Physical Therapist Healer Track: Curriculum for Fostering the Development of Self-Awareness, Connection, and Communication Skills
Purpose: With burnout of all health care providers remaining a prominent issue in healthcare, the need for innovation and incorporation of self-awareness and wholeness practices into the educational process of developing practitioners needs to be addressed. Developing compassionate practitioners that sustain themselves and remain tied to their purpose as service-oriented physical therapists in the current healthcare landscape is a challenge for DPT programs. In one DPT entry level program, an inter-professional elective curriculum designed to provide opportunities for students to develop their abilities to be with self, be with others, and be with suffering was designed and implemented Description: Incoming DPT students are invited to learn about the elective series at orientation and asked to write a reflective response for inclusion in the track. The track is two, one credit, elective courses spread out over the curriculum. Small groups of students are identified ( 7-9 students maximum). Monthly dinners are held off campus to discuss a variety of topics including, stress awareness, self compassion, non- violent communication, gratitude practice, cognitive behavior therapy, how to be a healing presence, humor and healing, mindfulness, etc. Students complete readings, activities, and reflective assignments related to the topic. The small group and intimate setting intends to foster safety and connection between faculty and peers to facilitate a shared experience in cultivating awareness. Several silent retreats, interprofessional large group meetings, and group meditations are held throughout the curriculum. Additional activities are provided during clinical experiences to enable the students to manifest as providers embodying the awareness skills they have practiced. Summary of Use: Initial narrative feedback has generated themes suggesting that students are more aware of their stress, feel they have more tools for managing stress, experience a deep connection with their small group and faculty facilitator, and feel a great sense of connection to their purpose as a PT. Students appreciate coming together as community with students of other professions completing a similar curriculum. Faculty have reflected on enjoying the activities and personal exploration in parallel with the students. Difficulties encountered include identifying faculty able to meet off campus outside of regular business hours and willing to engage with students on vulnerable topics, funding for dinners and retreats, and expanding the program to meet the interest level of the student body. Further data regarding stress experience and empathy on clinical experiences is currently being collected. Importance to Members: The PT Healer track aims to facilitate practitioners that maintain a healing, empathetic presence with themselves, others, and clients. The hope is that over time this investment in self-awareness practice promotes resilience and a grounding of purpose to keep clinicians vibrant in the workplace.