A guest post by our PT student, Gia!

The road to Girl Fit PT

Over the last 10 weeks, I have been fortunate enough to complete my third and final clinical education experience as part of my doctorate of physical therapy coursework here at Girl Fit Physical Therapy. Apart from getting to work with an incredible staff and learn an immense volume of knowledge in my field, I have had the distinct privilege to treat a unique and exuberant patient population. This population, a collective of strong and talented women and girls, has taught me as much, if not more, than I have been able to pass on to them.

Let me provide a brief history of myself and my role at Girl Fit PT before we get to the last bit of information I would like to impart. I am in my last year of physical therapy school at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, to graduate in May. This is an amazing realization for me, as I have known I wanted to be a physical therapist since my senior year in high school.

I grew up as a dancer in Scranton, Pennsylvania, studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop, character/cultural dance, and musical theater. I continued dancing throughout college, attending West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in Exercise Science and minored in dance, while earning my yoga teaching certification through my school’s partnership with Yoga Alliance. At WCU, I performed with and choreographed for University Theatre and University Dance Company, traveling with the latter to Ladek-Zdroj, Poland, to present original choreographic works as part of gala concerts in an international dance festival. That year, I realized that as I proceeded in my academic career, I wanted to wed my love of movement science with my love of dance and the arts; in short, I wanted to be a physical therapist who specialized in a performing arts population. While completing my undergraduate exercise science internships, I channeled this aspiration into being able to work with the resident PT for the Pennsylvania Ballet, as well as with a local outpatient clinic whose director taught an injury prevention course at WCU for music majors – a course for which I was chosen to serve as a teaching assistant.

Physical therapy seemed to be the perfect vessel to make both these passions my career. As a dancer, I fortunately never sustained any derailing injuries; however, my fellow company members surely did. I watched the recuperation process for these injuries, learning that physical therapists were the wizards at work getting these injured dancers back on stage in what seemed like no time. From the opposite end of the spectrum, my mother had always taught me, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. This she learned from watching my grandmother’s physical health decline until she finally passed away in 2001, in part due to the fact that as her health issues increased, she led an increasingly sedentary life that at one point was no longer voluntary. My mother was the driving force behind my knowledge of health and fitness, and the importance it should hold – not just for one’s sport, but for one’s basic livelihood.

MCPHS’s DPT program consists of two years of didactic work, followed by a final year of three 10-week clinical education experiences. One clinical must be of a complex medical/inpatient nature, along the lines of hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities, and another must be an outpatient setting, which is the most widely known area of PT. Our third clinical is more flexible, wherein we are allowed to choose a specialty within either of the aforementioned disciplines. When it came time to work with our professors in voicing our interests for this specialty, I was sure to vocalize my passion for working with a sports medicine population that specifically served dancers and performing artists. I was delighted when my professors informed me that they had found a site that seemed to be my perfect match, a site to which they had not yet sent a student – Girl Fit PT.

My first clinical was at a skilled nursing facility/continuing care retirement community in Seattle, WA. My second was at an outpatient orthopedic site that specialized in sports medicine in the geographic center of New York City. Both experiences were incredible and I enjoyed them thoroughly. At Girl Fit PT, I became well versed in diagnoses and treatment techniques specific to dancers, as well as gymnasts, skaters, and other young female athletes. These athletes, to my surprise, were not only eager to return to full performance of their beloved sports, but also to learn about their bodies and the multidimensional importance of wellness along the way.

My time at Girl Fit PT

This is a fantastic segue into where the rest of the Girl Fit PT team and myself come in. The most valuable tenet I learned during my time here has been the emphasis on independence and empowerment to our patients of all ages. This includes educating them in every step of their treatment, so that by the time they are strong enough to spread their wings and fly the Girl Fit PT nest, they are knowledgeable in the anatomy of their injury, what exercises constitute a solid home program, and why it is so important that they stick to performing it. I have been only too grateful to help them on that journey.

Speaking of journeys, now that we have discussed the journey that brought me to Girl Fit PT, let’s talk about how my journey as a student physical therapist at Girl Fit PT can maintain relevance for all our awesome patients after I leave. Throughout my time here, one of my projects was staying up to date with current research in the physical therapy field – research that specifically addresses our patient population at Girl Fit PT. Kate was kind enough to loan me a particularly relevant issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, known more simply as JOSPT, from October 2017. On a biweekly basis, I synthesized 1-2 articles pertinent to our patient population to present during team meetings. This was a fantastic way to keep me on my toes as a student and clinician, as well as impart important discoveries on diagnoses and treatment techniques to the rest of the staff that could only serve to better our plans of care for our valued patients. As the weeks progressed at Girl Fit and I developed relationships with these awesome patients, I began to choose articles for my presentations that addressed diagnoses of specific patients, to further augment the treatment we were providing in real time.

Low back pain and joint hypermobility syndrome

For the second part of this post, I would like to focus on the passage of this information onto our patients and parents. My emphasis will be on the diagnoses of low back pain and joint hypermobility syndrome, since these were significant cases that I saw throughout my time at Girl Fit Physical Therapy. I hope that this presentation will demonstrate that you contribute as much to our cycle of knowledge and growth as we hopefully do to yours during your time with us!