(PT) students at Findlay learn through practical experience, and they provide a service to the community while doing so. For the ninth year, the physical therapy program is hosting a PT Pro Bono Clinic through a neuro rehabilitation course instructed by Sharon Fleming Walsh, D.Sc., interim chair and associate professor of physical therapy.
At the start of October, 27 PT students began the six-week program to gain additional experience with patients while finishing their final year of graduate school.
Between 12 and 14 patients, including children and adults, have the opportunity to receive physical therapy at no charge through this program. Students work in groups of two or three to lead treatment. By working in groups, the students can discuss the pros and cons of treatment and come up with the best treatment possible.
While supervised by a licensed PT, students work with adult patients diagnosed with anything from traumatic brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injuries or Parkinson’s Disease, to children with Down Syndrome or genetic disorders.
“We let the students do as much as possible unless something looks unsafe,” said Walsh. “It allows them to develop rapport without someone standing over them and making the student nervous.”
The supervising PT then facilitates the students’ progression and critical thinking by posing questions and discussing the patient with them.
Patients are selected based on recommendations from local clinicians. They recommend patients who may be running low on insurance, long-term patients who want something new or past patients who might need additional therapy.
This clinic experience gives UF students the opportunity to work in-depth with patients and spend time with each patient to develop the most effective treatment plan.
“They will never have this much time to work with a patient after this experience,” said Walsh.
At the end of the six-week program, the students contact each patient’s clinician to inform them of the treatment he or she had and suggest a treatment to continue. This way, the patients can easily adjust when going back to their original clinician.
“It brings in active learning, but it also provides a service,” said Walsh. “Students do a self-reflection to identify their own skills and identify what they need to improve on.”
About 10 students participated in the PT Pro Bono Clinic at the start of the program nine years ago. The class size has grown and so has the program’s reputation. Walsh receives calls from clinicians and patients with interest in the clinic year-round.