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Top Reasons For Physical Therapists to Attend CSM

by Brett Kestenbaum, PT, DPT


Why all physical therapists should consider the Combined Sections Meeting

Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) is the premier physical therapy conference in the US, and we spoke to a couple attendees about the experience of attending CSM and why it’s a great opportunity for physical therapists and PT students to network and meet other people who share their passion!

Richard Severin's "Need-to-Knows" About CSM

APTA's Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) brings the physical therapy profession together for a week of education, collaboration, and innovation. There are few examples of situations where so many excellent physical therapists and students are condensed into one area. Last year’s conference had almost 10,000 attendees, and that conference was in Indianapolis, IN during the chill of winter. With this year’s conference being held in sunny Anaheim, CA (home of Disneyland) the numbers are expected to be even higher.

If you’re a student, this a great way to meet and network with other students from programs all across the country. Talking with other students allows you to experience different perspectives on education and practice from people in similar situations to your own. Probably more importantly, it’s a good way to start to develop your professional network. The people you meet at CSM are likely to be individuals who remain active in the profession and likely eventually lead it. It is easier to become successful when you are connected with those of the same motivated and competitive ilk.

It is also important for our profession to be connected. The stronger our professional connections are, both locally and globally, the stronger our voice is in regards to advocacy for policies important to physical therapy practice. The goal of physical therapy school is of course to obtain a position as a physical therapist after graduation. This can be difficult for many reasons, especially if you want to practice in a location different than your school or hometown. In many ways, CSM is a multi-day career fair, saturated with some of the most dynamic people in the profession, and each day you have the opportunity to meet some of them. In the exhibitors hall, there will be dozens of different companies and healthcare systems with booths where you can discuss potential employment opportunities. However, what’s even better is that there will be thousands of therapists at this conference, and many are private practice owners looking to hire new therapists. The individual face-to-face connection with a small business owner can easily result in a job opportunity.

At this conference you’ll have opportunities to meet with these people, especially if you attend the private practice section programming and events. A good strategy that I’ve used is to contact a clinic or company that you are interested in applying to, and ask to meet with them at CSM. This puts a face to your name, plus the fact that you are meeting at CSM speaks well to motivation and commitment to professional development. This is a particularly good strategy for those considering residency programs. As someone, who has interviewed residents, one of the first questions I’ve asked is “have you been a presenter or attendee at a national conference?” It does matter, and it looks good on your CV. Although your resume and application are important components of the hiring process, familiarity with your potential employer is arguably more important.

It’s quite true that who you know is often more important than what you know. In summary, national conferences provide amazing opportunities to develop as a clinician in many aspects. The rates are lower and the world is as big as you want it to be. In my opinion, CSM exposes you to the wide world physical therapy better than any other conference. What other event can you literally ask questions directly from a leader in their field of research (even face to face) and then an hour later sit in a session led by an expert clinician providing novel approaches to rehab, then follow it up with a social event with hundreds of your fellow PTs. That’s also not including being walking distance from Disneyland.

Jonathan Momplaisir and Danielle McDonald on why PT Students should attend CSM

Jonathan Momplaisir and Danielle McDonald are both students in physical therapy at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and are always impressed by the number of other attendees at the conference.

“To meet 17,000 other people who are passionate about what you’re passionate about—you can’t miss it,” Momplaisir says. He sees physical therapy as being all about progress and getting better, and says that CSM gives PT’s an opportunity to grow as clinicians and connect with other professionals. “It’s a great place to network,” McDonald agrees.

CSM features presentations and classes discussing the cutting edge of physical therapy, and Momplaisir is impressed by the diversity and sheer number of people attending these classes and improving their skills as professionals. “Just seeing who we are as a group, it’s been jaw dropping,” he says.

The exhibit hall shows off all the latest technology in physical therapy, as well as offering free swag to attendees and even the chance to play games. “Pretty sure this is where Iron Man got his suit,” Momplaisir laughs. “Some of the biotech is next level stuff.”

Momplaisir feels physical therapy is not taking advantage of its scope of practice, citing injury prevention and “maximizing the potential of the human form” as areas where the profession can grow and innovate. He points to the importance of helping clients reach the next level of health for their bodies. “CrossFit is on every corner, like McDonald’s,” he says. “Physical therapy can take advantage of this market.”

Tom Mork's Reasons to Attend CSM

I was deep in conversation with two PTA students over an enchilada plate and a margarita. NSC had just ended and, like last year, the conversation had not. All I knew was that I was so invigorated by this weekend that I could not wait until I saw these people again.

I hoped for the chance to engage in these discussions again, and I am fortunate enough to get that chance by attending CSM. Collaborating, learning, and connecting with other like-minded PTs are what these conferences were meant for. This is our chance to network. This is our chance to be a part of the change that is happening in physical therapy. This is why I am attending CSM this year.

Meredith Victor's Lighthearted CSM Experience

I have to admit that I totally squandered my first CSM experience. It was in Las Vegas, and my entire PT class attended, right after a tough term toward the beginning of school. My car had just been burglarized, and I needed to blow off steam. We all did. My class was like a pack of caged animals set free, and it was ugly. Lots of debauchery, and very little learning. It was honestly pretty embarrassing for our class! Of course, we have some fun memories from the experience, but most of my classmates and I silently rode home in glum realization of the opportunities we squandered that weekend.

A few of us returned a year later, tails between our legs, eager to learn. What I realized the second time around is that CSM is an unmatched opportunity to connect with other therapists and organizations. I spoke with a number of organizations from across the country, and added my name to multiple recruitment mailing lists. None of these connections would have been formed if I had not attended the conference, and I believe that the networking skills and speaking with their on-site liaisons helped me when it came time to interview. The experience also helped me determine where I wanted to live after graduation, as well as what settings appealed the most to me.

The courses were fantastic, too. Obviously, it's extremely convenient to rack up the CEU credits by hopping from room to room, but the quality of the courses is what really stood out to me. You have the opportunity to be the first to learn about the most recent physical therapy innovations and research, as well as developments within our professional community that help us grow and improve our care. My favorite part was the cross-disciplinary lectures provided, as I enjoy working as part of a healthcare team.

I will be attending again this year, and while I cannot promise that I'll completely abstain from shenanigans, I look forward to learning about the exciting changes in our profession and connecting with the passionate people who make physical therapy the fantastic career that it is! Hope to see yall there :)

Bill Denz CSM 101

CSM 2016 is upon us, and this is the first year I didn't go. I HATE not being there this year. I first attended 2 years ago in Las Vegas, and I attended last year in Indy. The combined sections meeting is an awesome opportunity for DPT students and graduates alike, but I didn't go.

Well, when this year's registration rolled around, I gave all the excuses everyone uses to avoid going to the CSM: I don't have the time, it's expensive, it's so far away. All those excuses are garbage, and I'm mad at myself for it.

I attended CSM twice as a student, and I learned so much beyond what I thought would be possible. I attended classes at CSM that were beyond excellent, such as shoulder evaluation, back pain treatment, pulmonary function in runners, and wound healing research! I even learned a lot from exhibitors as I wandered the massive exhibit hall. (And met the people who got me to try traveling PT!) But I learned so much beyond that at CSM. I learned about how PTs can use computer technology to promote our brand, both as a profession and nationally. I learned about PTs who work with Google to offer online consultation to both clients and other physical therapists. I learned how much a student can make a difference in medicine as classmates and myself gave various presentations on vascular research, teaching and learning, and testing effectiveness. We answered questions and discussed topics with seasoned veteran PTs. Watching the success and intelligence of my fellow SPTs gave me an overwhelming sense of pride in those hard-working students as well as the desire to make myself better. Go PTs!

And that's where CSM gives its true prize. This conference gives you ample information to better yourself, but more than that, it gives both SPTs and graduated DPTs the desire to better themselves. If everyone who attends CSM betters themselves individually, the PT profession as a whole will become far better as a whole. That's what CSM is about. CSM brings all of us together to share knowledge and cultivate the desire for more knowledge.

So if you're better than I was this year, and you're attending CSM 2016, I commend you. You're making our profession better, and I owe you for it. As for the rest of us, let's work to make CSM 2017 a reality. I can say with utmost certainty that I will be attending, and I hope you all travel to San Antonio in 2017 with me!


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