Residency Corner: Carolinas Rehabilitation Orthopaedic Residency

Pictured left to right Current Residents: Dr. Dan Steele and Dr. Mary Kate Buzzard

Carolinas Rehabilitation’s orthopedic physical therapy residency is a full-time, one year program. Residents are employed by Carolinas HealthCare System and receive a program-adjusted salary that includes a full benefits package. Residents provide patient care 36 hours per week, including four hours per week co-treating with a faculty mentor. Weekly lecture and lab sessions as well as directed learning activities will occupy the resident’s remaining time.

The curriculum of this residency program provides advanced training in examination, clinical decision-making, medical management and manual therapy-based orthopedic treatment skills. The curriculum combines didactic learning, mentorship experience and individual study and project completion.

What makes your residency program unique compared to other programs?

Carolinas Rehabiliation’s Orthopaedic Residency is a year long in-house program.  What makes our program unique is our eclectic approach, which exposes our residents to a variety of different styles of manual therapy and patient management philosophes.  Our program prides itself on being able to help our residents do the basics well and create a strong foundation while teaching strong clinical reasoning skills. This allows our residents to be highly functioning clinicians that have the ability to integrate any treatment approach into their strong foundational practice and be comfortable treating any orthopedic diagnosis, no matter how complex or unusual.  

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

Mentoring and class instruction is provided from several experts in orthopaedic physical therapy. These faculty members provide mentoring at the resident’s clinic with their own patients. This allows the resident to schedule patients they are having more difficulty managing and will also allow the resident to learn from multiple mentors, not just one or two. A different faculty member performs mentoring every four weeks so that residents can be exposed to a variety of ideas. Our program also has a 100% pass rate on the OCS since our inaugural year in 2011.

What makes focused learning within a residency worth pursuing?

Growth is an active process and does not occur simply because you have an experience. A residency program provides structured learning opportunities to not only teach management and examination skills, but more importantly, how to leverage high level clinical reasoning abilities to apply these skills in a manner that expedites extraordinary outcomes. A residency program provides this growth, rather than waiting for it to occur or pursing it in an unstructured fashion. These programs help prepare the clinician for the OCS examination and lays the foundation for more advanced training in programs such as fellowships. Pursing these higher level programs without the foundational skills found in residencies often lead to inexperienced clinicians being given tools they may not know how to use appropriately.

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

Contact the program director. These programs are looking for passionate, motivated individuals and want to help however they can. If you feel that you embody the characteristics of the ideal resident, help us put a face with the name so you can set yourself up for success. Ask the director if you can speak to past residents and current faculty members to see if the program is the right fit for you. I also welcome any prospective residents to come into the clinic and shadow the faculty as they treat. Residencies are very rewarding but are a lot of work, you need to make sure it is the right for you.

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

Our residents frequently comment on their appreciation for the culture our healthcare system promotes and nearly all choose to stay working as clinicians and educators for our system.  These residents serve as role models for other therapists in our system and have been sought out by other therapists and physicians for assistance on various projects, including research projects. Some of the residents have chosen to do fellowship education and pursue other educational degrees. Several have even become instructors and mentors in our program, and some are now even teaching or lecturing for continuing education companies, universities, or at district meetings/conferences.

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

A passionate, lifelong learner who we can see is motivated and willing to do what it takes to set themselves up for success. Good communication skills are a strong plus and humility with an ability to accept constructive feedback well only helps with the resident’s growth.


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