D.P.T. students serve rural areas

DMU seeks hard-to-get internship opportunities for P.T. students. Can you help?
Whitney Henke’s internship included helping children improve their mobility by utilizing the movements of horses.

During her 10-week clinical internship at Spencer Hospital in northwest Iowa, Kelley Lazenby, D.P.T.’10, didn’t suffer the sleepy stereotype of rural life.

“I have seen every age from six months to a 100-year-old woman in a nursing home, patients who’ve had accidents and surgeries, and outpatient and acute,” says Lazenby. “In a specialty clinic, you might see one thing all day. It’s fun to do something different every day.”

She would have had to choose a different site, however, had she not been able to live with friends in the area. “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t known people there,” she notes.

That’s a problem for physical therapy students willing to accept internships in rural areas but who can’t find affordable housing. One solution: having more DMU alumni who practice in those areas, and in hard-to-get specialties of acute care and neurology, take students as interns.

“We think students would be more willing to intern in rural areas if the housing issue could be resolved,” says April Newton, M.S.P.T., an instructor and director of clinical education in the physical therapy program. “That’s why we hope alumni will take on more of our students.”

Jeff Denson, M.S.P.T.’00, D.P.T.’06, and Mary Blakeman Ross, M.S.P.T.’96, who practice at McMeen Physical Therapy in Broken Bow, Neb., have an edge in recruiting students to their town of 3,700: The local medical center has a house for students interning there and at McMeen. Shawn Harrahill, D.P.T.’10, took advantage of the house during his internship there.

A rural internship with EBC Physical Therapy Center in upstate New York this summer gave Whitney Henke, D.P.T.’10, the opportunity to learn and use the treatment of hippotherapy, in which specially trained therapists use a horse’s multidimensional movement to treat patients with movement dysfunction. EBC’s first physical therapy student, Henke enjoyed working primarily outdoors on the 80-acre facility, nestled between the Catskills and Adirondacks mountains.

“It was a great environment, completely different from working in a hospital,” she says.

Rural internships can benefit all P.T. students, says Christopher Kern, D.P.T.’10. He says he had a “fantastic” internship this summer at River’s Edge Hospital and Clinic in St. Peter, Minn.

“It allowed me to get to know my patients on a first-name basis and see them around town,” he says. “I think a lot of times students get so focused on heading to the big city, but we need to remember there are a lot of needs and opportunities in rural areas.”

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