Physical Therapy

Benefits of Co-operative Experience in Physical Therapy

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Cooperative Education

The Building Block of Professional Experience

Cooperative Education (Co-op) is a unique program which allows students to alternate periods of academic study with periods of employment. We are very proud that we are the only Physical Therapy program in the country that offers this opportunity. Students entering as freshman work as Physical Therapy Aides/ Co-op students for 2 six month periods during their 3rd and 4th years of study. Transfer and post bachelorate students complete 1 six month cooperative experience.

Students are very excited to be able to participate as employees in national and international facilities that offer physical therapy. They are able to work as part of a health care team and acquire hands on experience. These experiences contribute to knowledge that translate into better communication and clinical skills.

These opportunities support success in the classroom, awareness of expectations of the program and the profession of physical therapy. In addition, students are building a resume as employees, that is beneficial to them both on their clinical affiliations and for their career.

Recent International Physical Therapy Cooperative Experiences:

  • NeuroFit Clinic, Barrio Escalante in San Pedro, Costa Rica
  • Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre, Capetown, So Africa
  • Nepal Orthopedic Center, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Children's Hospital of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Peru

Coop Student Haley Waud Recognized for her Work in Guatemala

Cooperative education allows students to translate classroom experiences to real life. Haley Waud knows first hand the benefits of cooperative education and how it has helped her affirm her commitment to physical therapy. Please click this link to read her story.

Students' Reflections on the Co-op Experience

"I think that this co-op was great for my academic success since it forced me to think outside of the box. I was able to use what I had learned in class, but since I was limited with equipment I was forced to think of ways to get the same result without the normal technology." - Maggie
"Working with neuro patients is a very different type of challenge than I had been used to in the past. Often times their ability to speak and comprehend what is being said to them is very impaired so I had a difficult time learning how to speak more slowly and enunciate more clearly so as to facilitate communication. Sometimes communication is not all verbal either which I hadn't previously been able to effectively conceptualize. I had one patient with locked-in syndrome. Basically its a stroke which leaves the individual trapped inside themselves in a sense. They are of sound mind but their body simply won't function and they have no means of communication except for blinking most times and very rarely a shaking of the head. This patient was one of the most difficult to treat for me at first as I simply didn't understand. With time though we developed a great relationship and our ability to talk with yes/no questions greatly improved past just asking medical questions to talking about some of our life experiences (which was aided by his father who would translate this patients blinking language to me). I also learned from my treadmill patients about the trials and tribulations of an SCI and how they feel they are often viewed by the general public. These types of conversations allowed me to become more connected with my patients and their treatment and made me a better therapist." - Josh
"I learned about the children's diagnoses, the interworkings of a school system and how children come to be enrolled at Perkins. I learned how to more effectively work as a member of a health care TEAM. I really can't describe how much I learned. I grew a lot through this coop." - Josh
"It was interesting to see how my academic education, thus far, applied in the clinic. Several light bulbs went off! As I observed therapists in the clinic, it seemed that each PT had their own style/technique/method to madness. On a personal level, the clinic helped me feel more confident and independent with my clinical skills. Most of the work I provided seemed to either reinforce what I've already learned or pushed me to think forward. There were several moments when I actually surprised myself with the knowledge/care I provided to patients. Also, since the clinic was usually full of professional athletes, professionalism was a big deal. I learned a ton about being professional and aided all patients in any way needed." - Anna
"This co-op really got me prepared for my clinical affiliations. I was pushed outside of my comfort zone, and constantly used problem-solving skills to analyze patient care. If there was anything that I was unsure of, I would study the information that night so that I could be certain the following day. This co-op really taught me to work hard, study harder, and to put everything together through the evaluation process." - Renee
"I see myself as more of a team member now then ever before. I see how my job duties fit in with the ability for the clinic to run smoothly. When I am dragging at the end of the day, or am not at the top of my game, I can see how the whole patient process doesn't run as nicely as it should. Without my contribution, I feel that the clinic would be utter chaos, just as it would be if one of the therapists or other members were missing." - Erica
"Academically I learned the process amputees go through from right after surgery up to prosthetic training. I learned how PTs/OTs work with burn patients, Stoke, and TBI patients. Professionally I learned to work with a large group of therapists, nurses, and doctors and how to manage my time better. Personally I learned that I could handle a lot more difficult patient diagnosis then I thought I could. I have become increasingly comfortable in the inpatient setting." - Celia

Click here for the main Experiential Learning Page.

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Contact Info

Maura Daly Iversen, PT, DPT, SD, MPH,FNAP
Chair, Department of Physical Therapy, Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences
301 Robinson Hall
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617.373.3908
Fax: 617.373.3161