Athletic Training Certification to DPT School

Krista Berzonsky, SPT ’23

My athletic training background has helped me remarkably in the DPT program thus far. Specifically, it has aided in my understanding of detailed concepts more quickly and has allowed me to feel more comfortable taking practical exams. My past clinical experiences in athletic training have aided me greatly with the challenges of being a first-year PT student.

The first semester of PT school is notably one of the hardest, and that’s without the looming presence of a global pandemic. There is a great deal of information coming at you very fast every day. The concepts and hands-on skills we are being introduced to this semester are advanced, but I’ve been fortunate that there hasn’t been much that I’m hearing about for the first time. This prior knowledge has allowed me to focus on the details, instead of learning the entire concept for the first time. For example, I’ve previously assisted in rehabilitation programs for athletes returning to play from an ACL surgery, meaning I know the detailed anatomy of the knee joint and its functions, along with how to track progress in terms of range of motion and strength. This experience helped to make learning palpation, goniometry and manual muscle testing much easier.

Another huge benefit of being an athletic trainer is feeling comfortable taking practical exams. It’s already challenging and nerve-wracking enough to be told to do something on the spot in front of a proctor, let alone doing it for the first time in a graduate program. Most people are used to being tested on the material by taking written exams, so this unfamiliar format can be intimidating. During these practicals, we are expected to communicate with our partner in the same manner as we would with a patient in the clinic; meaning we can’t speak “PT language” to them. Because of my extensive clinical experience during undergrad, translating “PT language” to laymen’s terms is something I’ve had a lot of practice with, since many athletes and patients don’t acquire the same level of medical knowledge as we do.

Even though there is a strong correlation between athletic training and physical therapy, there is also a lot of variation. However, I know there will be many opportunities to apply my current knowledge as I move forward in the program and learn new PT-specific skills. I’m excited to combine my education and experiences from both of these careers to help me become the best healthcare professional I can be. Regardless of your undergraduate experience, I believe that Pitt has built a program that ensures each and every one of its students are on the best path to becoming great physical therapists.