Service-Learning & Community Service
- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
Starting in May until late August, I volunteered and shadowed physical therapists at two locations through Jefferson Regional Medical Center. One or two days a week, I would volunteer at an outpatient physical therapy location in Bethel Township, Pittsburgh, PA in a building called Wellness and Health Pavilion. Then, every Thursday, I would volunteer at the main Jefferson Hospital at the inpatient department.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
Personally, this experience impacted me about how important maintaining your physical health is. I realized how important exercising and stretching can be. Even if I walked a couple miles everyday or exercised for a little, I would be able to prevent some of the problems that could occur just from being lazy. A lot of the knee or back problems I observed were a lot of times due to weight and unhealthy exercise habits. By having a routine for exercise, these problems can, for the most part, be avoided. Overall, this experience showed me that with a little dedication, motivation, and a positive attitude, anyone can recover from a surgery well and can fix the problems he or she is having.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
One of the most important things I learned this summer was how physical therapy applied in so many different ways. Not only is physical therapy for people who have just had surgeries for their knees, shoulders, hips, back, etc., but it also has many other uses. I learned that physical therapy is used for concussions. Exercises involving balance, eye exercises using finger movement, and even computer memory games are all a part of physical therapy. Furthermore, I learned that women’s health is a part of physical therapy. For example, after pregnancy women sometimes urinate a little when they sneeze, stand up, or cough. In order to stop this, physical therapy is done to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. During my time at the physical therapy departments, I was able to witness all of these different types of therapy put to use. Overall, I learned that physical therapy is something that helps in all sorts of situations and being strict with exercises can lead to improvement. These experiences and interactions showed me how physical therapy has a solution for many types of situations and knowing that a person has a solution to their problem can give people the motivation and dedication to recover.
Furthermore, getting to know the physical therapists and staff members and getting to interact with patients taught me a lot as well. As I shadowed each physical therapist, I was able to ask questions about each patient’s condition and observe the methods physical therapists used to help patients. Sometimes, with patient permission, I was able to feel certain muscles, measure flexibility of muscles, and aid in the patient’s exercises. I really appreciated and enjoyed how much the physical therapists were willing to let me participate and be hands on with shadowing. It really helped me feel like I was able to contribute to a patient’s recovery and helped me discover the importance of certain exercises and habits people should have or maintain.
Additionally, getting to know each physical therapist I interacted with was a fun experience. Learning why each person became a physical therapist, conversing about weekend plans, family, music, and experiences in life made my experience unforgettable. Thus, building relationships with the physical therapists and being able to interact with patients helped me gain a new perspective on physical therapy and really increase my appreciation for this field. The positive attitude each therapist had and motivation the physical therapists gave their patients showed me that I can be that motivated, persevering, and dedicated person too.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
Volunteering and shadowing physical therapy this summer really helped me realize why I wanted to do physical therapy. My academic goal is to go to physical therapy school to get my doctorate. By volunteering for four months, I was able to get the hours I needed to apply for physical therapy school. Furthermore, personally, I strive to be a person that is accepting of all people and personable towards everyone. This summer I met all sorts of people, each with their own stories, background, etc. Seeing how easily the physical therapists were able to interact with the patients, keep their calm in all situations, and be as positive as possible, even when patients were not in the best moods, inspired to make that goal something that I constantly achieve and better myself at. Additionally, this experience has impacted my life goal of doing a job or working in a field where I can help others and interact with people. I got to witness the effect physical therapy had on patients that came back week after week, improving with every visit. This showed me that with dedication, hard work, and a little inspiration you can reach your goals. The physical therapists I worked with were truly helping their patients and I saw how much these patients appreciated what their therapists did for them. All in all, this summer’s experience have strengthened, built, and given my goals a new perspective.