Good evening and happy Friday everyone! I want to start this blog out with a confession… even in my third year of physical therapy school, I had no idea what a skilled nursing facility actually was. I pictured a nursing home set up where I would be trying to convince people to exercise even though they didn’t want to talk to me. I pictured white halls with an old asylum type feel where many of the patients wouldn’t remember who I was day after day. This setting was one that I had never been exposed to and one that I never would have chosen for a clinical rotation because I had such strong feelings against something I did not even know.
That being said, life has a funny way of working itself out. I am currently in my 3rd full time clinical internship in a skilled nursing facility down in Kansas City, MO. Why would I ever come to a SNF in Kansas City by choice? Well, I figured that since I was being offered the opportunity, it may be fun to live with my girlfriend of 2 ½ years for 7weeks instead of living 8hrs apart. Even if it meant that I would have to do an internship in a setting I had 0 interests in.
After packing my car and making the journey down it was finally my first day. I tried to tell myself that it was going to be okay; I just could not get excited for the picture that was in my head. I walked through the doors and met the therapy lead; my first impression was that she was very high energy for a setting like this. She told me she would show me the different rooms and set ups they had here. She had me set my stuff down and that’s when my clinical instructor walked in, she looked miserable to be here and my heart sank. She looked at me and just said “I don’t want to shake your hand” --then the supervisor said it was time for the tour. Needless to say I was a little confused with what had just happened but I was excited to see what the facility had to offer.
We made our first turn and a resident came wheeling out of her room covered in vomit and projectile vomiting on the floor. I was mortified. This place was going to be everything I had thought and so much worse. I wasn’t going to make it. I had no idea what to do and I was already thinking of how I was going to handle the next 7 weeks. The remainder of the tour went fine and we went back to the therapy gym where my CI was waiting for me.
I must have had a scared look on my face because she explained that she had been sick all weekend. She didn’t want to shake my hand as to try and keep me from getting sick. Next she explained that she only had gotten a couple hours of sleep so that’s why she looked exhausted. As the day went on and the coffee kicked in we started seeing patients and I learned very quickly that what my CI had over the weekend was going around this facility so that is why the first patient I saw was vomiting uncontrollably.
Hmm so there was a logical explanation as to everything that was happening and my entire experience may not be awful…cool. Over the next couple of days I learned that my CI was a morning person and enjoyed being efficient with her time so we started our days at 6:30am and if everything flowed properly we would be done by 3. I know 6:30 may seem early to some people but this was the perfect schedule for me. I was able to get up at 4 and work on a little career development stuff before work and then had time to workout at a local gym before my girlfriend got home from work.
Now that I am in my third week I am treating the majority of our patients and have learned that this patient population is amazing. Working with patients in the geriatric population who are trying to return home is so fulfilling. Every day I have been able to find someone who is willing to work with me right at 6:30 because they look forward to doing therapy. I have been told several times by patients that doing therapy makes them feel so much better and gives them something to do.
For example, I was working with a patient who had recently been admitted to the hospital for some sort of trauma. This woman starts every session with a smile on her face and always introduces me by saying “oh _______ you need to meet his wonderful man, he is my physical therapist” while I then have to explain that I am just a student, I always appreciate this kind gesture. Little moments like this very rarely happen in the outpatient setting because family members don’t typically tag along for a visit when someone has low back pain or has hurt their shoulder. Coming up on my midterm, I can honestly say this setting has captured a special place in my heart where we as therapists seem to be fully appreciated and understood.
On top of the patients being amazing, the facility is immaculate, the nursing, housekeeping, and therapy staff have been so helpful and welcoming. Not to mention my CI who kind of terrified me during our first encounter, has been an amazing instructor that completely understands my learning style. I have been so blessed with clinical rotations thus far and have been able to work with a vast array of patients.
The moral of this blog is that life has a funny way of working out. Sometimes great things can come out of situations you thought would be horrible. This is sort of an overarching theme to the way I am approaching life at this point. I am trying to make it a goal to take chances and try new things. For example, I have recently attempted to learn some basic coding and marketing skills. Will I ever need to use these skills? Who knows, but I am interested in learning more about them so why not give it a shot?
As I sit here writing this while watching the first episode of season 3 of Black Mirror (nosedive) it makes me think how much of our interaction is done with the fear of what other people may think. I am starting to learn that there are only a few people’s opinions that actually matter in this world to me. As long as I am spreading empathy and gratitude to my patients/the people I interact with— things will always work themselves out.
Thank you so much for those who have taken some time out of your day to read my story. I hope that this may give you a reason for trying something new today and get your weekend started off in a positive manner! As always feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter if you have any questions about physical therapy or just want to talk about life in general. I always have the time to make you a priority!
Happy Friday my friends—until next week!
I am a new graduate DPT and am interested in personal growth and becoming a connector within my profession.