Since 2000, the Physical Therapy Community Outreach Initiative has served those who are uninsured or underinsured. This year’s student coordinators have faced a significant challenge, however, as the original three clinical sites have temporarily suspended physical therapy services.
A new service was started at the Grand Valley Family Health Center, which is operated by the Kirkhof College of Nursing. Although there has been a decrease in opportunities, the need for pro bono physical therapy services is greater than ever.
“There is a different patient population than you get in clinicals,” said Christina Moore. “We are able to give patients general health information as well as tips for improvement in their lifestyle, prevention, and education.” Moore and her fellow students Ann Matthews, Nick Platko, Sarah Wischmeyer and Lindsay Mirakovits have all earned bachelor’s degrees and are enrolled in Grand Valley’s clinical doctorate of physical therapy program.
Along with work at the Family Health Center, physical therapy students have volunteered with a Parkinson’s exercise class at St. Mary’s Hospital. Students have taken Spanish classes to learn phrases specifically geared towards physical therapy in order to communicate better with bilingual patients. This student-taught program began with the physical therapy class of 2010.
The students agreed that these volunteer opportunities have motivated them to seek and incorporate pro bono services in their professional careers after graduation.
“Students find that a little bit of volunteering provides them with a great deal of understanding of the real difficulties in delivering their professional services,” said Susan Allaben, faculty advisor and PTCOI founder. “The responsibility of scheduling fellow students and working therapists is not easy and students obtain experience solving problems which surface as service is provided.”
Photo: From left to right are Ann Matthews, Nick Platko, Sarah Wischmeyer, Lindsay Mirakovits and Christina Moore.