The Human Side of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy school prepares you by giving you that archetypal “toolbox” filled with various resources and skills to be constantly adjusted and fine-tuned. The more tools, the better! Since every patient is unique, each treatment must be tailored to deliver the best interventions possible. During various courses preceding my first clinical internship, I filled my toolbox with functional outcome measures, neurological interventions and about 50 pneumonics to remember everything from the cranial nerves to the eight carpal bones. I practiced NDT, PNF, MMTs and goniometry on my classmates at length, sweated through practicals and wrote hundreds of study guides. I felt eager to apply this knowledge to actual patients, not my unimpaired classmates, so that I could learn from experience. My first internship brought me to Sonoma Healthcare Center, an Ensign-affiliated sub-acute skilled nursing facility.

As a student embarking on my first internship, I had some expectations of what I should gain out of the seven weeks I was to spend at Sonoma Healthcare Center. I expected to learn, to be challenged applying my knowledge, to experience a wide variety of patients and their unique impairments. What I did not expect was that my experience would take me above and beyond these conjectures and give me an opportunity to not only utilize my “tools,” but also to foster meaningful relationships with both my peers and my patients. It’s the human side of physical therapy: that knack for communication, the willingness to have an open heart. These are skills no professor can teach — skills that only can be gleaned by experiencing firsthand a patient with C-Diff precautions who doesn’t want to feel socially isolated, a patient who looks to you to teach her how to deal with an amputation, a patient who struggles with panic and fear of falling with every sit to stand. Sonoma Healthcare Center opened up a world in which each patient demanded my skilled interventions, my creativity and above all my compassion. I knew that these skills would shape my career as a PT. To ensure that these skills were honed and refined during my time at SHC, I looked to my mentor and clinical instructor for guidance.

My clinical instructor, JB Chua, has been an incredible teacher because he teaches by example. JB understands that aforementioned human side of physical therapy. He harbors great respect and obvious compassion for his patients, as well as an infectiously positive demeanor that is difficult to ignore. And for these reasons, his patients adore him. As a mentor, he has been a terrific role model as I strive to achieve such a rapport with my patients. JB’s willingness to take me on as a student, and his undying patience as I worked through documentation and clinical reasoning, have created an environment in which I have learned more than I could ever have hoped for. So I have to thank my clinical instructor (and the rest of the stellar rehab team with which I have been honored to work, and whom I am proud to call my friends) for such an educational — and memorable — clinical experience. The bar has been set high for my future clinical experiences, and my future as a physical therapist. Thank you to Sonoma Healthcare Center for bringing me into your rehab family, taking my toolbox beyond pneumonics and study guides, and providing me with an example of the clinician I aspire to become.

by Courtney Sinclair, SPT Student Intern at Sonoma Healthcare Center, Sonoma, CA

I have really enjoyed my experience at Park View Gardens and have learned so much more than I could have imagined about practicing in a skilled nursing environment. This was completely new for me since my experience has been primarily in an outpatient setting, and the staff at Park View Gardens welcomed me with open arms and helped me to really get the most out of this opportunity.

by Shelby McCalla, SPT Student Intern at Park View Gardens, Santa Rosa, CA

It was a great experience for both me and my CI. Her vast clinical knowledge, mixed with my resources and fresh ideas from school, made for an ideal pairing to offer the best clinical approach in patient care.

by Murphy McCarty, SPT Student Intern at Cloverdale Healthcare Center, Cloverdale, CA

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