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A Day in the Life of A Physical Therapy Sports Resident

by Jennifer Fath PT, DPT, MS, CSCS


Jennifer Fath, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS:

What made you decide to pursue residency training?

The main reasons I wanted to pursue residency training include: getting my patients better faster, mentorship, exposure to a wide variety of opportunities, networking, and improved confidence in my treatment of patients.

I do not want patients I am treating to get better simply because time passes by and the idea of having structured mentorship time really appealed to me. Additionally, learning about acute injury management for sports events was a strong pull for me to pursue a sports residency specifically.

Overall, I feel PT school does a good job of training us to be generalists. However, residency training is the fast track to becoming a specialist and I felt that this was the perfect time to learn the best practices for my patients.

What residency program are you attending and why?

I am currently a Sports Resident PT at The Ohio State University. I chose OSU because of how well-rounded the program is and because of the amount of opportunities I felt I could be exposed to. For me, I wanted the opportunity to participate in event coverage, teaching, and research in addition to the amount of time we spend in the clinic. For sports residencies, a big question will always be what events will you be covering and how frequently will you cover them? At OSU, we get to spend the entire Fall and Spring semesters with the Men’s Club Rugby team, which allows for great continuity as we cover all of their practices and games.

Additionally, we have the opportunity to cover Women’s Club Rugby and the OSU Marching Band during the following Fall semester. Due to the length of the program (18 months), OSU also has a great transition period between residents as we have a 6-month overlap where the new “junior” residents have an opportunity to be mentored by the seasoned “senior” residents since they have completed 12 months of the program prior to the arrival of the new residents.

Can you give an example of a “typical” week in the residency program?

Typically, our schedule runs from 10am-7pm with adjustments made for rugby practices and teaching in the musculoskeletal labs within OSU’s DPT program. For instance, this current semester typically looks like this:

Monday: 10:00am-11:30am – Clinic, 12:30pm-3:30pm – Teaching in Musculoskeletal Lab, 4:00pm-7:00pm – Clinic

Tuesday: 10:00am-4:00pm – Clinic, 4:30pm-7:00pm – Advanced Orthopedic Class

Wednesday: 10:00am-11:30am – Clinic, 12:30pm-3:30pm – Teaching in Musculoskeletal Lab, 5:30pm-8:30pm – Rugby Practice Coverage

Thursday: 10:00am-5:00pm – Clinic, 7:00pm-9:30pm – Rugby Practice Coverage

Friday: 7:00am-9:00am – Orthopedic and Sports Residency Conferences, 9:00am-10:00am – Teaching Prep Meeting for Lab the following week, 10:00am-7:00pm – Clinic

Saturday: Rugby Games/Event Coverage

The schedule will fluctuate depending on the time of the year. When rugby is not in season or when we are spending less time with event coverage, we will spend a greater percentage of our time in the clinic, with research, or doing physician shadowing. Additionally, we have a rotation in the athletics department at OSU during the Spring semester that would also alter the schedule to some degree.

What is your typical case load in the program?

We typically do not have to see more than one patient an hour. However, you may feel the need to get some patients in and have some overlap in your schedule. Ultimately, this will be your choice as long as you are meeting productivity. We need to average 14 units per a day in order to meet productivity, which residents generally have no problem meeting.jennifer-fath-sports-res

As an accredited Sports Residency program, your caseload should consist of 40% athletes. We like to keep that number around 50% or more with the rest of your caseload consisting of general orthopedic/musculoskeletal injuries. We spend three hours of mentored treatment time in the clinic per a week. This is time we spend treating patients with a mentor alongside us or an opportunity for us to observe and watch one of our mentors evaluate/treat a patient. All other hours in the clinic are spent independently treating patients.

How much does the program cost? (i.e. reduced salary or full salary but paying tuition)

We do not have any tuition costs associated with the program at OSU. We do earn a reduced salary that is based on the amount of time we spend in the clinic. Our schedule includes spending 26 hours a week out of a 40-hour work week in the clinic and thus, we earn 65-70 percent of a full-time physical therapist salary commensurate with our experience.

What opportunities have you or will you seek out after finishing the residency program?

At this point, I am keeping my options open. Since my residency program does not finish up until December 2017, I am keeping an open mind. Some options I have started to explore include an Orthopedic Manual Therapy Fellowship, an Upper Extremity Athlete Fellowship, or furthering my education through the pursuit of a PhD. Eventually, I see myself wanting to get more involved in the teaching aspect of physical therapy in addition to the time I will spend in the clinic in my future. I also would like to stay involved with providing event coverage for either a high school or an intercollegiate team.

What have you gained from attending the program (knowledge, skills, etc…) that you may not have gained otherwise?

This list could be rather extensive. In my short time here, I feel as if I have developed critical thinking skills to help justify what I think would be the best treatment for my patients, become more efficient in treating my patients, grown as a public speaker and presenter, as well as developed a new set of skills to manage acute injuries during sports events. I have already started to see changes in myself as a clinician in just the brief 16 weeks I have been here. I am looking forward to continuing to grow throughout the entire length of this 18-month long program!

What advice do you have for students that wish to pursue a residency after graduation?

Be active in the search for the right residency program for you. Residencies are an outstanding learning opportunity, but it is meant to be a process that you enjoy. While residencies can be very competitive, it is equally important that you are finding a place that you think is right for you as opposed to simply just trying to be accepted by one. Contact residency program directors with questions, do not be afraid to travel to places to shadow current or past residents, and attend National Conferences such as CSM to network and meet individuals involved with specific programs.

Additionally, be sure you know why you want to pursue residency training and what you hope to get out of it. Each program offers something a little bit different. While the APTA has certain requirements for a program to be accredited, there is definitely room for flexibility. For instance, programs affiliated with universities may have more extensive teaching opportunities. If teaching is not something that interests you, it may be something that you factor in to your decision.

Additionally, a big component of residencies is the mentoring. Find out how mentoring will be set-up. Are you assigned one mentor for the duration of your program or will you be exposed to various mentors? Do not be afraid to ask residency programs these questions and more to ensure the fit is good for both parties involved!

Looking for more information? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Travel Therapy here:

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