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Through Their Patients’ Eyes: OT, PT Students Learn About Recovery for Patients with Spinal Cord Injury

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on August 17, 2018

Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Students examining patientA 20-year-old woman sitting in her wheelchair, upon which she has slung a trendy, leather backpack, had a group of 15 college students rapt as she walked them through her daily routine, showed them her physical therapy exercises, and demonstrated she goes about simple tasks like making breakfast or taking a shower.

Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Students examining patientThe woman was one of several volunteers who had sustained spinal cord injuries who came to USciences this spring for a unique lab with physical therapy and occupational therapy students.

“I’m pretty independent,” said the woman. “But when it comes to reaching things on a higher shelf, that is a challenge. I try to do everything myself, but I am afraid of falling out of my chair, so I’ve been working on that in PT.”

Students interview the patents before examining them and offering some treatments. 

Margie Roos DPT, PhD, vice chair of the department of physical therapy, said students are often blown away by the experience and learn so much from the personalized opportunity to talk with individuals about such a complex injury.

Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Students examining patient“The most impactful thing that I learned was the road to recovery. These patients go through a lot mentally and physically and in our case a man was walking normal one minute and the next he sustained a spinal cord injury where now walking is not the easiest task,” said Saqib Habib DPT’19. “It showed us how patients with an SCI want to be viewed and how their desire to feel normal again isn't as important as gaining independence to do functional tasks.”

Habib said his patient prioritized gaining independence and performing tasks on his own over walking like he did before his injury. Habib said the experience was a unique opportunity to apply the knowledge learned in class to patients right in front of him and being empathetic to the patients and their experience.

Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Students examining patient“It was important to see all the strategies the volunteers use to participate fully in daily activities,” said Phillip King MOT’19. “As occupational therapists we work with people throughout their life to increase participation in everyday activities. Being able to talk about and see everything they do was motivational for me.”

King said he valued the interprofessional experience gained in the lab.

“Being able to work as an interdisciplinary team is a very important skill to have for us as we enter the field,” said King. “I was able to experience how to treat in conjunction with physical therapy students. It was a great learning experience to understand and see how occupational therapy and a physical therapy can be used together to treat a patient more holistically.” 

Categories: News, Students, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Physical Therapy, Department of Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, USciences