Excellence is (as defined by the APTA Core Values) a “practice that consistently uses current knowledge and theory while understanding personal limits, integrates judgment and the patient/client perspective, embraces advancement, challenges mediocrity, and works toward development of new knowledge.” Throughout my time at the Governors State University, Doctorate of Physical Therapy program, I have consistently strived to maintain and improve excellence in my work, in my collaboration, and in my actions. Two characteristics I intend to focus on regarding excellence in physical therapy include the application of research to practice and the pursuance of new information. The first aspect I identified, application of research to practice, is reflective of sample indicator #6 from the APTA Core Value Statement. Application of current, quality research to practice can take several forms. For practicing clinician, this implies reading literature, determining proper interventions and parameters based on that research, and then implementing these findings into practice. While I wholly intend to subscribe to such a plan, my experience with the third step of this process, the actual application of the research, is lacking (given my lack of clinical experience). This being said, throughout my educational career, I have made numerous steps towards “excellence,” and have displayed this quality outright in the clinical opportunities I have been presented with. Perhaps the most apparent examples of my application of research to practice would include my performance in the Integrative Seminar Courses. As the name might imply, the emphasis of these courses was to “integrate” material learned from a variety of courses and to seek out new research that might shape the care we provide to our patients. An example of this can be seen in last semesters course sequence where we had to research and apply that research to the activity of answering several questions posed by our instructor regarding a case we created. This activity required us to put ourselves into the position of the therapist and consider the clinical implications of the research, rather than just the underlying principles. One of the questions regarding our case, for an individual who had a stroke, posed to my group was “patient's husband reports he notices the patient has difficulty following instructions and asks, why?” In our consideration of a response, we had to apply knowledge we had learned in our courses, in textbooks, and in journal research to provide a clinical justification for this answer.
Artifact - Integrative Seminar Paper In this excerpt, my group-mates and I needed to provide a sound clinical judgment that applied the best available research to determining the answer. If this were a real clinical situation, where we were actually being asked a question by a patient or family member, our inquiry into the research and subsequent findings would likely be very similar to this situation. Therefore, my performance in this situation, in addition to various other assignments in the Integrative Seminar, reflect the central physical therapy ideal of applying research to practice. We described:
“One of the areas supplied by the L MCA is the temporal lobe, including Wernicke’s area. Wernicke’s area is only located on the L side of the brain and is responsible for the comprehension of spoken and, to a certain degree, written words. Another area, in part, supplied by the MCA is the frontal lobe, which is responsible for “higher” functioning, such as decision-making, critical thought, and planning. Therefore, the patient’s inability to follow instructions could be a combination of several different problems occurring within the brain. With damage to Wernicke’s area a patient can develop what’s called Wernicke’s aphasia, also known as receptive aphasia. This disorder is characterized by a difficulty comprehending spoken or written phrases. Additionally, because of this impaired comprehension, individuals with receptive aphasia will lack the ability to comprehend their own speech, so although they might be able to speak fluently, the speech can be nonsensical or unrelated to the current topic of discussion. The effect of the lesion on the frontal lobe might be causing impairments with cognition and volitional decisions. Thus, even if the patient could comprehend the instructions being given to her (for example, if she doesn’t have Wernicke’s aphasia), she might have an impaired ability to act on those instructions as a result of her frontal lobe damage.”
The second point I bring up, with regards to excellence as a tenet of physical therapy, is the pursuance of new knowledge, which correlates to sample indicator #8. Pursuing new knowledge can take several forms, including inquiry about new research, learning about how physical therapy works in a variety of settings, and learning about ideas like social media branding and salary negotiation tactics. Because my previous discussion has already focused on the idea of seeking our quality research (and because this idea is reiterated throughout this reflection), I will focus this discussion of seeking our new knowledge in other forms.
Throughout this curriculum, I have been presented with opportunities to listen to and learn from an eminent panel of guest speakers and experts. These include (as only a couple examples) athlete and speaker Joe Stone, author and physical therapist Adele Levine, author and entrepreneur Ben Fung, and wife of award-winning journalist and survivor of TBI Lee McConaughy. In pursuit of excellence, I have attended every professional opportunity that I have been able to, in order to practice my professional skills and improve my knowledge and understanding of the world of physical therapy. Two prime examples of this acquisition of new knowledge that will better myself and my practice in the future are in the presentation provided by Dr. Ben Fung and in the lecture given by Dr. Russell Carter. In Dr. Fungs presentation, we discussed issues that are central to the success of a future physical therapist—yet are rarely talked about in DPT courses. These topics include salary negotiation tactics, social branding, and paying off student loans and debt. While it can be easy to look at the principle of “seeking new knowledge” as only the pursuit of new research knowledge, I don’t think this does full justice to this tenet. Indeed, how can a physical therapist expect to provide such excellent care if they are unable to financially provide for themselves and their families, due to subpar negotiation strategies or poor fiscal planning of debt repayment—or if they are unable to reach the proper clientele because of limitations in social branding. For me, this rather unconventional (at least as compared to our educational projection, thus far) presentation was one of the most beneficial to me as a future clinician and citizen of society. If a physical therapist is expected to provide excellent care to others, he or she must also understand and be in the business of pursuing excellence for his or her person. Dr. Russell Carter presented on the principles of a single-subject research design and on how to set one’s self up for success in the planning process of the research, with regards to how the research project is designed. We discussed types of research designs, such as alternating treatment design (ATD) ABAB design, and concurrent or non-concurrent multiple baseline designs (MBDs). Although some of this information was familiar to me from previous course-work and education, it was very beneficial for me to have a refresher on the material—especially because I am preparing to enter the clinical portion of the curriculum, where I will need to form and present research on a single subject. For me, seeking out new knowledge can take many different forms, however it is all centered on the same principle, the pursuit of excellence.