4 Things I Learned at CSM: Perspective from a Student Physical Therapist

| Kasey Kroiss

Every year in February the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) hosts the nation’s largest physical therapy conference called the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM). CSM 2023 was hosted this past weekend in beautiful San Diego. I was fortunate enough to attend not only as a student physical therapist but as an administrative assistant for Live Your Life. The weekend was filled with not only educational courses about the new and emerging topics within the physical therapy world and meeting the renowned leaders in the physical therapy profession but fun events at night that help fundraise for amazing causes such as the Foundation for PT Research, PT Fund, and the PT PAC. As a second-year student in a Doctor of Physical Therapy program and my first time attending CSM, here are 4 things I learned this past week: 

  1. Importance of Evidence-Based Practice: Research is the backbone of the physical therapy profession. We need research to progress the way we diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments to our patients. Our profession would be at a standstill and our patients would suffer without research. As a student, my professors emphasize what areas are and are not supported by research, and what areas still need to be studied. This point was further highlighted by the fact that every educational session was backed by research. I have a whole new appreciation as a student and future clinician for the individuals and organizations that conduct and fund physical therapy research for the advancement of the profession I love so much. 
  2. Looking at the Whole Person: I attended a talk about how we should treat the whole person. This includes considering the impact of endocrine and gastrointestinal systems as well as the effect of hormones on the patients we treat. As physical therapists, we have unique opportunities to see patients once or multiple times per week for months to years. But with this opportunity comes responsibility. Physical therapists have the duty to advocate for our patient’s symptoms even if we can’t intervene directly. It is our responsibility to have the knowledge and support network to find a provider that will be beneficial to our patient’s health and wellness. 
  3. Why Do Physical Therapists Care About Sleep? Physical therapists are experts in movement disorders and correcting movement dysfunction to decrease pain, and improve mobility, function, and quality of life. But why would a physical therapist care about sleep? Because the amount of sleep you get can influence your body’s ability to learn movement. If you have trouble falling asleep or getting enough sleep, your physical therapist can make suggestions that will improve your sleep health.
  4. Pushing Our Patients: If you have ever seen a physical therapist then you know it’s hard work. Not only do we ask you to work hard, but to perform weird movements that seem far off from the goals you had at the beginning of physical therapy. But the research shows that in general physical therapists don’t push their patients hard enough especially older adults. We need to push our patients intensely, so they can get back to doing what they love the most.

The opportunity to attend CSM has reinvigorated my passion for the profession and my enthusiasm to be a future provider in the field of physical therapy. I’m truly honored to be able to learn from and cross paths with the prominent leaders in our profession. I am already looking forward to applying what I learned at school and hope to attend CSM 2024!

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