Ask Mike Reinold Show

How to Choose a Physical Therapy School

On this episode of the #AskMikeReinold show we talk about choosing the best physical therapy school for you. There are a bunch of things to consider, and your goals may be different than others. To view more episodes, subscribe, and ask your questions, go to mikereinold.com/askmikereinold.

#AskMikeReinold Episode 237: How to Choose a Physical Therapy School

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Show Notes



Transcript

Student:
Yes. We have a question from Sarah from Texas. I’m in the process of trying to decide between a few physical therapy schools. Do you have any advice on how to choose the best physical therapy program?

Mike Reinold:
Awesome. Good question Katie, I think, articulated it amazingly. I’m very impressed. So good question, Sarah. We get this question a little bit in various forms. So I think this will be a good episode to kind of tackle this a little bit, about how to choose a physical therapy school. I think we kind of jokingly say a lot of times, “Just pick the cheapest one at this point.” And that may be our conclusion of this episode. But I think maybe it’ll behoove us a little bit… I want to see how well they transcribe that. Let’s use big vocabulary words to see how our transcriptionists do with our audio. But anyway, I want to see if we can come up with a good comprehensive list right now. So I want to start with this, with the students briefly. What was the number one reason why you picked your school? And be honest. I think I’m kind of curious, if you have like a good reason, but other than it was the only one I got into. But what was the number one reason why you guys picked your schools?

Student:
I think, for me, for financial reasons, I wanted to go to public school, so it’s cheaper. Also just where you could get clinical affiliations is a big one. And then if you’re going to a school with interviews, hopefully, just apply to the interview. And I felt like it was a good fit in that regard.

Mike Reinold:
Because you liked what they had to say during the interview?

Student:
Yeah. Yeah, I just liked the environment. I felt like I could see myself being there. Because you spent pretty much your whole life at school, in [inaudible 00:04:06] school.

Mike Reinold:
I like it. Anybody else have anything to add to that? Anybody have a different reason?

Student:
No, I’d say I kind of had a lot of the same. Just the interview process itself… I don’t know. Like Katie said, the feel that you get there, and then also, just how well they can get clinical affiliations. So for someone, I guess in the setting, if you’re really wanting to go the sports route, knowing that they’re not going to shame you for wanting to go that route and wanting to get outside the comfort box, I’m looking for those sports clinicals.

Mike Reinold:
I like that. And do you guys request, do you ask for a list of the clinicals? Can you do that? Do you know ahead of time which clinicals you’ll have access to? No, not necessarily. So how do you pick a school then about clinicals? How do you know what clinicals you can access from the school?

Student:
So we were able to ask if they were willing to set up new affiliations. And also I think, some schools, it’s harder to get out-of-state affiliations. I know in Nevada, primarily, we serve Nevada, because that’s one of the missions of the school. So that’s a big thing, I think, to ask.

Mike Reinold:
That’s their mission?

Student:
They’re-

Lenny Macrina:
Thank you for serving Massachusetts.

Mike Reinold:
Thank you so much for sacrificing from Massachusetts, Katie. That’s amazing. All right. Well, anybody else? Jonathan, Eric, any other reasons came to your guys’ mind? This is good so far, by the way, I like this.

Student:
I would say just, you got to look online for your school and just see where you kind of fit in grade wise and score wise. I think that’s an important thing, as far as making sure that you’re going to get to school that you’re not just applying to just apply. You got to take a look at your GRE scores, your overall GPA, and just kind of put those numbers into what they have rated online, to make sure that you’re going to get yourself into a program, because I think that’s just the biggest part.

Mike Reinold:
That makes sense.

Student:
And then from there on out, it’s kind of just going to the clinicals, like they’re saying, make sense for the field that you want to go to in the future.

Mike Reinold:
Okay. All right. So I’m hearing a recurring theme here of clinicals. And I actually liked that you guys said that, because I think that we probably are going to say that too, is that access to clinicals. Because your baseline knowledge is your baseline knowledge, but access to clinicals could put you over the edge, not only just in terms of your educational and experience and stuff, but connections. So, all right. Who wants to jump in first? Dave, you want to jump in on this one?

Dave Tilley:
Yeah. Along with the clinicals, the one thing that I definitely looked at was I wanted to make sure that the staff was still practicing physical therapists. That was something that I wanted to make sure when I was… Our program was bridge, so I didn’t take GREs. It was like once you were in from the beginning, you were there for six and a half years fully. And so when I transferred in, I was looking around like, “Oh, do I want to go to another school as a grad student and just do undergrad or not?” And I wanted to make sure that everybody who was on staff not only were academics, but they also still treated patients. Our neuro and our cardio professors were amazing. They were both board certified, but they still actively treated stroke patients, they actively worked at Duke’s hospital when they were on affiliations and still worked locally with hospitals. So I don’t know. That was really important for me to make sure they knew both sides of clinical and academic.

Mike Reinold:
That’s great. You can’t put enough emphasis on that, the clinical implications of some of the things that we teach. So I think that’s great. And not every professor has to be clinical. It’s not bad if you’re fully academic. Maybe they’re involved in research and other things. But I think having access to some clinical people, I like that. That’s good. Dan, did you have something too?

Dan Pope:
Yeah. I think what I’ve noticed with a lot of universities is that at least the orthopedic section, if you want to go to orthopedics and [inaudible 00:08:03], is very, very different from program to program. Some programs are very heavy manual based. Some are very evidence-based. Some do much more exercise. I think Johnny got education on the Olympic lifts, whereas Jonathan had no education on even how to do a squat. I know for me, and this is challenging, as a student, figuring out what you’re going to get, but it’s nice when you do the interview process, or even beforehand, if you could speak to some of the professors and see what their biases are, see what they like, and see if you really jive with those professors. Because I got to tell you, there’s some professors I thought were phenomenal, just because they liked some of the stuff that I did, and then some other professors where I don’t feel like I’ve learned quite as much, just because it didn’t fit my learning style and what I wanted to learn about and what I wanted out of my profession.

Dan Pope:
So if you’re able to speak with professors a little bit, potentially, maybe even sit down with a class or two, if you’re able to do that, to just learn a little more about what you’re going to get and see if that fits your needs.

Mike Reinold:
I like that. Great. Anybody else have anything to add there? Mike, what do you think?

Mike Scaduto:
Yeah, I would say two big things come to my mind. If it’s a college or a university that’s involved in a lot of research, I would probably want to reach out and ask what type of research they do, what kind of facilities they have. Now, do they have a big biomechanics lab? That would be really cool for you to get some experience in if you want to go into the research field or just get some experience creating research, and research study design. And then I think, following up on Dan’s point, talking to former students in that program, I think we see a lot of students that champion, and each one has a unique perspective of their own school. So I think talking to the professors, you may get one type of characterization of the program, but then talking to current or former students in the program will give you a different perspective, and they may have some good thoughts for you to consider.

Mike Reinold:
That makes sense. That’s actually great. And I want to emphasize a little bit, Mike had a few nice things in that little portion there, but I think if you were to look up your professors and just type them into PubMed and just see what their publications are, you’ll learn a lot about probably what they’re passionate about. Like Dan said, just trying to find a place that is passionate about the things he’s passionate about, that he wants to learn about a little bit. So if you try to figure out what your faculty is publishing on, then you know what they’re researching and you know what they’re thinking about all the time. So you’re probably going to get a good experience right there.

Mike Reinold:
I’d just add, maybe a couple of things I’d add is, if you want to get into like the research aspect of it, looking to what they have for lab opportunities and research assistant type things where you can participate in some of their studies that they’re doing. You could have one where the faculty that publishes is all cardiopulmonary, for example, and you want to get into orthopedics. So if you want to do research and nobody in your faculty is publishing on orthopedics, then that wouldn’t be a good fit necessarily. And then I think I’d just probably conclude the episode by emphasizing our first point. We’re in a jam. We’re in a jam here as a profession. And trust me, we’re all, I think everybody on here is on some of the PT student forums that are out there on the internet, either Facebook or through the American Academy of Physical Therapy, stuff like that that are out there.

Mike Reinold:
We’re seeing all the comments. We’re seeing. We ask all our students, unfortunately, how they’re doing with their financial loans and stuff and where they’re at. And we’re at a really weird crisis with our profession right now, where we have a lot of debt. So the debt is really adding up. So it’s super hard to say right now, if you’re comparing a school that’s going to cost you 15 grand a year and 60 grand a year, man, you are going to have to overwhelm me with reasons why that 60 grand is better than the 15 grand. And there may be some, I’m not saying there isn’t, so you have to weigh those factors there, but you’re going to have to overwhelm me there. That’s not a small factor to get started with the rest of your life.

Mike Reinold:
So keep that in mind. I do think finances should be pretty high up on your list. We’ve done a bunch of other good strategies. I think everything we kind of said here about assuring where the clinicals are, what your faculty does, these are all good things to research. I think the only thing I would add to kind of conclude the episode is this, and we talked about this with the students a little bit this week, is there’s a little bit of a sense of disappointment from a lot of students. And we see this with a lot of students. Most of them kind of feel this way a little bit, that they go through their program and they’re super disappointed that, “Oh, my program didn’t include X.” And sometimes, it’s usually advanced strength and conditioning. That’s a big one we have right now. “My program didn’t have that.”

Mike Reinold:
Remember, we’re going to physical therapy school to learn to become general physical therapists. You have a lot to learn in two and a half years or whatever it is. We have a lot to learn. You have to learn the basics on how to be a therapist, how to rule out sinister pathologies, medical complications, when to refer out to other people. We’re a big deal profession. If you’re expecting to graduate with intense knowledge on every sport, or strength and conditioning, or how to be an advanced clinician, that’s something you just got to realize takes time. And again, there’s residencies and fellowships and stuff like that if you really want to get there, but you could also do it the old fashioned way, like most of us, and you just get your hands dirty out in the field and you learn over time.

Mike Reinold:
It takes a while to develop your expertise in your field once you get there. Don’t feel bad about that. So I would just kind of leave it at that, and I think end the episode on that with that note here is that, don’t be frustrated with your school if they don’t have an advanced sports performance course. That is not baseline physical therapy that you need to graduate and to become a professional. From there, it’s up to you to kind of take it to the next level. Does that makes sense. But if that’s what you’re passionate about and you find one school that does have that elective class that covers it, then that’s great, but don’t feel frustrated if it doesn’t. Makes sense?

Mike Reinold:
Awesome. So good question, Sarah. Thanks so much for submitting that. I know that’s a big one. We get that one a lot in various forms. So I think it was really neat that we covered it here. And I think we covered a lot of different avenues on how you should approach this decision, because it’s not a small decision. So hopefully that helps. If you have questions like that, head to mikereinold.com, click on that podcast link, and you can fill out the form to ask us more questions. And please, please, please keep it going here. We’ve been doing this for five years now, by the way. I looked this up. I think it’s been five years. Weird, right? We don’t even believe it, but it’s been about five years or so doing this here, so let’s keep doing it. Head to iTunes, Spotify, rate and review, and we’ll see you on the next episode. Thanks so much.