Residency Corner: Cayuga Medical Center Orthopedic Residency

What makes your residency program unique compared to other programs?

Our program hosts both internal and external residents. The internal resident positions are paid positions through Cayuga Medical Center at 75% of a normal full time salary, with full benefits including health insurance, partial subsidy to our partner Island Health and Fitness, and paid time off. Residents participate in clinical practice 30 hours each week, with additional supervised practice and mentoring time, as well as didactic course work, independent study and research, and clinical observation. Our internal residents also serve as lab assistants in select courses in the entry-level Physical Therapy Program at Ithaca College. The external resident positions allow for more geographic and time flexibility. Our external residents are employed by other facilities in the region, where they practice clinically and receive clinical mentorship from a senior therapist at their home facility. They travel to Cayuga Medical Center 1-2 times per month for didactic education, mentoring and practical exams.

What would you consider the strengths of your program to be?

  1. Because we offer both internal and external program options, our program appeals to a wider variety of professionals with differing needs and lifestyle goals.
  2. Each of our didactic courses are taught by our clinicians who are experts in the different body regions, giving residents access to and training from a wide variety of practitioners. For the internal residents, these instructors also serve as mentors before and/or after their course to help the resident integrate new information and techniques into their practice.
  3. The program constantly revamps the courses to incorporate evidence based content as it becomes available, ensuring our residents receive the most up to date information to better serve our communities.
  4. As our geographic region and the rest of the US struggles with the opioid epidemic, the need for professionals with comprehensive training in pain science has never been greater. Our curriculum contains a course devoted solely to pain. “The Application of Pain Sciences” course examines the neurobiology of pain and its management. The course includes discussion of the continuum of pain from normal/physiologic pain to abnormal/pathologic pain involving peripheral and central mechanisms, discussion and practical application of evaluation and treatment approaches to better identify and mitigate the causes and contributing factors associated with the clinical presentation and strategies to assist the practitioner in incorporating these concepts into the care of patients with chronic low back pain, osteoarthritis, whiplash associated disorder, fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndromes, and neurogenic pain.
  5. Our program is aimed at preparing the resident for Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS) board exam. Since our inception in 2010, we have a 100% first time pass rate.
  6. We offer our internal residents the opportunity to gain experience teaching by having them involved with courses in the Ithaca College Department of Physical Therapy program

What makes focused learning within a residency worth pursuing?

Residency provides a space for physical therapists who have a keen interest in a specific subset of our profession to receive intensive, organized, formal training in that specialty area. This gives the resident an advantage over non-residency trained peers in terms of passing the Board Certification Exams (residents demonstrate higher passing rates and higher scores), marketability for employment, access to teaching, research and interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities, and clinical reasoning skills.

What advice would you give to students that are seriously interested in pursuing residency training?

Find a residency program that meshes well with your lifestyle goals and personal/professional philosophy. Each residency program is organized a bit differently and offers different concurrent opportunities, like research and teaching experiences. The right residency program should provide you with a rich, comprehensive curriculum driven by the evidence, a supportive environment in which to learn and practice, both on your own and in tandem with an experienced practitioner serving as a mentor, and appropriate work-life balance to allow you to explore different interests and grow as a person.

What additional opportunities do your residents pursue after completing their training?

Some of the things our residents have done following their residency are get involved with teaching and research in entry-level DPT programs, open their own practices as well as transition to a full-time clinical position at our practice and enhance our staff, to name a few.

What do you look for in a quality candidate for your residency program?

We look for applicants who are self-directed learners, who exhibit strong clinical reasoning skills and a desire to enhance their clinical skills and abilities. We look for applicants who can clearly express their “why” for pursuing residency, who are interested in and accepting of constructive feedback and who demonstrate good patient rapport. Lastly, we look for applicants who demonstrate the maturity necessary to handle the rigors of the program.

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