Dear Future Resident,
I know most students ask themselves should I do a residency at some point during PT school. So, I was planning on posting an unbiased look at life as a resident. But, I don’t want to give you something generic, I want to give you something personal. Because that’s what residency was for me, a very personal experience and a very personal journey.
I was in your position five years ago. I was trying to decide whether I would apply to a sports residency or not. I was a third year PT student at Rutgers University and I was on a quest for excellence. At the time, excellence meant three distinguished letters after my name, SCS. Completing a residency, meant that I would learn the knowledge and skills necessary to become a sports physical therapist.
I got those three letters and I learned more in those fifteen months than I could have possibly fathomed. I was challenged daily. I received mentoring. I improved assessment and manual therapy skills. I proudly stood with my fanny pack during sideline coverage. I had the opportunity to do some pretty awesome things in professional sports and Functional Movement Systems. My professional experience lived up to everything I expected. But, I’m sure many of the programs you’ve looked at have already told you about all these things on their website. So, I want to tell you about my personal experience, not my professional one. I want to show you the side of residency that cannot possibly conveyed in an informational resource.
I was pushed, but then guided.
I’ll be honest with you, residency was difficult. And if you aren’t prepared to struggle everyday, then maybe you should stop reading now. Where you struggle is person-dependent, but everyone faces some challenge greater than they’ve had to face in the past. During residency, you are pushed toward these challenges. Weaknesses are exposed and you’re pushed outside your comfort zone, but then you’re given the guidance necessary. It’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs, but you aren’t on the ride alone.
I thought I knew what I wanted, but I would become so much more.
My dreams going into residency weren’t wrong, but they weren’t totally right either. They were small. I judged what I wanted off of what I’d experienced. And before residency, I really hadn’t experienced much.
Residency has the ability to open you up to new possibilities. New experiences, new challenges, and new perspectives all help you see what is out there. Through the process, you recognize how much more you can become.
I was looking for success, but found myself appreciating failure.
I hate failing, I think we all do. But, residency was the first time that I truly understood that failure isn’t a bad thing. It is part of the process. You cannot be a novice and be perfect. If you somehow achieve that combination, then you probably haven’t challenged yourself enough. Residency taught me that failing is part of growing. Failure isn’t permanent- it’s actually an expected part of the journey. We learn from failure and we improve from failure. Whether you want to do a residency or not, I want you to be able to accept that last sentence.
I swore I wouldn’t stay, but I still haven’t left.
Don’t worry, I don’t think you will necessarily stay where you complete your residency or maybe you will. For me, staying was unexpected. For the first months of residency I firmly proclaimed that I would not stay in Indiana and yet here I am.
I didn’t stay because I fell in love with the state of Indiana, but I will say that I love the people I get to be surrounded by. My program was (and is) made up of some of the greatest individuals I’ve ever met. Collectively, these people helped support, guide, and challenge me daily. Residency showed me what it’s like to have a positive and encouraging team around you. It is incredibly empowering be surrounded by people who inspire you to be better every single day. I want you to get to experience this because once you do, you’ll understand what I mean when I say – I’d trade every ‘cool’ opportunity (NHL, MLB, FMS, there were plenty) I had during residency for the influence the group has had on me.
I achieved the three letters, but I’d trade them for the journey.
I don’t know that doing a sports residency in general was the right decision, but I know that choosing ProRehab and University of Evansville Sports Residency was the greatest decision that I made for myself as a professional, but most of all for myself as a person.
The person I am now, is not the same as the person that arrived in Indiana at the beginning of residency. I have more confidence, I face challenges easier, and I’m not afraid of failure. I see the bigger picture, I seek learning over outcomes, and I recognize the journey and struggle are worth it.
I first wanted to do a residency to put SCS after my name, but they are the least significant thing I gained. My residency experience means more than those letters ever could.
So, if you’re just seeking three letters, I’d say study and take the boards. There is nothing wrong with that, not everyone should do a residency. But, if you’re willing to give your greatest effort to improve yourself as much as your career, apply for a residency. Actually, if you’re ready to step outside your comfort zone, willing to fail to ultimately succeed, work harder than you thought possible, and enjoy the journey as much as the destination– then join us.
P.S. I can go on and on about residency, so if you have questions, feel free to reach out. Jenna@jennagourlay.com .