The Monday Memo
September 12, 2016 PITT DPT STUDENTS
Physical therapy can be practiced in a very diverse group of settings, many of which I was not aware of prior to starting PT school. One of our professors here at Pitt likes to tell us to “Practice at the top of the profession”, and I believe one of the ways that can be taken is to push boundaries, recognize areas where your profession is needed but not being utilized, and then advocate for your profession. My experience with this happened when I was abroad in Sydney, Australia for my full time 6 week clinical.
I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Sydney this summer for a clinical at a small, private orthopedic clinic. It was much like any other orthopedic clinic with a fair share of shoulder, back, and knee patients, however we also saw a number of musicians. David Peterson, the director of the clinic and my CI, worked closely with a number of orchestras in Sydney, bringing care to an area of the performing arts not previously attended to strongly by physical therapists. While some musicians do come out to the clinic to see him, David also works part-time on site with the orchestras during certain times in their seasons. He conducts pre-tour physical preparation classes with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and then accompanies them on tour to keep them all moving and healthy to help manage any injuries that occur during the busy couples of weeks away.
While I was in Sydney, I got the chance to accompany him to work with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (AOBO), and Opera Australia (OA), as they finished up a long season. For their last three weekends, we would see patients backstage at the Sydney Opera House between their matinee and evening performances. The treatment sessions were short and sweet to fit as many people in as possible, and they were made up of mostly hands on treatment and patient education. These sessions opened my eyes to the immense variety of physical therapy needs, even among the performing arts population. Many of the patient cases were singers who were physically exhausted after standing on a raked stage for a 4-hour opera, or musicians who felt stiff and sore after being cramped into the pit and constantly turning in one direction to look at the screen. There were also a lot of jaw and throat problems in the singers, including a woman who had marked tightness in her laryngeal muscles, and reported that it was affecting her vocal production.
Many of our patients were new to being seen by a physical therapist backstage, and after just learning about it myself, I got the chance to educate many of patients about what physical therapy could do for them as singers in the chorus, soloists, and pit musicians. I got to advocate for my profession with a population who don’t typically benefit from it but definitely should. In Sydney, it’s becoming more common for musicians to be seen by physical therapists, and there are number of very skilled therapists at the University of Sydney who are dedicated to research in this field, but elsewhere, it has a long way to go.
As I return to the states after a very educational clinical, I want to share this experience with my classmates and colleagues, so that I can be an advocate for this unique niche of physical therapy. I was fortunate enough to get some experience with this, and I want to continue to do my part in pushing the boundaries of the profession to be better and to reach more people, and to broaden people’s perspectives of physical therapy, as my own perspectives were broadened this summer.
-Emer O’Reilly, DPT Class of 2018
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