Physical Therapy School: Year 2 Review

The second year of school started out as normal as any second year in Neumann’s doctorate program would be but it did not end as any second year would end. It ended in a Pennsylvania-mandated university closure with on-line Zoom class sessions to finish out the Spring semseter. Not ideal but what can you do really? Nothing. And I’ll say this, I’m over Zoom/Teams Meetings.

All things considered, the Physical Therapy department made adjustments that would allow our current class to still graduate on time, May 2021. I also had to keep in mind the department heads are working for the Class of 2020 to make sure they can graduate on time and get them reassigned on clinicals; if they had gotten kicked out of their sites! And to finally top that all off, they have to work with the first year students and get them situated with class scheduling and teaching. So props to Neumann PT Department for getting it all done.

I was on the tail end of my first clinical experience at Reading Hospital. I won’t forget how my time ended. Throughout the entire week, my clinical instructor and I were wondering if I was going to make it the entire week, since Covid-19 news started really ramping up. I had been given the opportunity to leave the site early if I wanted too but I thought what’s the point? I had two days left. We had just finished working with a patient and we get a message from the head of the physical therapy department over our communication lines. I NEVER had gotten a call from her in my 12 weeks there. I’m thinking “I must have done something wrong.” I answered and all I hear was “Hey, you guys need to come back to department and you have to get your stuff and leave. The hospital is sending all students out of the hospitals effective immediately.” So my last day on my clinical ended within the first two hours of my second to last day and our high school track season was just placed on its first of indefinite delays. So in a span of 2 minutes, no more clinical and no in person coaching for spring track!

Lets talk what my second year in Physical Therapy school was like. Below is the list of classes that made up Year 2 of PT and DC school. Remember, the physical therapy program I attend is full-time on the weekends and because of circumstances some classes had to be switched around for our spring session. Chiropractic school is a quarterly system with classes 5 days a week, a more traditional education setting. So that’s why there were so many more classes but also some of the classes only met 1x a week for a few hours but our science-based, technique-based, diagnosis classes met more frequently for a lot more time.

Physical Therapy SchoolChiropractic School
Summer 19: Musculoskeletal PT1Quarter 5: Cardiovascular-Pulmonary Pathology
Summer 19: Values and EthicsQuarter 5: Chiropractic Clinical Evaluation 3
Summer 19: Administration and ManagementQuarter 5: Lumbopelvic Technique and Management
Summer 19: Musculoskeletal PathophysiologyQuarter 5: Bone and Joint Pathology
Fall 19: Neuromuscular PT1Quarter 5: Gastrointestinal/Endocrine Pathology
Fall 19: Cardiopulmonary PTQuarter 5: Radiographic Anatomy 2
Fall 19: Clinical Reasoning 1Quarter 6: X-Ray Physics and Principles
Winter 20: Clinical Education 1Quarter 6: Chiropractic Clinical Evaluation 4
Spring 20: Psychosocial ManagementQuarter 6: Nutrition and Dietetics
Spring 20: Musculoskeletal PT2Quarter 6: Thoracic Spine Technique and Management
Spring 20: Mentored Research 1Quarter 6: Basic Science Review
Quarter 6: Clinical Chemistry Data
Quarter 6: Lower Extremity Technique and Management
Quarter 6: Public Health 1
Quarter 7: Rehabilitation and Exercise 2
Quarter 7: Chiropractic Clinical Evaluation 5
Quarter 7: Differential Diagnosis 1
Quarter 7: Physical Therapy 1
Quarter 7: Cervical Spine Technique and Management
Quarter 7: Public Health 2
Quarter 7: Upper Extremity Technique and Management
Quarter 7: Diagnostic Imaging 1
Quarter 8: Radiographic Technique 1
Quarter 8: Correlative Technique and Management Lab
Quarter 8: Correlative Clinical Evaluation and Lab
Quarter 8: Physical Therapy 2
Quarter 8: Diagnostic Imaging 2
Quarter 8: Differential Diagnosis: Low Back
Quarter 8: Obstetrics and Gynecology

So there are several similarities and differences in the second years of the programs. In each of these injury management and care is the primary focus. Also the classes start become more focused and less generalizable. We start breaking out in different areas of focus for physical therapy and chiropractic.

The biggest difference between these two programs is physical therapy school starts students earlier in an official clinical setting while chiropractic school continues the more tradition route of classes that discuss clinical technique and management.

For the first 12 weeks of 2020, I was placed at Reading Hospital for my acute care physical therapy affiliation. In that time I was able to work in the emergency department, the cardiac floor, and orthopedic floor. It was a really great experience to see what physical therapy setting is like in the hospital setting because I never had any experiences like that. It definitely was different. The number of gait belts I used prior to 2020? Zero. The number of gait belts I used in about 12 weeks…500+. We had to use gait belts on every patient and sometimes we needed more than one. Never had I walked so many people into the bathroom. Never had I needed to change shoes on the job because of urine and fecal material. Never had I adjusted the heights of walkers and canes. But there are healthcare professionals that do that everyday. Props to them! But for those little things, the experience itself was awesome. Teaching a new amputee to walk, seeing the joy of someone who get walk 25 feet down the hall, helping someone sit at the edge of the bed was pretty cool to do. Not everyday was amazing and there were certainly some challenges and challenging days but regardless the population I worked with certainly put some things into perspective.
In physical therapy school you are covering physical therapy management in different settings too. Physical therapy occurs in many different settings: hospitals, inpatient, outpatient, skilled nursing, home care. And you start to notice that in the coursework. For the neuroscience and cardiopulmonary classes the management of different pathologies was highlighted more in the PT curriculum where in chiropractic school, we learned more about the pathophysiology of those systems.

In chiropractic school, we are continuing our hands-on experience with manual technique skills. We start a lot of differential diagnosis classes, since chiropractors have direct access. We are introduced to reading and taking diagnostic images, primarily x-rays. That’s the biggest difference for chiropractic school, in terms of education, is the ability to read and interpret diagnostic imaging. By no means would I say I am an expert, but my ability to read x-rays and MRIs did help me in my acute care affiliation for physical therapy. The differential diagnosis classes were some of the more challenging and rewarding classes I have had in my entire educational experience. In our differential diagnosis classes, I was taught by, in my opinion, one of best teachers I had in all of my education Dr. Tom Souza. He wrote multiple editions of Differential Diagnosis and Management for the Chiropractor, which could be used by any healthcare professional. Believe it or not he doesn’t say adjust everyone.
One thing that occurred in my second year of chiropractic school was national board of examiners examinations. Board examination for chiropractic school consists of 4 Parts. Our class took Part I’s, which consisted of six-50 question exams: General Anatomy, Spinal Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Pathology and Microbiology. We took 4 on Friday and 2 on Saturday. You had to get a passing score and pass all six exams. If you failed two of the exams you were allowed to retake the two exams the next time boards were offered but if you failed three you had to retake all six exams.

We had finals for summer quarter starting the following Tuesday.

After Part I boards and Finals.

So what can you take away from this? There are more differences than similarities. The similarities occur in coursework and how musculoskeletal injuries are managed. But there are some differing management techniques and Clinical experience starts sooner in Physical therapy school. In chiropractic school you learn more diagnostic imaging, a lot more pathology classes, and you begin to take National Board examinations some time in your second year. Very brief similarities and differences but overall the two professions are similar in my experience. In conversations I have with physical therapists and chiropractors, they would agree. I can talk co-management and coordination of care and understand where I can be of assistance and where I should let the other be the primary provider. These two programs have given me a unique perspective on patient care.

The third and final year is set to begin May 23rd. Lets go get this thing done.

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