Rites of Passage into the Profession

By Deusinger, Susan S. | Journal, Physical Therapy Education, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Rites of Passage into the Profession


Deusinger, Susan S., Journal, Physical Therapy Education


Becoming a physical therapist entails several distinct transitions in thought and behavior. As educators, we accompany our students as they proceed through each transition and hope that we influence them positively along the way. Our challenge is to provide appropriate-but not TOO much-guidance to ensure that each student attains the knowledge and skill, and sustains the energy and creativity, necessary to make a lifelong commitment to learning and change in physical therapy. Let us consider four key points of transition, each with its own "rite of passage" to the next, and what our roles may be in facilitating movement from one phase to another in the process of becoming a physical therapist. The four transitions are: admission into the professional program, matriculation in didactic education, participation in clinical education, and entry into the world of employment.

Our students' first transition follows months of carefully preparing written materials, communicating with numerous individuals about prerequisites and qualifications, and waiting for decisions to be made about which applicants are chosen. We know the stress of the admissions process is only an introduction of what is to come, and that many more "rites" are ahead before a physical therapist emerges. However, passage through this process completes a critical transition in each student's life because it means finally committing to a career choice. Our best influence during the admissions process is to be clear (about the nature of, and opportunities in, physical therapy), kind (in the way we deliver information about our decisions), and compassionate (in understanding the inevitable stress imposed in this process).

The second transition is composed of numerous subphases, each involving its own special "rite." Taken together, successful passage through the various phases of didactic education is a major undertaking, requiring persistence and effort by students and faculty alike. Success in didactic education invariably leads to new beliefs, new ideas, and new skills-and eligibility for the third rite of passage into clinical education. Our roles in the didactic transition are to be fair yet rigorous, enthusiastic yet realistic, substantive yet relevant, and to demonstrate commitment without obsession so that our students can be successful in applying their new abilities in the context of the modern health care system. …

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