The DPT student: 5 lessons from year 1

Tyler Waterway, SPT

Author: Tyler Waterway, SPT
Date: 12/17/2019

I am in my first year at Missouri State University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program and have been living in Missouri for 7 months now. Throughout the program, I have learned a lot about the profession of physical therapy, anatomy, neuroscience, and clinical exams. These subjects, although crucial, are not the most important things I have learned thus far. The following are the top five lessons I have taken away from this season.  

1. Learning for the patients… not the grade.

My journey through undergraduate school was driven by my GPA with the dream of being accepted into a physical therapy program. Little did I know that I was training myself to memorize words and phrases instead of truly achieving comprehension of the material. My goals have shifted from striving for a high GPA to learning how to process information with a clinical mindset. The information and skills I am learning are now motivated by the quality of care I desire to provide to my patients.

2. Let the “why” fuel the passion.

Amidst balancing the ups and down of life and the rigor of PT school, I have learned I must frequently remind myself of the “why”. It sounds like a no-brainer, however, when you are studying the action, origin, insertion, and innervation of the omohyoid muscle, it is easy to forget how this will help you influence your future patients.  The “why” brings passion, energy, and hope to each day. Find the “why” and let your passion overflow into your interactions with the ones around you. What’s my “why”? I study to one day implement excellent patient care and have the ability to provide for my family.

3. Believe in others before they succeed.

I will be the first to say I would not be here if it were not for people who believed in me.

I am so thankful for the people who pushed me (and continue to do so) toward excellence in the vocation of physical therapy. I am humbled to have mentors continuing to pour into me spiritually, professionally, and personally. I GET to do the same to others. I GET to sharpen others to be all that they were created to be. Do not let those around you settle for a mundane career, everyone you will ever encounter is gifted in a unique way. Just point it out to them, it is amazing how it changes their perspective and drive. Dream big. And surround yourself with people who will support you in your dreams despite the odds that are against you.

4. Welcome feedback.

Sharpening and encouragement go hand-in-hand and are crucial ingredients for excellence in your vocation. The ability to give and receive feedback is what separates individuals who want to grow, and those who are comfortable with getting by. I have found that my colleagues who know my goals and dreams are those who give the best feedback because I know their intentions. A team that effectively sharpens and encourages one another is one that is actively growing and achieving excellence.

5. Stop complaining.

A friend and mentor once told me “complaining is like throwing up, it makes the person feel better, but makes everyone else sick.” It can drive a wedge between a class and their professor, a group of peers against another group, and a person against another. Complaining alone proves itself to have no value. However, issues that lead to complaining can be also be used as opportunities to grow a community. Find the cause of a problem and attack it at its core before it can take root and grow bitterness. If you are around people who are complaining, ask questions and find a solution—do not simply sit back and do nothing. Perspective is everything.