The PT Student's Guide to Summer Break
Summer break is finally here! That means you are either one step closer to becoming a physical therapist, or one step closer to being done with physical therapy school, depending on your perspective.
Regardless of which one you are more excited for, we can all appreciate the change of pace and sunny weather.
Yes, the length of your break depends somewhat on how your program is structured. But whether you are in clinic or class during the summer, hopefully you have some time off. Summer break provides us with a perfect time to rest, recover, and catch up with family and friends. But it is also great for addressing some tasks which we might not have had time for during school.
Build and Grow Your Network
There are many ways to network and connect with others, so if the idea of exchanging business cards after a superficial conversation makes you shudder, fear not. Networking is about building relationships. The best way to go about it is through the medium which allows you to be comfortable with being yourself.
Some potential options include using social media platforms that you are already familiar with. This could be joining in on building a brand through Instagram, or discussing and sharing knowledge in the various PT Facebook groups.
But social media is just one option. This is also a great time to reach out to therapists in your area, strengthen existing ties to a familiar clinic, or meet new healthcare and fitness professionals at conferences and courses. As you now have more free time, the summer can serve as a chance to spend quality time with other clinicians to learn and develop lasting relationships.
Learn New Material
Summer break is also excellent for pursuing different avenues of education that are generally more difficult to explore during the busy school year. This might include the strength and conditioning skill set that you are interested in mastering.
Regardless of what interests you have developed in PT school so far, now is a perfect time to attend a new course or conference, sign up for a webinar, or engage with a new book that was on your wishlist during the school year.
While continuing education courses are great for learning about new and innovative ideas, they also offer you the chance to meet and mingle with other therapists in your area, as well as like-minded fitness and healthcare professionals. Don’t forget to take advantage of this rare opportunity to introduce yourself and get to know some future peers!
But learning new material doesn’t have to be limited to courses and conferences. Summer break is also a great time to explore other sources like blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts. Throughout the day, we tend to get stuck in many activities which require our time, but not our attention. This includes our commute, or waiting in line at the store, but also the downtime that inevitably pops up when a patient is running late. These small chunks of time work well for lighter, but still meaningful, articles and podcasts.
Gain Experience as a Trainer, Coach, Aide, or Research Assistant
You probably looked for work during summer break when you were a high school or college student, so why not now? PT students certainly have the skill set to branch out and work in multiple environments, and summer break can be a great time to gain valuable experience (as well as bring in some extra cash).
Not too sure where to look? Working as an aide is a great place to start. High volume clinics are regularly looking for extra help. A high patient to therapist ratio means that you will get to spend a lot of time connecting with patients, learning about their injuries, and taking them through exercises. This experience will pay off during your affiliations, as well as your first job.
If you’re not sure about the time commitment, contact therapists in your area, or the area to plan on traveling to, and ask if you can spend a day or two observing them. This gives you a chance to directly observe treatments, engage with therapists and ask questions, and see what different settings are like. Most therapists will be open to the idea, and if all goes well, it could even lead to a job or mentorship.
If you have a more specific track you are interested in pursuing after graduation, now is a great time to build and grow your skill set and knowledge base. For example, if you are interested in a hybrid practice model, which combines therapy and performance, you could get more involved at your local gym/box. Similarly, if there is a certain athletic population you want to work with, working or volunteering in some coaching capacity will go a long way towards your development.
Don’t Forget to Relax!
PT school is no joke. Taking some time off is not only a good idea from a cognitive standpoint, but it is also well deserved! You have worked your butt off all year, so now is also a great time to see family, travel with friends, and sleep in without feeling guilty. Besides, after this, there is no more summer break. So have fun, learn, and make the most of it!
How do you plan on spending your summer break? Share some of your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below! If you have any questions, or if you are looking for extra ideas, you can also connect with me here!