by Dr. Jonathan Landstrom and Dr. Emily Anglo (DPT Class of 2016)
Students in the Saint Louis University Program in Physical Therapy have a traditional White Coat Ceremony as a formal initiation into the profession of physical therapy; an acknowledgement of their accomplishments thus far and a glimpse into their future as they develop into a doctor of physical therapy. This blog post details two students' reflections on their experience on the eve of the ceremony for their younger siblings.
Jonathan-Like most healthcare professions, physical therapy is a service profession. The white coat symbolizes professionalism and compassion that are among the most essential qualities needed to be a physical therapist. For us to provide patient-centered care, compassion must be a core element in our practice. When I was a student at SLU, I read a McMillan Lecture written by Ruth Wood, "Footprints in the Sand". This reading has always been a perfect embodiment of ideal patient-centered care. In this reading, Ruth Wood states:
"The ultimate criterion that must be used in determining the education of physical therapists... our practice set-tings, our scope of practice, our standards for practice, and, very importantly, our professional ethics must be: 'Is the focus on, and will the end results benefit, those we serve?'
My first year at SLU, we met with our mentors to discuss why we chose physical therapy as a profession. My answer has always been the same. Physical therapy not only includes rehabilitation and restoration of function, but also has a particular focus on a person's wellness and quality of life. I want to serve others by providing people with the exercises, the education, and the tools they need to improve their function, and overall, to improve their quality of life. My brothers and I were very active in our parish youth ministry, as our mom was the youth minister. We went on all the mission trips and participated in all the service events. We developed the values of compassion and service through these experiences. At the beginning of my third year at SLU, my brother Erik began looking into universities and professions. I remember him telling me he was going to choose physical therapy at SLU for two reasons: he wanted to pursue a degree in a service profession and the Jesuits emphasize service in all aspects of education. Additionally, compassion was a key element in his decision. He told me he was choosing physical therapy because you get one-on-one contact with patients everyday and develop real relationships with your patients. You get to cheer people on through the healing process and help them celebrate the littlest improvements in their condition.
Emily-To me, the white coat is a symbol of the core values that every healthcare professional stands behind when they choose to work in the healthcare field. In the realm of physical therapy, the values that the white coat represents to me are integrity, compassion, benevolence, and excellence. The symbolism of the white coat is a re-minder that I have a duty to my patients to strive to be the best clinician I can be, to do no harm, and to listen and care for them wholeheartedly. In the most basic summarization: wear the white coat. Don’t let the white coat wear you.
However, I also found it funny when I got a call from Courtney a couple days ago basically saying, “Whoaaaa… grad school…” As in it’s a little bit more of a commitment than she thought it would be with entirely new expectations. I simply responded, “Yeah, I get what you’re going through. What you’re going to go through, and I know you’ll get through it. It’ll definitely s*** at times, but if I got through it; you will too.”
In all honesty, grad school does s*** at times. However, I think it’s important to remember why you’re there. Realize that it’s ok to be alone holed up in the library for a couple hours. Go talk to your teachers. Get to know them. They’re there for you. Make friends with your classmates. Go out and celebrate after a test. Have holiday parties with your class. While there are times the next couple of years will s*** they will also be some of the best years of your life.
We mainly both decided on SLU because of their direct admittance into the physical therapy program. Another reason Courtney chose SLU (even though she probably won’t admit it) is because her role model and favorite big sister decided to go there first ; ).
I have always thought of a mentor as someone you go to if you need help or advice. Someone you look up to and who challenges you. However, being in the unique position that I am in, my concept as a mentor has slightly changed. I think it’s important for the mentor to reach out to their mentee and have an open dialogue with them. I think it’s important for the mentee to know that the mentor is interested in them as a person and how they’re handling things. You never know if they secretly need to vent or if they’re suffering in silence.