On Feb. 28, first-year DPT students and their friends and family, faculty members, and alumni gathered virtually for the Class of 2024 UCSF/SFSU DPT White Coat Ceremony. The ceremony marks the beginning of students’ clinical careers as they start their first full-time clinical rotations.
Prior to the live ceremony, students shot videos of their family members, loved ones, and even a few dogs, bringing them their white coats, followed by hugs, high fives and thumbs up. Locations ranged from in and outside students’ homes to San Francisco’s Presidio and Legion of Honor and other locations in the Bay Area, California, and beyond.
“Putting on a white coat symbolizes that first clinical experience for our first-year DPT students,” said Diane Allen, PT, PhD, Professor at SFSU. “When you don this coat, put on responsibility to merit confidence, put on compassion to warrant entry into another person's vulnerability. It is up to you to minimize intimidation while maximizing effective healthcare choices. Let your white coat signify both trust and caring.”
Alum Sharon Gorman, PT, DPTSc, Professor of Physical Therapy at Samuel Merritt University, provided the keynote address and offered a “top ten” list of tips to help students get the most out of their clinical education.
- The most important thing to remember is to not lose sight of your primary objective, which is enhancing the movement and activity of your patients.
- Don’t go it alone. Providing mutual support and having clear communication are important in successful patient care. Check in with your teammates frequently.
- Remember to ask for help. Be reflective about your practice and open to learning from everyone you can. Challenge yourself daily to recognize all the things you've learned from everyone you've come in contact with that day. Frequently, you'll surprise yourself at what you can learn from people you wouldn't expect were there to teach you.
- Don’t panic. We can't predict everything that might go sideways, especially in patient care. Stop, relax, breathe, and then think through the problem. Fight the urge to move quickly when things move off track.
- Think through challenges before you face them as much as possible. What could go wrong? Do you have a plan to monitor and react to that? What resources do you have available?
- Understand and communicate your limits. Be honest about them and make sure your team knows what they are. This doesn't mean that you won't learn during clinical placements – you will! – but make sure you know what your limits are before. Don't confuse overconfidence with ability.
- Remember to look around and appreciate the beauty all around you. Observation is a critical skill in patient care and the crux of your development as a physical therapist. Watch the anatomy, see the physiology, observe the biomechanics you've studied so hard right there in front of you. It's diverse and beautiful, and it would be a shame to miss it.
- Pursue avenues to expand your skillset, open your horizons, and grow as a physical therapist. Plan for a growth mindset for the rest of your career. PT school is just one small portion of your career.
- Track metrics. Don't just document your patient's progress, be sure to track yours as well. Are you becoming more efficient with documentation? Are you needing less time to conduct a chart review or a patient interview? Note your progress as well as your patient's progress.
- Don't forget to have fun. Everyone has their own story of why they came to physical therapy, don't forget yours. There will be times when you may lose sight of that so check in frequently with yourself and find ways to remind yourself why you started on this path.
During the ceremony students recited the American Physical Therapy Association's Oath for Physical Therapists:
As a physical therapist dedicated to providing the highest quality care and services, I solemnly pledge I will respect the rights and dignity of all individuals who seek my services or with whom I work; act in a compassionate and trustworthy manner in all aspects of my services; exercise sound professional judgment while abiding by legal and ethical requirements; demonstrate integrity during interactions with colleagues, other healthcare providers, students, faculty, researchers, the public, payers for the enhancement of patient care and the advancement of the profession; enhance my practice through lifelong acquisition and application of knowledge, skills, and professional behavior; participate in efforts to meet physical therapy and health care needs of local, national, and global communities. Thus, with this oath, I accept the duties and responsibilities that embody the physical therapy profession.
Watch the full ceremony here.