In October, APTA held the annual National Student Conclave (NSC) – a conference focused on the next generation of physical therapists – in Omaha, Nebraska. This event draws PT and PTA students from across the nation and brought together students from the various Washington state schools. The educational and networking opportunities are vast, so we wanted to present two different perspectives on NSC attendance. Liz Seidl is a third year DPT student at Eastern Washington University (EWU), and she has served as the 2014-2015 PTWA Board of Directors PT Student Liaison and as the APTA Core Ambassador of Washington. Carley Rissman is a second year DPT student at the University of Washington (UW), and is currently serving as the 2015-2016 PTWA Board of Directors PT Student Liaison. Liz and Carley describe their experiences and hope that it helps inform and inspire future NSC attendees from Washington!
I have been lucky enough to attend two NSCs as a PT student. I attended NSC 2014 in Milwaukee as a second year PT student just getting my feet wet with student involvement. I was four months into my role as Core Ambassador and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing—I didn’t even know the Student Assembly existed! I showed up on the first day of NSC uncertain and intimidated.
The weekend was a whirlwind. I attended as many educational sessions as possible, spent hours collecting freebies and handouts in the exhibit hall, and met students with a contagious energy for our profession. I harvested some of that energy and brought it back to Spokane, where I let it lay dormant. This is a rookie mistake that is easy to make. At NSC you are surrounded by the most passionate young leaders of our profession. Back at school you are surrounded by textbooks and exams which—nothing against our beloved educators—are arguably less exciting.
As the months went by, I stayed connected with some of the people I met at NSC 2014 and I was able to rekindle that energy. I started to feel like a leader and felt confident in my student involvement roles in Washington—confident enough that I applied for an APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors position. I applied in July, was slated as a candidate in August and spent September and October prepping for the elections that occur at NSC. I touched down in Omaha for NSC 2015, again feeling uncertain and intimidated. Some things never change.
Experiencing NSC as a candidate was a different ball game. The weekend agenda for a candidate includes: a brief candidate meeting, networking, on-stage candidate interviews, networking, networking, and networking. I am not a people person by nature so the whole experience was overwhelming but once I pushed past the nerves and anxiety I finally got to soak in what NSC is all about—connecting students with each other and with the APTA vision. I spent the weekend not just meeting, but really connecting with PT and PTA students from across the country. I was continually inspired by their stories and ideas that all related to the APTA vision of “transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” When NSC ended, not only did I feel like an integral part of the profession, I felt like part of a family.
Even though I wasn’t elected, the candidacy process turned out to be the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a PT student. It pushed me to the limits of my comfort zone and gave me an unmatched opportunity for personal and professional growth. I left Omaha with more NSC energy and this time it’s being put to use. I’ve since passed on my Washington roles, but I’m still looking for ways to stay involved and grow my PT family. Getting involved still feels uncertain and intimidating at times but I’ve learned that you can’t experience growth without discomfort. Our profession has a lot of room to grow but it will take blood, sweat and tears. Two NSCs later, I have no doubt that our generation has what it takes to transform our profession for the better.
Three pieces of advice that it took me two NSCs to learn:
- Don’t skip any of the networking events. The PT world is so small, and we will be crossing paths for years to come. So attend the late night events, go grab lunch and dinner with new friends – make lifelong connections now and catch up on sleep for the next few weeks.
- Remember that there isn’t a test at the end! Put your pens and paper away and soak it all in—there is so much more to learn than the words that are being spoken and the slides that are being posted.
- The PT world is taking over Twitter—be part of the movement or you will miss out!
NSC 2015 was my first experience with a national APTA conference and it was held shortly after my first PTWA Conference! I was so excited to be able to attend and represent UW, as well as learn as much as possible from the programming that is offered. I landed in Omaha with two other UW students – none of us had visited Nebraska before and we didn’t necessarily know what to expect from the conference. I truly enjoyed seeing a little of the city, as well as seeing (and smelling) the nearby farmland. Even though we live in Seattle now, my significant other and I are both from more rural areas of Washington – he was raised next to a dairy farm in Whatcom County, while I am from Skagit County. I love the smell of cows, so it was a great reminder of home!
Attending a professional conference was highly educational – I learned so much about social media and branding, student loans and financial management, and more on the role of clinical reasoning in patient treatment. However, the highlight for me was the inspiration of being surrounded by hundreds of fellow students! These are people who love PT and nerd out on all of the fun stuff the field has to offer. Plus, I was able to meet up with a couple special folks, making and reinforcing connections across the state and the Pacific Northwest. At the keynote address by ESPN Injury Analyst and physical therapist Stephania Bell, I met Liz for the first time in person, along with some of her EWU peers – we had previously only been able to communicate by email as she provided me with assistance and mentorship in our role transition. It was awesome to be able to connect with other students from Washington, attach a face to a name and to feel even more connected to a support system as I work to represent DPT students in this state. As well, I was able to reconnect with a friend from my pre-DPT days working as a PT aide while we completed pre-requisite courses. Megan attends Pacific University in Oregon and is the Core Ambassador for Oregon. Though we chose different programs, it was fun to see how far we have both come and to know that we’re both making waves and tackling our futures like bosses! Plus, there’s nothing like rediscovering a friend and feeling like no time has passed, while also being able to share some of the experiences that have brought us to where we are now.
As I traveled back from Omaha, and later in talking with my classmates both informally and in a scheduled report-back, I was able to reflect upon and appreciate the opportunities afforded me. As a career-change DPT student, I have been so excited to immerse myself in the wealth of information and experience at my disposal through school and through my APTA membership. Fun fact – when I was making pro and con lists about returning to school, a major “pro” for physical therapy was a strong association. APTA and PTWA offer so much to association members, both in terms of education and advocacy, that I would truly be remiss if I didn’t get involved. NSC is a great way for students to get engaged and take advantage of their member benefits! Attending this conference has both reinforced and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the field of physical therapy. I feel so honored to be entering a vocation with so many excited and engaged established and new professionals. And now, I simply cannot wait until I attend CSM in February!
Connect with Liz and Carley on Twitter by following: @lizseidl and @carleyrissman