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UF Physical Therapy Students Offer Pro-Bono Clinics to Local Community Members

Branden Ferguson | Mon Nov 21, 2022

University of Findlay Physical Therapy students have been working pro-bono for several weeks, offering physical therapy to children and adults within the community. For nearly 20 years, the University of Findlay has offered clinics at no cost to community members, allowing students to work hands-on with patients needing different types of physical therapy.

Second and third-year students within the University of Findlay’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program hosted a six-week orthopedic clinic for adults with shoulder, back, and leg issues. Meeting once a week for six weeks, the 13 patients received one-on-one attention from students who developed individual physical therapy treatment plans. The goal is to get students the hands-on experience they desire. “I can teach till I’m blue in the face,” said Findlay Physical Therapy Associate Professor Sharon Fleming Walsh, D.Sc. “We could do mock patients, review patient records, and even watch videos. However, there is nothing like working with a real patient.”

Walsh has been working with third-year DPT students, who were focused on 17 adults and children living with neurological issues. Patients in the neuro-clinic include survivors of strokes, individuals living with multiple sclerosis, and patients fighting other neurological disorders. Watching her students start off the clinic shy and timid, and finishing the six weeks full of confidence, stems from the opportunities community members provide. “The patients are giving a substantial amount to us. Yes, they’re getting free physical therapy, but they are giving a huge gift to the students by allowing them to practice hands-on,” stated Walsh.

One of those patients is 23-month-old James. James entered the clinic six weeks ago struggling with gait (walking with toes pointed inward or outward) and stability. After hearing about the free clinic through a mom’s group on Facebook, Shannon Bennett brought her son James to the clinic as a way to supplement the care he was already receiving. After working with UF students for six weeks, Bennett, said the results are noticeable. “He started walking two months ago, and we’ve seen an increase in his stability in walking. This has been a nice accompaniment to what he was doing in his outpatient care.”

While happy to find her son James additional physical therapy, Bennett is also happy to help current students. “We’ve noticed with James how important it is to have providers that have pediatric experiences. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to do this, so these students can gain that experience.” One of those students is third-year DPT student, Kelsey Gerken. Gerken who has been working with James over the past six weeks, said the pediatric experience changes everything. “Working with patients, especially in the pediatric realm is completely different. We have to focus our therapy around playing rather than how many sets and reps we’re going to do,” said Gerken. Looking back on her time with James, she says it’s more than creating a treatment plan. “When you’re watching him (James) walk, reach, and run you start to realize the ways that we are changing people’s lives.”

For more information on the University of Findlay’s Physical Therapy Program, including the undergraduate to doctorate 3+3 Program, please visit the Physical Therapy webpage. Clinics will pick back up with a new set of patients in the Spring of 2023. Clinic registration announcements are expected after the start of the new year.

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