UIW SoPT Community Clinic offers opportunity to students and community alike
Before the UIW School of Physical Therapy (SoPT) had even been built, the school’s Founding Dean Dr. Caroline Goulet had a vision. She sought out to host a clinic through the SoPT, where students would provide care for free or at a low cost to citizens in the community who might not otherwise be able to receive necessary physical therapy.
“It may have been my vision, but it took a village to make it a reality,” Goulet shared. “I am extremely proud of what my faculty have accomplished in a relatively short period of time. I take immense pride and joy at observing the students interact with their clients at the clinic.”
The SoPT Community Clinic, operated in a shared location with Texas Physical Therapy Specialists, opened its doors in January and has provided care to more than 170 patients. Overseen by Dr. Amy Crocker, assistant professor and director of social accountability and experiential learning, students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program provide physical therapy care under the direction of licensed PT faculty.
“From my experience, I strongly believe that students learn by doing, and having a community clinic to practice in allows our students not only to apply their skills and knowledge but to act and feel like health care professionals,” Goulet said.
The SoPT Community Clinic works with individuals age 13 and older who are not eligible for Medicare benefits. “We serve the uninsured, as well as those who do not have physical therapy benefits as part of their health insurance coverage, have exhausted their yearly benefit, or are underinsured,” Crocker explained.
Crocker shared that the patients of the Community Clinic have thoroughly enjoyed working with SoPT students and are grateful for the services they are able to experience.
In addition to offering the community the opportunity for high-quality care at little to no cost, the clinic also provides students with hands-on clinical experience and the ability to truly apply what they have learned in the classroom.
“The UIW Community Clinic provides an opportunity for faculty to observe students’ hands-on skills, as well as their interactions with patients and they are able to provide meaningful feedback,” Crocker said.
Katherine Crocker, a student in the UIW DPT program who shares no relation to Dr. Amy Crocker, explains that while faculty allow students to rely on their own knowledge, they step in when students need assistance in clinical reasoning, or to help guide when considering a treatment plan for their patients. She said working alongside faculty has been a privilege.
“It is one thing being taught by our professors in a classroom, but learning is amplified while in clinic alongside the faculty,” she shared. “The professors know our capabilities and push us to our fullest potential every moment during our shift.”
DPT student James Patrick Cerutti said working in the clinic is what he enjoys most about the program as it is directly applicable to his future goals of working in an outpatient facility.
“Giving us early time with patients is so important to building our confidence when interacting with them,” Cerutti shared. “Every time we treat patients we must earn their trust, and an early start is good for a skill that requires life-long learning.”
While working alongside the UIW faculty is vital to the success of the clinic, students find working with their peers is beneficial as well.
“It helps us practice our collaborative skills,” Katherine said. “It is exciting and encouraging observing your fellow classmates, and yourself, improve over the course of time in the clinic – it is a gratifying and humbling experience.”
Crocker explained having students provide such a needed service to the City of San Antonio does more than simply help promote community engagement and social accountability. “We hope that working with underserved populations while in school will increase the likelihood that students will choose to work with similar populations following graduation,” she said.
From a student perspective, Katherine feels working at the SoPT Community Clinic is unquestionably unique and allows for progressive student learning in a safe space with familiar faces.
“The clinic is open to the public and the patients who utilize its services come from every walk of life with challenging and interesting pathologies for us to confront,” she explained. “Not only does this diversity of patient care help me and other student physical therapists utilize present learning, but it opens our eyes to different types of patient populations we might want to engage with and treat once graduated and licensed to practice physical therapy.”
Katherine shared that, as students, they serve the public – their patients – to the best of their abilities because it is their mission, not just as UIW students but as future health care professionals.
“We pledge to provide the best health care we possibly can for others by building upon the educational foundation and professional development encouraged and cultivated at UIW,” she explained. “I can say without reservation that the clinic is an amazing way for UIW to reach out to the community based upon UIW’s Mission of serving others as Christ served us.”
By Crystale Galindo