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PT School Clinical: Special Tests, Spinal Manipulations, and Back Evaluations

This post is included in a 5-part series about my part-time clinical in PT school, which occurred during my 2nd year of physical therapy school. Click the following links for the complete series:

Day 5: Learning about diagnoses, special tests, exercises, and spinal manipulations

I learned about subacromial decompression, Thompson test for Achilles tendon tear, lateral walkouts with a theraband, and scapular retractions against a wall. I was able to ask the subjective questions during an evaluation, but I struggled with typing while listening to the patient. My CI suggested that I focus more on having a conversation, instead of focusing too much about what I have to ask next in the EMR.

The third year PT student took a 2 hour block of my CI’s patients, so my CI taught me about spinal manipulations and performed several on me. It was so cool to feel the manipulations working, but the cervical ones were pretty scary. I also took a patient’s ankle MMT and ROM, and learned that I need to practice those skills so I’m faster, more confident, and more accurate.

Day 6: Low back evaluation and last day reflections

Today I was able to do soft tissue on a patient, and it was cool to be able to feel nodules in the muscle tissue. It was nice to finally be able to practice on someone that isn’t a classmate. I also learned about the scour test, the fitzgerald test, and Schmorl’s nodes.

I was able to see a low back eval performed by a different PT so I was able to compare similarities and differences to other low back evals that I’ve seen. I was able to ask the subjective questions during the low back eval and felt a lot more comfortable asking questions, but I still struggle with typing while listening and thinking about followup questions. I am planning on improving that skill by  being more active while watching evaluations and thinking about what questions I would ask before my CI asks them. Like last time, I was able to follow a few patients with their ther-ex flow sheet, and I felt more comfortable explaining exercises and making small talk.

I’ve learned a lot in these past six weeks, including being more confident in my knowledge and skillset, being okay with not knowing everything, and realizing what skills I still need to improve. I also learned that I really need to start relearning information from previous semesters, since I only really focus on the current semester’s material and have forgotten quite a bit in the past year.

It was tough to say goodbye on my last day, and it took me a while to leave because I wanted to make sure to say bye to everybody. Everyone was so welcoming and reassuring, and I couldn’t have asked for a better practicum location.

Have you learned about cervical spine manipulations? What did you think?

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