Chapter #1 of the Education System Series- Guest Blog: Kyle Balzer on “The New Grad Experience”

I think you all might enjoy this blog from a good friend of mine and colleague- Kyle Balzer. Kyle is a recent new grad and has a pretty cool perspective on things. Consider this the first chapter of a series of blogs that are based around the educational system. Kyle’s story is a good one and a positive one that I hope you all enjoy. Thank you Kyle for putting this together!

As a recent graduate of a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program, my life has been flipped upside down and I have experienced over the past few months not only what many have already experienced, but also what many so anxiously and nervously await.
When Rick Daigle, PT, DPT and co-owner of Medical Minds in Motion asked me to write an article on my experiences as a new graduate I was honored, but at the same time thought, “Now, what the heck could I have to say/write that people want to hear?” So here is my best attempt while not putting y’all (Rick lives in Texas now, so he’ll appreciate that) to sleep…
I’ll start with my final semester of school…
My wife had recently taken a position at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City, so I had the luxury/challenge of looking for a job in the NYC/NJ (I hate to put a slash between those two because they are by no means similar) area. All the while, I was getting sick of school, getting sick of my Capstone project, and studying to take the NPTE in April, a week before graduation. Yes, you can take it early, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. I signed up through Ohio, took it in Albany, then had scores transferred when I found out which state I would be working in. I passed, finished my Capstone, and graduated…and had my one year anniversary all in a matter of a few days.
I wondered though, how I would go about finding a job in the NYC/NJ area. Because I was taking the NPTE early, I started looking for a job earlier than most of the other students in my class. I had made many connections over the previous year or two on Facebook, as well as going to the 7 or 8 courses I had attended. Also, working with Laree Draper of On Target Publications and Movement Lectures has been one of the most helpful and exciting things I’ve been a part of (Laree, if you read this, I apologize for all of the dangling prepositions).
Due to the fact that I had already done so much learning and networking on my own, I had a very distinct vision as to how I wanted to practice physical therapy. I had interned in two outpatient clinics and a primarily school-based pediatric clinic, each of which I took positive and negative experiences from. I interviewed with three different places, all of which went well, but the one I ended up going with I chose for the following reasons:
1. I found out about it by searching through a couple hundred names listed on the FMS website when the map was honed in on the NYC/NJ area.
2. Some of the clinicians utilize the FMS/SFMA and I was welcome to do the same having already taken each introductory course.
3. The owner clearly valued learning and continuing education.
4. Patients were scheduled every half an hour with initial evaluations/assessments getting a full hour. (Eventually, I look to completely work for myself working in an environment where every visit is one hour long, but this is an ideal starting position)
5. “This is our Ultrasound machine…which probably hasn’t been touched in 5 years.”
6. The day I “interviewed” with the owner, (Sunday night I emailed him saying I was an interested student looking for a job, he emailed me back and told me to come in the next day at lunchtime to talk. This was one of the biggest selling points. He did not set up a “formal interview,” whatever that is, and just wanted me to come in to see the place and share views.) He recommended it because the current student was doing an in-service on Charlie Weingroff’s Training=Rehab DVD set and he had seen on my resume that I went to one of his courses and helped edit his paper for Nike. I was welcomed by everyone and was even looked to for confirmation of some of the content the student was presenting.
7. There was a major emphasis on manual therapy and really felt like I could be the therapist I wanted to be, right out of the gate.
…the list could go on forever, baby. (If you get that reference, you’ve spent your time wisely.)

So, I’ve now been working 30 hours per week for three months, lived in NYC after living in Upstate NY for 24 of my 25 years alive, and for the first time, have been able to help support my wife after she supported my way through graduate school; something I will forever be thankful for.
What have I experienced while working?
I have seen success, I have seen failure.
I have made mistakes and asked for help.
I have made friends with a patient’s 6 year old son who enjoys games, numbers, and talking sports.
I have co-treated if my patient or I feel stuck in a rut.
I have thought about how I talk to patients about their pain and movement based on my own experiences and observing other clinicians.
I have learned to hate “paperwork” (it’s really “digitalwork” at this point), but at the same time become more efficient with it.
I ALWAYS try to make people feel relaxed, smile, and laugh.
I have thought about patients long after I have left work and should be home “relaxing.”
I have referred to other professionals.
I have shown up early to accommodate a patient’s schedule.
I have intelligently debated on many occasions with the other clinicians in my clinic and look forward to the next debate.
I have learned Dry Needling from James Dunning and A Holistic Approach to Training from Patrick Ward.

And now that I’ve experienced all those things, I look forward to experiencing more. I look forward to learning as much as I can, which ultimately leads me to learn even more, because courses and books usually just make me realize how much more I need to learn. I look forward to co-treating more patients. I look forward to spending time with other professionals that have been generous enough to share their time with me. I look forward to working in a gym setting where I can see one client for an hour at a time with the comfort of knowing that I’ve been able to make significant changes (p < 0.005; that’s a research joke) in 20-30 minutes. I look forward to spending thousands of dollars on courses that will support my philosophy as much they will challenge it. But most of all, I look forward to not knowing what tomorrow will bring, but doing everything I can to prepare myself for it.

2 thoughts on “Chapter #1 of the Education System Series- Guest Blog: Kyle Balzer on “The New Grad Experience”

  1. Daniel Pope

    Thanks a ton for sharing Kyle. I graduated in May, passed my boards and finally took a full time position at a local PT outpatient clinic in Denver CO. My experience is very similar to yours. I contacted the SFMA site, contacted the APTA special interest group for strength and conditioning, found some people practicing SFMA, FMS, dry needling, and other advanced certs and started volunteering. Long story short I found an excellent clinic that embodies what I wish to grow into with several excellent mentors and plenty of freedom to practice how I feel. It’s been an incredible growing experience so far and I’m excited for the future.

    1. apta4life

      Thanks a lot for the reply, Daniel. It’s tough to find a job doing what we want to do when the profession is so stubborn to change. Would love to hear more about your clinic in Colorado. Always good to know who to refer to in other states.


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