dinner with Derrick, Gregg, and Gary

Stay healthy.

Your mom has told you a hundred times to eat your fruits and veggies and take your vitamins, and like always, she’s right.  The busy lifestyle of a doctorate student can do a number on the immune system.  It’s so easy to grab some fast food, skip your morning workout, and drink more coffee than water.  Not to mention, the sedentary lifestyle of being in class and the library 12 hours a day with all the germs a college campus can breed doesn’t help.  Take a multivitamin every day, stay active, and eat healthy!  Read my post about healthy meal-prepping here.


I’m a very schedule-oriented person, so planning out my days in my planner helps me to stay on task.  I’ll make time for my workouts, down time, and library time each day so that I don’t get behind on anything.  Anyone else love that sheer satisfaction of crossing something off your to-do list??

I found my current planner at TJ Maxx last summer, but I love The Happy Planner (shown below) from Me and My Big Ideas.  They’re a little bit pricey at around $30 each, but they are perfect for organizing all aspects of life!  You can even buy extensions for home/fitness/budgeting (yuck)/wedding/recipes-you name it!

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Form a relationship with your professors.

Our professors are our greatest resource for our future careers in physical therapy.  Not only are they experts in the subject they teach, but most of them have practiced or are still currently practicing PT.  Their wealth of knowledge in the field is instrumental in our learning, and professors are right at our fingertips willing to help us in any way they can.   Participating in class or attending a professor’s office hours are easy ways to get to know them better and demonstrate your passion for the field.  Having a good relationship with your teachers will make learning more enjoyable and will make you more comfortable to ask for help if need be.  Additionally, it is a vital networking opportunity that could open many doors professionally.


These are just some of the many lessons I have learned in my whirlwind first year of PT school.  After a great week of much need R&R with my family, school starts back up for the summer tomorrow and I am ready to give it my all!


Keep on Dreaming,



Exam Week: How I Stay Healthy While Studying

A few weeks ago, our class had our first exam of the semester!  It was a two-part combined lab and lecture exam for Neuroscience II.  Neuro is arguably the hardest class we have in the first year of our program, so needless to say everyone goes slightly crazy the week of the exam.  Since then, we’ve had mid-terms for our other three classes one after another so I’ve been a busy gal!  In the days leading up to a busy exam week, I try to meal-prep so that I don’t have to worry about food shopping and cooking in between my bouts at the library.  I’ve recently implemented “Soup Sundays” in my apartment and it has really helped me save time during the week.  I’ll make a huge pot of soup and freeze it in individual containers, so I can just pop it right in my lunch the following week!  A few weeks ago I made chicken pot pie soup via Annie from The Garlic Diaries.  It was so delicious and froze really nicely so I had lunches during the next week, rather than having to spend time packing or spend money on junk food from the student center (because we all know I’d eat Pop Tarts every day for lunch if I let myself).

Another meal prep strategy I use is overnight oats.  My best friend Ally turned me onto this easy and healthy breakfast over the summer and I love it!  All you need is a base of equal parts old fashioned oats and milk.  Then add whatever fruits, nuts, and sweetener you like!  I like to mash up a banana and add pecans or walnuts and raisins with a little bit of cinnamon.  Other times I’ll add in a half of a cubed apple, cinnamon, pecans, and craisins.  Pop the container in the fridge the night before, and they’re ready to eat by morning!  You can eat them cold, but I’m weird about the temperature of my food so I tend to heat it up for a minute or two in the microwave.

I’m big on individually freezing soups, but I also make my own marinara sauce and meatballs from my dad’s famous top-secret recipe that I freeze in individual servings.  I can never order spaghetti and meatballs at a restaurant because this recipe is THAT good.  Every time I’m with my dad I ask him to make it for me, so he passed the recipe on to me so I could make it whenever I want!  I still think it tastes better when he makes it, but I’m getting the hang of it!  At the beginning of the semester, I made a huge pot of sauce & about 50 meatballs.  They have lasted me about three months!  I use the sauce for pasta and pizza, and the meatballs for sandwiches, soups, and on their own.

Last Soup Sunday, I made Italian wedding soup via Brown Eyed Baker with my meatballs.  I stored it in individual servings and stuck them in the freezer.  Whenever I have a busy day all I have to do is throw one in my lunch bag and microwave it!

Clearly I’ve always been a meal-prep enthusiast…LOL


I have also gotten myself into the habit of grocery shopping the weekend before a busy week.  I’ll make sure I’m stocked up on snacks, produce, milk, eggs, cereal and chicken.  Rotisserie chickens are only about $5 and can be spread out throughout the whole week.  When I get home from the store, I chop up all of my fruits and veggies so that whenever I’m cooking I can just grab what I need and throw it in.  I’ll shred up my cooked chicken and have it on hand to add into pastas, stir-fries, salads, soups, and sandwiches.

I hope these tips will help to keep your diet on track, even while you’re spending all hours studying!  In the next post I’ll post some updates about what I’m learning this semester and other things I’ve been up to this spring.

Keep on Dreaming,


Resolving Resolutions

2016 was a year of great change for me.  I applied to seven PT schools, was rejected from six, went through the motions of applying and interviewing for various jobs that I wasn’t interested in or qualified for, was accepted to PT school, graduated college, quit my awful nurses aide job, moved to a new college, and started school.  The last five months especially have been a whirlwind-from meeting a new roommate and 50 other new peers, to adjusting to the non-stop schedule of a doctoral student and the rigor and difficulty of a DPT program.

Learning to balance 8-hour school days, study time, workout time, and me-time was definitely a process of trial and error.  It took some time to get used to waking up at 6:00 AM to squeeze in a workout before getting dressed up for class all day, so that I have time after class to get all of my studying done before dinner time.  Starting around two weeks before finals, I spent about 6 hours daily in the library.  We had seven finals over the course of four days: Neuroscience lecture and lab, PT Assessments & Procedures lecture and competency, Anatomy lecture and lab, and finally, Pathology.

For 2017, I have decided to forego a resolution.  Instead, I vow to continue to better myself in all aspects of my life throughout the year.  We don’t need one day a year to start over; every morning is the start of a new opportunity to be better, and I choose to seize each and every one of those opportunities.  I will put more effort into my studies, I will not snooze my alarm and sleep through my early-morning gym sessions,and most importantly, I will be a friend to all and lend a helping hand whenever I am able.  Another new goal I have for 2017 is to learn sign language-this is something that is very prevalent in pediatric therapy so I think it would be advantageous to be fairly proficient in the language.

Having survived my first semester of PT school, I had myself a relaxing but eventful break.  I spent a weekend at my grandparents’ house in Canonsburg, PA with my dad’s side of the family.  We celebrated an early Christmas complete with dinner at the Grand Concourse in Pittsburgh and a visit to the theater to see A Musical Christmas Carol!  I went home to Warren for the week leading up to Christmas until New Year’s Eve.  We celebrated Christmas Eve with my stepdad Rick’s brothers at our house and Christmas Day with my three stepbrothers: Gregg, Gary, and Derrick.  The guys even took me out shooting at our cabin the day after Christmas!

In between all of the holiday festivities, Rick arranged for me to volunteer in the PT department at Warren General Hospital.  I shadowed there before applying to PT school two summers ago and really liked it.  The clinic has outpatient, inpatient, and home health in one facility.  I’m enjoying being able to see a lot of the pathologies and treatments that I’ve learned in the past 5 months come to life in the clinic!
I spent New Year’s weekend in Pittsburgh and got to see almost all of my friends from home.  I spent a few days back in Warren volunteering before I visited Ally and some of our other PSU friends in Philadelphia.  After that I spent a week in Illinois to visit my Dad and stepmom.

During my visit, I spent some time with my nephews and stepsisters.  We took a trip into Chicago and I had a major nerd moment when we toured the International Museum of Surgical Sciences.  We viewed exhibits on X-Rays, pathologies, medicine in countries outside of the U.S, along with many other displays of medical history.  Shown below are a few exhibits I found particularly interesting:

Once I got back from Illinois, I volunteered for a few more days and relaxed at home before heading back to The Rock for the spring semester.

Check back soon for updates on the first few weeks of the spring semester!  We’re only three days in and have already hit the ground running!


Keep Dreaming,




3 Weeks Down, 3 Years to Go

I survived my first big quiz!!! For the past two weeks, everyone in my class has feverishly borrowed bone boxes (for all you non-PT school people, its literally a box filled with plastic bones) and reviewed every landmark on every bone in the human body in preparation for the dreaded bone quiz this past Friday.  And our studying paid of!  Everyone seemed to feel fairly confident in their quizzes and a huge sigh of relief was let out by all.


If only it was as easy as the Bone Dance Miley….

In other notable experiences from the past few weeks, we also have survived two five-hour sessions of cadaver lab!  This is easily my least favorite part of PT school because, well, who actually enjoys it???  As smelly and gross as it is, I truly am learning a lot and can understand why even PT students, who won’t be cutting into patients like an MD would be, need the experience.  Pictures in textbooks are good, but it really does help to see the real thing.  Some words of advice for anyone new to cadaver:

  • Menthol cough drops and a dab vicks vapo-rub underneath your nose will SAVE YOUR LIFE.  Trust me, I didn’t understand the effects of formaldehyde until it was too late and my eyes watered until I looked like a mascara raccoon and my nose and throat burned for the rest of the day
  • Wear something to cover your eyes!  I went to Claire’s and bought a pair of fake glasses because fashion, duh, but others in my class wear chem goggles. You don’t want to know what goes flying in the air during dissection.

We also have had our pathology class since I last blogged.  So far we are going through the basics of cells, which is eerily similar to the content of Bio240W at Penn State.  I find diseases and their causes super intriguing, so I’m excited for the rest of this course!

I started working with a student personal trainer this week!  SRU’s Exercise Science program’s capstone course requires seniors to train a client twice weekly for the duration of the semester.  The program includes initial assessment, exercise prescription, and final assessment.  Between classes, open labs, and study sessions, I have been exhausted and sometimes can’t make myself get up to go to the gym early in the morning.  I decided to sign up for the personal training program as motivation to work out and make gains in my fitness level.  I consider myself to be a very fit person, but I am not motivated enough to push myself truly as hard as I can go; I know that if I have someone pushing me and teaching me good technique with equipment other than cardio machines, I’ll do much better.  I met with my trainer twice this week for the initial assessment and we start training Wednesday-I’m excited to get stronger this semester!

Since we spend practically 24 hours a day, seven days a week together, my class has quickly become a very tight-knit group.  We all went out Friday night to celebrate the end of our first big quiz and had a blast!  I’m lucky to be a part of such an awesome group of intelligent, caring people.

Some of my classmates and I enjoying a night free of studying

The second years have a bake sale coming up this week, so I’ll be making my best cookie recipe for them to sell!  I’ll share the recipe with my next set of updates!


Keep On Dreaming,