The Benefits of Getting Involved in Professional Associations as a Student Physical Therapist

Posted By: Stephanie Patricia Oscilowski Career Development, Member Spotlight,

I had the honor of attending the National Student Conclave as the recipient of the NSC student scholarship sponsored by the Section on Women’s Health. I am a proud member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and Section on Women’s Health (SoWH) as there are many benefits to being involved with professional associations such as access to networking and educational opportunities which are very valuable when starting out in your physical therapy (PT) career.

Sharing Interests Through Networking

At last year’s National Student Conclave, I attended a valuable session about networking. In the session, the presenter spoke of simple ways to start meaningful conversations and ways to practice in both personal and professional settings. I have used those skills at subsequent conferences, and I made many meaningful and professional connections. While mingling on the first evening, I recognized the presenter and thanked him for the tips from last year, we continued that conversation the following evening and during dinner with him and one of his students, I found out that he had worked with Irish Dancers, once of my interests!

The Opening Ceremony started with the CEO and President of the Association and lead into some very powerful ignite speeches, by two recent graduates who I met at last year’s conclave. They both spoke about their journey to finding Physical Therapy and by the end of the short speeches, you could feel the energy and excitement in the room increase exponentially. Physical Therapy School can be very draining at times, but finding the people who share a similar passion is incredibly encouraging and rejuvenating. In the expo hall, I staffed the SoWH table with another student, and a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. It was another opportunity to interact with people who have an interest in Pelvic Floor PT. Every person I spoke with was excited about Pelvic Floor, that I couldn’t help but feel like it may be my calling.


Learning Something New

I attended several sessions during the conference. One presentation was by an Ortho and Neuro specialist talking about how specializing can improve your knowledge base to help patients, but to not lose sight that all the systems in the body are connected. During a presentation by the first White House Physical Therapist, we learned that patient values vary with the clientele, and how creativity is essential when your patient’s value is time. He talked about working with President Obama and white house, pentagon staff, and treating patients on Air Force One. The more conferences I attend, the more I learn about the many ways you can apply physical therapy across settings I might never had considered.


Discovering Endless Possibilities

Attending APTA conferences has been most valuable for me in terms of professional growth. Every person I speak with has a unique story and unique approach to Physical Therapy. The sessions have broadened my own interests and has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities. I may open a practice specializing in Orthopedics and performing arts, working with Irish Dancers. I may use my love of dance and the geriatric population by incorporating dance into treatment of patients with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or perhaps I will work with autistic children with Aqua PT. I may go into Pelvic Health Physical Therapy and help women’s post-partum return to prior level of functioning, or perhaps work in the Acute Setting, knowing my need for variety, I may do all of the above over the course of my career. With physical therapy, the possibilities are endless. By being part of the APTA and SoWH, I now have a strong network of peers and mentors who can encourage me and offer advice along the way. I will continue to network through these associations and continue to develop myself professionally as a lifelong learner.


Stephanie Oscilowski, SPT

2018 NSC Scholarship Recipient