The Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) prompt for the 2017-2018 cycle reads as follows:
"What is professionalism in the context of being a student in a doctor of physical therapist degree program?"
This prompt presents greater challenges compared to the standard personal statement prompt that asks, “Why do you want to pursue this profession?” The PTCAS prompt requires pre-PT students to describe their notions of professionalism as a student physical therapist without experiencing a DPT education themselves.
While this prompt is difficult, I have organized a few ideas from my experience as a current student physical therapist to assist you in writing your statement:
This is the single most important aspect of professionalism that a student will need to practice and utilize throughout their education and beyond.
Can you accurately express your ideas through written and verbal communication? Do you utilize an appropriate vocabulary for your audience? Do your posture and body language match your words and tone? In addition, can you listen effectively and without judgement?
Not only will you practice these skills as a student with faculty, clinicians and peers, but you will undoubtedly need to be an effective communicator for patients. Professional communication is integral for developing strong patient-therapist relationships and achieving the best outcomes.
Part of being a healthcare professional student involves recognizing that you are responsible for your own education. Are you willing to accept this responsibility? If you are struggling in a course, are you able to understand your shortcomings? Or are you quick to assign blame to the professor, the TA and/or the test questions?
DPT programs move fast, and unless a student requests to slow down or clarify information, the faculty will assume that everyone is on the same page. Therefore, the student must ensure that they fully understand the material presented in class or seek out additional resources. Find a study group, reflect on your habits, develop a study schedule and/or ask professors for strategies to improve your learning.
Students must demonstrate this sense of initiative and accountability for their education. As an undergraduate, the consequence for poor performance on an exam might be only a low grade. As a DPT student, this same lack of accountability for one’s education could affect patient care.
Physical therapists must maintain a professional license. Do you understand what it means to follow an ethical code? You may encounter situations during your clinical rotations that may force you to report unethical practices. The admissions faculty want to know that you will abide by the law and act in the best interest of your patients when confronted with these dilemmas.
If you have other professional licenses, write about what it means to uphold them. Do you follow a religious code or belief system? Have you been confronted with an ethical dilemma, and if so, how did you respond? An understanding of ethics is important for maintaining a professional license and therefore it should be articulated in your statement.
This attribute can be shown in multiple ways. As you will hear repeatedly, a DPT program can be very stressful. In order to succeed in this environment, a student must be reflective of their own intellectual, social, physical and emotional wellness. In addition, a student must understand their personal needs for maintaining these areas of wellness, especially under stress.
Beyond managing personal wellness, a student will need to be able to learn and discuss health issues in a mature and professional manner. Patients entrust their care with physical therapists while they are in a vulnerable state. Without the maturity to conduct a professional examination, therapists cannot expect to build strong relationships and/or achieve the best patient outcomes.
These are a few topics of professionalism that you may want to discuss in your personal statement. Be mindful of the language and tone of your personal statement because this will also reflect your understanding of professional communication. Remember to not only answer the question, but incorporate aspects of yourself by writing about personal experiences. After all, this statement is your best opportunity to provide context to your story and why you want to become a physical therapist.
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Describe the professional goals you hope to achieve by pursuing graduate study in physical therapy:
This is what I have so far. Any criticism is greatly appreciated.
Pursuing a degree in physical therapy always seemed to be an unreachable goal I set as junior in high school, but as I write this statement, I realize that the pursuit is only the beginning. Michael Jordan once said, "I hope the millions of people I've touched have the optimism and desire to reach their goals through hard work and persevere with a positive attitude". Michael Jordan and Mariano Rivera have been athletes whom I've admired throughout my entire life because of the obstacles they have overcome that made them who they are today. In 2012, Rivera suffered a torn ACL, and only because of the critical role physical therapists played in the rehabilitation process, was he able to return for his final season at age 43. My professional goal is to become a part of this process and be the reason why individuals are able to lift their arm, stand up from a chair, or walk again.
Sports have been the driving force for my aspiration of becoming a physical therapist. After sustaining a significant sports related injury, I knew I found my dream career. As a freshman in college I underwent elbow reconstruction surgery after I tore my ulnar collateral ligament. I was devastated by the thought that I would never be able to return to pitching. However, this feeling was quickly replaced by hope and optimism because of my physical therapist, Dr. Dodd. Dodd ensured me that he would work as diligently as he could in order to get me back onto the playing field. His knowledge of my injury and confidence in what therapeutic exercises and modalities would put me on the path to recovery helped put my mind at ease and I was able to concentrate on the recovery process. Without a physical therapist to guide me through the rehabilitation process I would not been able to recover from that injury. I want to be able to instill the same feeling into patients who feel like they are faced with the seemingly insurmountable.
As a current undergraduate with an intended major in Kinesiology, I have only begun to scratch the surface of understanding the intricate biomechanics involved in movement of the human body. Through my study of physical therapy, I aim to gain the knowledge I need to truly impact the life of an individual with therapeutic exercise. Learning, perfecting, and teaching the correct motor program for different movements has always been a burning desire of mine. Over the summer, I was able to work as an intern at Full Throttle Athletics. At Full Throttle, I learned valuable cues that may allow therapists to effectively convey the movement patterns to patients who are unfamiliar with exercise and biomechanics. Pursuing the graduate study of physical therapy will allow me to continue to fulfill my desire while increasing the quality of life of individuals.
Through my observation experiences of in-patient and out-patient settings, I was able to get a taste of how big of an impact therapeutic exercise can have on an individual's quality of life. One day I was able to work with a patient that was suffering from a stroke and many other health ailments. Both of the patient's legs had atrophied to the point where he was unable bear weight. The physical therapist and I were only able to perform passive range of motion exercises when we first began therapy; however, through the perseverance of the therapist to keep the patient motivated, we were able to have him able to bear weight for a total of five minutes. While this may seem like an insignificant accomplishment to others, the moment that we were able to share together is another professional goal I strive to accomplish through the progressive study of physical therapy.
Your essay reads well. The linking between sports and physical therapy, and tying it in with your own personal experience was done well!
Your essay might benefit from attention to style and thorough proofreading, though. For example, "Dodd ensured me that he would work as diligently as he could..." should be "Dodd assured me.." There are a couple of other typos/mistakes like that.
Finally, is there a word limit imposed? If not, you could consider adding more details; it seems a little shorter than average.
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