Diversity SIG has had a busy week of Outreach! During the last week of September, we shared various aspects of our profession with approximately 50 students who are interested in a career in medicine at both Hillside High School and UNC-Greensboro!
Overall, students seemed surprised and excited by the broad scope of practice,modalities, patient populations, and settings in which physical therapists work. After all, who wouldn’t love masking a physical therapy session as “play time” when working with children or rehabbing an injured basketball player with balance deficits by shooting free throws on one leg? A quick scan of the crowd upon sharing brief examples of how creative PT treatment sessions can be leads me to think that students found this aspect of our profession especially appealing!
Before beginning each presentation, we surveyed the groups to determine who had prior knowledge and/or experience with physical therapy. Only 1/3 of the audience raised their hand in either of the info sessions. This speaks to the need for one of the imperatives of this SIG, OUTREACH! We made sure to answer questions at the end of the sessions which increased their PT IQ in a more personal, unique way. The participants asked questions that were both curious and thoughtful, showing a real engagement for the ins and outs of the profession that we love.
Each presentation was quite different. The UNC-G students received a rather in-depth 30-minute presentation describing various aspects of our profession, followed by a Q&A session. The students we presented to already identified themselves as future healthcare professionals; they were members of the school’s Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (or MAPS). Our goal with this meeting was to expose them to physical therapy as a possible career in the medical realm. I dare say we were successful based on comments such as “Wow, I didn’t realize physical therapists did so much!” and “Physical therapy seems really cool!”
The other session was with the high school group which received a 10 minute spiel about PT followed by a 30 minute breakout session that allowed them to experience some of the tests that physical therapists administer. We tested cranial nerves II and III with the pupillary light reaction as well as gave a brief explanation of the role that vision and somatosensation play in maintaining balance. We got the students involved and allowed them to experience it for themselves by running through an abridged version of the BESS test. It was fantastically entertaining listening in on their many variations of “Oh my goodness, I think I’m going to fall!” and watching their faces reflect wonder as they practiced performing the pupillary light reaction on each other. We were provided a great opportunity to collaborate with students from the Duke PA program during this session, who also shared details about their profession and demonstrated tests that they use with their patients everyday.
We couldn’t have asked for better introductory outreach experiences as we begin working to increase awareness of our great profession. Diversity SIG is already scheduled to make appearances at other schools in the area this semester so stay tuned!