Saturday, September 24, 2016

The White Coat: Perspectives from SLU DPT Alumni

The White Coat: Perspectives from SLU DPT Alumni
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?'
 In addition to compassion, professionalism is a fundamental value in physical therapy. Compassion allows us to grow relationships with our patients and helps us put our patient's needs before all else. Professionalism gives us the ability to meet our patient's needs. Our patients rely on us to guide them with our medical expertise, including our knowledge of the human body and the movement system, our manual therapy techniques, the use of modalities supported by research, and our knowledge of the healthcare system. As a new professional, I strive to meet my professional duties and develop the values symbolized by the white coat through continuously enhancing these skills through continuing education, professional practice, academic discussion, and clinical research.

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.
As my brother now enters the professional phase of the physical therapy program at SLU, my one piece of advice to him is to always remember the purpose behind putting in count-less hours of studying and upholding to the professional ideals of the PT program: the patient. You should not study to get an "A" on an exam, but rather to ensure that when you graduate, you are well-prepared to provide your patients with the best quality care possible. You should not attend every class because attendance is mandatory, but be-cause attending class allows you to participate in the academic discussion, to deepen your understanding of the subject, so that you will provide your patients with the best treatments available. You're not doing it for the grades, you're doing it for your future patients. Patients must be the center of all care provided by anyone wearing a white coat.

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.
It has kind of been funny watching Courtney, my little sister, start the graduate school phase of the curriculum. The first couple days of graduate school are the typical “honeymoon phase” where you hang out with friends, maybe hit up Hump’s, not really worrying too much about school yet. My favorite is always the social media posts of “starting grad school” with pictures being tagged of people, the excitement of getting your lab bags, and everyone running to Office Depot to get a planner that’ll be your best and worst friend for the rest of the year.

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.
Courtney and I were both in-between becoming a physicians assistant or a physical therapist. I shadowed people in both professions as a way to narrow it down. When Courtney was in the same boat I told her to shadow the different professions and see which one she could relate to the most. It was eerie how similar the reasoning we liked physical therapy – We both really liked how well you get to know your patients and how well your patients get to know you.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment