Guest Post: Why do a Fellowship…a view from the inside

Today’s post is by Austin Sheldon, PT, DPT. Austin is a recent graduate of the NAIOMT-ANDREWS Orthopedic Clinical Residency Program. He’s currently enrolled in the NAIOMT OMPT Fellowship Program and the DSc program at Andrews. In the post below, Austin shares his reasons for pursuing the path to excellence:

My Reasons for Pursuing Fellowship

“You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and you still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try – you don’t take the risk.” – Rosalyn Carter.

While the profession of physical therapy is not a game, it is most certainly a challenging career. Each day, we are faced with new and unique patients, with presentations far off of what we learned in physical therapy school. For some, frustration comes easy as the patients we interact with do not improve as expected, understood, or taught; for others, it is this problem-solving that brings us back to the clinic each day, finds us searching PubMed late at night, and yearning to apply the new-found knowledge to the case that had us scratching our heads.

For me, the path to fellowship began as soon as I graduated from physical therapy school. Straight out of grad school, I began taking a series of continuing education classes in pursuit of knowledge and skill. Upon completing the series of classes, I felt I had developed sufficient psycho-motor skills with my hands. But that’s where my learning and skill stopped…something was still missing. What I had failed to do was place myself in an appropriate environment where the reasoning for the use of the psycho-motor skills would flourish. Upon self-reflection, I realized I needed to make professional changes.

So, I made changes. I found a new job with a supportive employer in an appropriate environment. I then pursued residency options and found a perfect fit with the Andrews University/NAIOMT orthopaedic manual physical therapy program. Over the course of the next twenty-three months, I experienced immeasurable growth in both critical thinking and clinical reasoning; a perfect and needed compliment to psycho-motor skills. Equally important, and equally immeasurable, was the mentorship and guidance I received. Being challenged by being asked to think critically and reason through problems in the clinic by someone better than you is one way to improve as a physical therapist. Justifying doing a stress test on a patient whose history does not suggest trauma, failing a live patient examination, being asked referral patterns and being wrong, all these examples and more, real failure, helped me to improve as a physical therapist.

After having completed the residency, I was left with a “Now what?” feeling, a drive to continue on the path set forth by my mentors. Importantly, I knew that I could still improve with all my thinking, reasoning, and psycho-motor skills, and importantly, my mentor was not afraid to tell me. Fittingly, I applied for the opportunity to begin the NAIOMT OMPT fellowship program.  The details of this fellowship program can be found on the NAIOMT web-page, but suffice to say that it is a comprehensive program consisting of 1:1 hours, indirect hours, didactic work, research, tutorials, and teaching opportunities. All this equates to further opportunities of growth, of success, and yes, even of failure.

By letting go of ego, allowing one to be vulnerable to constructive criticism and open to failure, continued success and personal growth are possible. I’d go as far as to say that if you avoid failure, if you take the path of least resistance, you are quite simply limiting your chance of being the best possible you. Follow residents-in-training and fellows-in-training along our journey to become better therapists. I think you’ll like what you see!

Austin Sheldon, PT, DPT

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