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,




Lately: My First Days as an SPT

As of this past Friday, I am officially Elizabeth Stanek, SPT and I could not be more excited!

Bear with me as I give you a rundown of the past few whirlwind days:

Thursday: Missy and I moved into our new apartment and tirelessly decorated in the sweltering heat of no AC until we turned our little box into a homey dwelling.  After multiple trips to Walmart, Target, Giant Eagle, and our landlord’s office, we are finally settled into our new place!  Below you can see my finished room:

Friday: We had orientation at 8:00 AM.  From 8:00-12:00 we were broken into small groups of about 15 students to do team-building exercises with a facilitator from the SRU Leadership Development Center.  While I am the first person to admit my hatred for ice-breakers, this really did give me the opportunity to get to know my new classmates.  It also was comforting to know that SRU supports teamwork and wants each and every student in the program to succeed.


My team-buiding group at orientation with Rocky!

After the team-building portion, we were given a lunch ticket to Boozel Dining Hall on campus.  This dining hall is buffet-style and features pretty much every type of food you can imagine.  It even has a whole dessert station of ice cream and pastries! After lunch, we met with representatives from the student health center, counseling services, clinical experiences, and the head of the DPT program.  We also paid for and received our PT clothing for lab days.  I ordered two tee shirts, one dri-fit long sleeve shirt, one quarter-zip fleece, and a pair of basketball shorts.  I spent around $120 on these things and I would say it is a sufficient amount of gear, as we only need to wear it once per week, and can wear any of our own bottoms as long as they are black, grey, or green.  Including the tee shirt we were given for orientation, I have 3 tops and plenty of black and grey bottoms to wear when shorts weather is over.  Friday night, the second year students had us over for a bonfire and to answer any questions we may have had from orientation.

Saturday & Sunday: We worked on finishing our decorating and made sure we had everything we needed for classes this week.  Our lunches were packed, our outfits picked out, and we were ready to start our first day of classes on Monday!  You can see the rest of our finished apartment below:

Missy’s Room


Monday: Bright and early, I got ready in my best business casual attire, and I got my student ID picture taken.  After that, my day began at 9:00 AM with a 3.5 hour Anatomy lecture-with no air conditioning.  Go figure, the AC in the one room we get to sit in for 7 hours breaks on the first day!  Our professors were very nice and knowledgeable, reassuring all of us that we can and will succeed in the program!  After anatomy we got an hour for lunch and finished the day with an hour and a half long neuroscience lecture.  After class, the second year students hosted a picnic for our class to meet with our bigs.

Tuesday: Tuesdays are the one day during the week we don’t have any scheduled classes, which allows us to have the entire day to attend open labs, meetings, study groups, and occasional exams.  It also gives us a much needed break from action-packed Mondays.

Wednesday: We have both our PT Assessments & Procedures lecture and lab, as well as Neuroscience lab on this day.  This means we can wear lab attire instead of the normally required business casual 🙂  PT Assessment & Procedures lecture was really fun; this is where we will learn all of the clinical skills we will use in the field.  For all of you Penn Staters, this class also spends a lot of time discussing policies and guidelines a lot like KINES422 did!  In the afternoon, we had Assessment lab first, where we studied the basics of posture and some body mechanics.  We ended our day in Neuro lab and studied the anatomy of actual human brains!



Reppin’ our DPT gear for lab day!

If you can’t tell, I already am loving my new life as a Student Physical Therapist.  Check back soon for more updates on my first semester!


Keep On Dreaming,


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, it’s not time for Christmas carols yet.  It’s back to school season, and the only thing better than a fresh pack of Ticonderogas and a pretty new planner is a brand-spanking-new stethoscope.

PT School Ready!

Slippery Rock sent all of the incoming first-year students a list of supplies we will need for the program in our orientation packet.  This list includes:

  • Stethoscope
  • Sphygmomanometer (try to say that ten times fast)
  • 8″ and 12″ Goniometers
  • Vinyl retractable tape measure
  • Penlight
  • Taylor Percussion Hammer
  • A zippered bag to hold everything

So, in true Liz fashion, I scoured the internet in pursuit of the cutest PT supplies I could find.  Cue Jaanuu: a pop-up on Facebook led me to this site that has adorably functional scrubs, lab coats, and medical bags.  I ordered the Medical Clutch in snakeskin; I had a 25% off coupon so this bag came to only about $25!

Shown with the detachable gold strap, this bag can be a clutch or can be carried as a cross-body bag

The next item on my list was a stethoscope.  From some research I had done online, I found that a truly good quality scope should cost no less than $60.  The most reputable brand is Littmann, and they have many colors and models to choose from.  Of course, I needed mine to be hot pink and found that the Classic II S.E in raspberry suited my needs and budget perfectly.

I placed an order on Student Medical Shop that also included the rest of the items on my list, at great prices.  In total, I spent about $150 on all of my required PT supplies.  My package arrived this weekend, and as soon as I opened the box I made sure to give everyone in my family complimentary blood pressure checks because, priorities.

Keep On Dreaming,


Student Loans: Uncovered

I signed my life away this week and asked the government to loan me a five-figure amount for the first two semesters of my DPT program.  *cue aneurysm*  With the gracious help of my parents for an undergraduate education, I will be paying my own way for my Doctoral degree.  With endless lending options and benefits explained in jargon that sounds similar to a foreign language to me, I have done my share of student loan research.

Here’s what I learned:

  • All graduate students qualify for Direct Unsubsidized loans through the government: up to $20,500 per academic year.
    • origination fee of 1.068%
      • i.e on every $1,000 borrowed you are charged $10.68
    • fixed annual interest rate of 5.31%
  • Any additional aid needed up to the total cost of attendance can be requested through a Graduate PLUS loan through the government, or through a private lender.
    • Graduate PLUS
      • origination fee of 4.272%
      • fixed interest rate of 6.31%
      • credit check required
    • Private lenders
      • no origination fees
      • varying interest rates based on credit score can be fixed or variable

In the end, I chose to borrow the remaining amount not covered by the Direct Unsubsidized Loan via a Graduate PLUS Loan.  I could have gone with a private lender because I do have a high credit score and most likely would have been approved for a lower interest rate, but the main reason I chose PLUS lies in a little program called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.  If you work for a government organization or non-profit and make the minimum payment on your loans for ten years, the rest of the loan will be forgiven!  I am very interested in being a school physical therapist, so it was important to me to keep that door open in the case I do end up working for a non-profit or government organization.

I hope I was able to provide some insight on the endless possibilities for student loans!

Check back later this week for my back-to-school shopping list!


Keep On Dreaming,