Residency Corner: St. Luke’s University Health Network Orthopaedic Residency

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What makes your residency program unique compared to other programs?

     St. Luke’s Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency program has several unique aspects.  One unique component of the program is the opportunity to become an APTA credentialed clinical instructor and host a student during the residency program. This can be intimidating to many new graduates who are residents but provides them with the opportunity to participate as a teacher within the profession and share their knowledge with future physical therapists. Another unique aspect of the program is the option for residents to work extra clinical hours, which I feel is very important for those recently graduating to enable them to keep up with student loan payments.  The program also offers several opportunities for residents to meet physicians and other providers within the network.  Each week residents are outside of the clinic observing and working with other St. Luke’s providers in which they share mutual patients building their interprofessional skills, which is an important component of working in health care.

     The mentorship this Residency program includes is also unique.  The resident is assigned one primary mentor for which he/she has for the entirety of the program, but also has a mentor for which the resident learns from 4 hours a week during clinic hours.  Every 3 months, that mentor changes, allowing the resident to learn from different physical therapists viewpoints and specialties.

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

     I consider St. Luke’s Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency program to have several strengths.  One of the biggest strengths of the program is the scheduled 1:1 mentoring time every week.  The resident’s schedules are specifically blocked to allow for 4 hours of time for the resident to work 1:1 with their patients and mentor.  Another aspect of the program I find very important is the in classroom didactic and labs. I find this very beneficial as it is allows residents to participate in extensive discussions as well as work through case studies during the lab portion.  It also helps with time management for the residents by having a blocked time each week to incorporate lecture.  Finally, one of the more important components of St. Luke’s residency program is the weekly experiential learning opportunities.  Residents are exposed to numerous areas within the medical field and get to work closely with physicians and various medical providers within the company.  These interprofessional interactions provide the residents with the opportunity to meet and speak with referring providers of the patients that they work with every day.

What makes focused learning within a residency worth pursuing?

     Ultimately, every therapist is striving to do what is best for their patients. Focused learning allows you to more quickly become a master of a specific content area as well as enhancing and expanding our toolbox. This leads to the clinician pairing a patient’s impairments with more optimal interventions via the evidence. This optimization then leads to more efficient and effective outcomes. Specifically, a residency decreases the amount of time needed to master content, better pair interventions and improve outcomes. This is done through teaching, mentoring, and most importantly sharing experience and insights that would not otherwise be available to the learner. 

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

     Residencies require a lot more time than taking a position as a physical therapist at a clinic would; however, if you are willing to put in some extra work and hours, pursuing residency training is more than worth it.   Pursuing residency training is a big step in becoming the best and most knowledgeable clinician you can be in a shorter amount of time.  It takes time management skills, organization, and the ability to balance multiple assignments and schedules to succeed in a residency.  Being in a residency almost forces you to come out of your comfort zone so you can improve your clinical reasoning, communication, and manual skills in the most efficient manner.  If you aren’t one to speak up in class, being in a residency will change that and make you want to participate because you are around other professionals and peers that have passion for the same area of physical therapy that you do.  

     If you are seriously interested in pursuing residency training, getting good grades in your classes will help set you apart from other applicants, but it isn’t the only important aspect that residency programs look for in a candidate.  Make sure to be involved with your physical therapy program, whether that be through leadership positions, or community service projects, research, etc.  It is also important to have good relationships with your professors and clinical instructors, so they can write letters of recommendations that show you are more than just a student, and have the qualities to be a great clinician.  

     Residency programs can seem daunting at times, but you will come out more knowledgeable and a better overall clinician if you decide to pursue one.

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

     Our residents have been able to pursue many opportunities after residency.  Nearly 90% of our resident graduates have become leaders in their respective practices as practice owners, clinic directors, clinical supervisors, or senior clinicians.  Additionally, some of our graduates have furthered their education with pursuing fellowship training, others now teach in DPT programs, and others are clinical instructors for DPT students.

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

     The best candidates for residency are those with a strong internal drive to learn and become outstanding orthopaedic physical therapists.  They have excellent written and verbal communication skills, excellent social management skills, and have had leadership experience.  Residents must be willing to ask questions, be open to new ideas, and have good attention to detail.  Additionally, they need to have high levels of enthusiasm for their profession and specialty and want to be leaders in their field.

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