Hands on Learning at Novacare Rehabilitation

Name: Kaylin Dong

Year: Senior

Major: Biological Sciences, Psychology

CFS Class: Field Studies in Public Health

Employer: Novacare Rehabilitation

My internship at Novacare Rehabilitation has been very rewarding and I have learned so much. Novacare Rehabilitation is a physical therapy (PT) office in downtown Chicago that treats patients of all ages and injuries. PT focuses on getting people back to full function and health after an injury or illness. Many new patients have come into the office complaining that they can no longer do a variety of simple tasks that greatly impact their everyday life. For example, one patient could no longer lift their arms above shoulder height after surgery, and this prevented them from being able to reach the top shelf in the kitchen or to close an overhead bin on an airplane. The physical therapist diagnosed the patients condition, analyzed the muscle groups that were impacted, and formed a treatment plan that incorporated simple medical procedures (ie. dry needling) and muscle exercises in order to get the patient back to normal function. Physical therapy not only involves a curative component that is the focus of medicine, but it also has a preventative component that strengthens muscle groups and increases healthy behaviors so that the likelihood of a future injury is decreased. Furthermore, a new Illinois regulation that passed a couple months ago now allows people to go to PT without a doctor’s referral (before Sept 2018, a doctor’s note was required). This increases access to PT, and thus quality health services, to more people in the community that may have functional difficulties, but do not have the resources to consult a doctor first. PT is is such an impactful field, and I feel so blessed to be able to witness it working first hand.

I mainly work with two physical therapists who are both talented in the field. During my internship, I split my time between observing the PT’s one-on-one session with the patients and then leading exercises with patients. At first, it was very overwhelming to learn all the different exercises for the different injuries that the PT would prescribe, but learning hands-on made the learning process much more efficient. After 3 weeks, I was able to lead several patients through their entire exercise routine without the PT intervening. During their exercises I would converse with the patients, and I felt that I made a genuine connection with quite a few of them. I learned that one patient was expecting his first child in about a month, another has traveled to more that half of the countries in the world, and even another has run about 5 marathons in her life. The patients I work with are not just cases of injuries that need to be fixed, they are real life people with families, a unique past, and aspirations. They are simply trying to get back to full function in order to spend quality time with said family, to create an even better future, and to reach for those dreams.