Navigating the APTA Combined Sections Meeting: A Beginner’s Guide

Member Spotlight,

By Stacy Sutton, PT, DPT, WCS, CLT

The Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association is more than a little bit overwhelming. So many course offerings and booths to visit! So many Section and networking events!

If you wanted, you could have something to attend or do every hour of the day. The Section on Women’s Health alone has 25 educational sessions, 26 poster presentations, and six platform presentations! On top of that, you need to make decisions such as whether or not to download the app. If you’re like me, you’re worried that by the time you figure out how to operate the app, the conference will be over. (It’s worth it, though, if you want to keep up with room changes, onsite social media, and the like!)

The first CSM I attended was in Chicago when I was in my second year of physical therapy school. I went to have fun, learn more about topics we had just touched on in school, and to meet other people. I knew at that point that I was interested in women’s health, but I did not really understand much about the field. The first SOWH session I attended was about what a women’s health PT really does. I had talked to a few women’s health therapists and had a general idea, but I did not really know what such a specialized PT does.

In that session, I learned a lot and had many of my questions answered. I learned that the field of women’s health is just as broad as orthopedics or neurology. Each women’s health PT does something a little different, just like PTs in other specialties. I also met other students interested in women’s health in that session, including meeting some professionals who were already established in the field.

My advice for anyone attending CSM for the first time is to start off at your own comfort level. I like to plan to attend a session in each offered time spot throughout the three days. However, I know that by the third day, I’m pretty tired and likely will not attend a session at each time slot.

I also recommend looking at offerings by all of the Sections. You do not have to go to every available learning session, because you will still gain plenty. My opinion is that no matter how you want to approach CSM, if you focus on having a good time and accomplishing at least one major goal such as developing a certain skill, learning something you can apply as soon as you return to work, or meeting veteran PT specialists in your field, you will leave satisfied and committed to attending again next year!

Stacy Sutton, PT DPT WCS CLT, works in a hospital based outpatient facility, treating primarily men and women with bladder and bowel dysfunction and pelvic pain.