What to Expect
As a physical therapy student, before you get to spend any time with patients,
expect to spend a lot of time with your books.
You will spend a lot of extra hours learning anatomy, says Dominique
Denver. She graduated from a physical therapy program. "It was a lot of work,"
she says. "But it is possible as long as you are willing to put the time into
You will certainly spend a lot of time studying for final exams. "We had
12 to 14 exams where other programs had three or four," says Denver.
Why so many? Many of the courses that Denver had to take had two exams
-- a theoretical and a practical exam.
The theoretical exams were pretty standard. The practical exams were a
Students had to test their knowledge about various parts of the human
anatomy and nervous system on other human beings -- classmates who pretended
or people with actual ailments that physical therapists would treat.
"For neurology, sometimes, we would actually have real patients," says
Before meeting the "patients," students had to read their cases, then come
up with treatment.
"It is very stressful because it is not like a written exam, where you
can sit down, think and if you don't get that question, come back to it,"
says Denver. "In five minutes, you have to figure out something to do."
Denver says this testing method gets students ready for what they are going
to be doing. "You have to be able to think on your feet."
Students get an extra taste of the real world diversity through clinical
Internships expose students to many aspects of physical therapy.
Students may start off doing clean-up or clerical work. But as they progress,
they will get a chance to help real patients under professional supervision.
Jennifer Rebelo took physical therapy at Northeastern University. She says
clinical internships gave her the chance to apply knowledge from the classroom
in a real-life setting.
And this real-life setting came with some real-life pressures.
"It was overwhelming at first because you are so scared that you
are going to do something wrong or hurt a patient," she says.
"In...school, you learn bits and pieces. But when you go into the clinical,
you have to put it all together. It's challenging. But it is rewarding to
see what you learned actually does pay off."