Dr. Kelly Legacy, PSU DPT Director of Clinical Education answers the question: Why I chose to take a position at Plymouth State University in a developing Physical Therapy program…
At the commencement of writing this post I drafted an emblematic list of influences explaining why I was interested in the opportunity to teach in my area of expertise and what shaped my evolution as a physical therapist practitioner to now suddenly want to give up clinical practice. Where this list held truths, the truths did not get to the heart and core of my decision to pursue the Director of Clinical Education position in a DPT program; specifically, at Plymouth State University under the choreography of Dr. Sean Collins.
I needed to reflect to candidly explain why I left the security of my “top of the ladder” clinical position, in a job that paid well, doing what I loved, in a setting I excelled in, to pursue an obscure career path in academia to help start a program whose future was indeterminate. Through this reflection process, I recognized that contemplative reflection is often unconsciously neglected in today’s multiplex, fast-paced healthcare arena. With evolving issues of complexity both in personal and community health and wellness, as well as complexities in the very system that umbrellas how healthcare practitioners operate, reflection is vital for challenging the clinical decisions we make for our patients and for society!
My pursuit of this shift in career paths seems a natural transfiguration. I recognize that I am not “giving up” clinical practice, instead, I have the unique opportunity to transform clinical practice by sharing my knowledge along with the perspectives and wisdom that I have gained through my experience. The prospect to give back to my profession in this capacity; to help patients by helping students to help patients, offers a personal and professional fulfillment I feel I have been missing.
When I met Dr. Collins and learned of his vision for the DPT program at PSU, I immediately embraced his thoughtful and innovative approach to physical therapy education. His curriculum design resonated with every fiber of my being. As a clinician, I espoused the holistic development of patient management. The patient-centric style of clinical practice I had adopted is reverberated in the DPT curriculum at PSU. Our students will be learning about movement, pathology, healing and adaptation; cornerstones of our profession, but from day one they will be challenged to consider what these foundational concepts mean to people’s lives and subsequently to society. Physical Therapy professional practice and education themselves have had to adapt rapidly over the past several years to meet the needs of the changing healthcare landscape. Socrates said “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” To circuitously transform physical therapy practice through the transference of experience into an innovative and germane curriculum that acutely challenges students with real world problems, is an opportunity I simply had to take advantage of!
To our future students, here are my aspirations for you:
“Be the leader you would follow.” Do not resist failure! From mistakes, we learn, we grow, change our path to improve our outcomes. We analyze, assess, and try again; differently. Through this process we appreciate the value of different approaches and embrace a better understanding of why a certain method is or is not effective.
Actively involve and engage yourselves in shared discussion with your patients about their interests and needs. Artfully bridge the foundations and fundamentals of applicable known fact and educational theory to arrive at the desired outcomes of your patients. Teaching, and consequently learning, is a process of supervised exploration. View your clinical endeavors as your interactive classroom. Learn to advance from clinical experience and reflection. Learn from your patients’ and peers responses, outcomes, and communication…. a continuum of give and take; a symbiotic relationship. Learn together and from each other, how to achieve your end goals.
Create yourselves as independent scholars through critical inquiry and hands on exploration. Be learners who are autonomous and self-directed; let yourselves be guided as you find the tools you need for competence, self-advancement, and excellence. Strive for professional distinction and integrity. Knowledge without application is merely theory. Theory without practice is unrealizable! Actively participate in obtaining and receiving pertinent information, and in turn apply that information to real-life conditions and circumstances. This is how you will become masters of your professional domain.