I know it’s a cliché for one to say “time really flies” but BOY, it does! I can’t believe that now it has been about a year and a half since I was given my white coat, over a year since my first clinical internship, and now my second clinical internship is also in the books. I recently have had a few conversations with either people completely disconnected from my PT program or with some of the first-year students. Every time the topic comes up of how great it must be to finally be out in the clinic applying what you’ve spent years studying in the books. And yes, this is true! I wanted to share how it felt to have my first experience in the clinic last Fall.
Headed in, I was as nervous as ever. I already knew that outpatient orthopedic PT probably wasn’t going to be my niche which made me much less confident even though I completed all of the necessary coursework and did well. The nervousness was much different than the nervousness I know I’ll be experiencing very soon when I start my first pediatric clinical experiences. For my first internship, I was nervous because I knew my passion wasn’t quite there to back me up. For my pediatric internships, I am nervous because I want to excel since I will be beginning what I hope to be my future career. Regardless of the type of nervousness, it was there.
I spent the day before my clinical began meal prepping for the week and looking over notes to ensure my first day would go as smoothly as humanly possible. I tried to get to bed at a decent hour (even though I spent hours anxiously staring at the ceiling the night before something exciting as I normally do). Then there it was, my alarm clock interrupting the deep sleep I had finally fallen into in the wee hours of the morning. It was go time! I put on my very unflattering navy blue scrubs, pulled my hair into a bun, clipped my name tag on and headed out the door.
I’m a punctual person… that Monday morning I was obnoxiously punctual. Thirty-five minutes early. THIRTY-FIVE. So, naturally I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in my car prior to heading in to meet my clinical instructor. When enough time passed for me to make a socially acceptable entrance, I was introduced to the woman who would be clinical instructor for the next eight weeks. She was welcoming, silly, excited to have me as a student, and BUSY. Downtime wasn’t really a thing at my first clinical. If a patient didn’t show, there was always another task to fill the time. The busy pace of the clinic was something I loved and my instructor’s speed to keep up with it was something I admired.
The first day I mostly observed, I participated a little bit in directing patient’s exercises but day one was used to ease in. By the end of the first week I was partially completing patient evaluations with supervision. The confidence aspect was still lacking but I found a way to basically “fake it until I made it.” Honestly, I just used my personality to overcome any insecurities I had treating patients. I figured if I built good rapport and the patient liked me they’d be more accepting of my shaky hands or squeaky voice when I was feeling less confident in myself. (I’m happy to say that a year later on my second internship my confidence really started to bloom.) During this experience, confidence was nerve my strong suit BUT I was okay with that because my patients seemed to have no idea!
The most frustrating part of that first clinical experience was knowing that this type of setting was not where I wanted to end up, and sometimes I would get down on myself and think things like “this is pointless!” But it most certainly was not, that was a huge mistake on my part to ever allow those thoughts to pop in, no matter how infrequent they were. Even if outpatient ortho wasn’t my cup of tea, it still held valuable lessons (almost all being applicable to pediatrics) and I just needed to open my eyes to it!
Ultimately, I was a nervous wreck for my first internship just as many of my fellow classmates where. I don’t like to say I ever have regrets, just learning opportunities. But if I could change one thing, I’d go back in time slap myself on the back of the head and say “Hey, be confident Alyssa! You know what you’re doing.” I finally did give myself this pep talk a year later, and maybe it came right on time, but I can still give the pep talk to you. Yes you, whoever you are reading this. When you get your first chance, the first glimpse at your future… don’t be scared! Be willing to make mistakes, feel silly, and make the wrong choices all before it feels right. If it’s meant to feel right, I believe it most certainly will. Now let’s just see how right this pediatric internship that starts next week feels.