As I have discussed before, the greatest part of creating Compass Performance is the opportunities it has given me to connect with amazing people across the country. I have learned about the health and Physical Therapy field than I could’ve ever imagined. This led me to create “Feature Friday” where I could share the knowledge of rising stars in the PT profession with my followers; But selfishly, I wanted to learn the secrets others and what makes these individuals so successful. Today’s feature, is one that I have been looking forward to for some time. Winnie(@winnatlife) is by far one of my favorite follows on instagram. She has a unique ability to connect and motivate, even while working in a New York City Hospital during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Although she seems to be living it up at her current clinical rotation in Hawaii. I am incredibly grateful for Winnie as she is constantly supporting and encouraging me to better myself as a Physical therapist!

Who is @winnatlife?

Hi! I’m Winnie, and I was born & raised in NYC. I’ve had a huge passion for exploring other cities and cultures since a very young age, which eventually led me to learning and practicing Spanish since I was 12 (my native languages are English and Cantonese). I’ve backpacked across Europe on a few occasions, and am always happiest when I explore new cities by foot. 

I started participating in competitive track & field when I was 13, but had to withdraw from the collegiate level because of my knee injuries before college. At the time, I was devastated, and spiraled into pretty poor health for months before deciding to take control of my health and find ways to return to my favorite sport. Since then, I’ve not only returned to running, but have also expanded my athletic interests and am now more motivated than ever to encourage others to take control of their health!

I started this @winnatlife page a few years ago, but was never big into social media. The lockdown this year pushed me into developing this page to be the motivation that people needed to stay moving. I wanted to use this page to show that movement can be achieved wherever, whenever and however! I hope to show that movement does not have to be an organized activity, but can be simply integrated into the daily habits of life!

Why did you choose physical therapy?

I chose PT because I wanted to join a profession that changes a person’s ability to live, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, education, or socioeconomic status. I wanted to be a clinician that a patient can trust with their lifelong health.

I chose Physical Therapy, because this profession offers a means of getting people moving to their best potentials. It is a field of healthcare that helps people understand their body and the capabilities of their joints, muscles and organs. Physical therapy is more than rehabilitation after an injury, PTs play integral roles in preventing illness, treating and managing the health of our society.

What type of physical therapy do you plan to pursue?

Sports Orthopedics! I hope to work with athletes to be able to help them achieve their peak performances, or return to sport after injury. 

As an athlete, I’ve suffered numerous injuries where healthcare professionals simply told me to “just stop” doing the sports that I love to prevent recurrence of the injuries. My goal with pursuing this field of PT is to help individuals realize their abilities and capabilities. I refuse to let capable individuals take giving up on their athletic endeavors as the only option post-injury.

Who has been the most meaningful patient in your clinical career?

I will never forget my 96 year old Chinese female patient in my first clinical rotation that was s/p L hip ORIF and required subacute rehab before discharge to home. She was one of my most motivated patients to date. She was always excited to participate in therapy, and always grateful for our help along her rehabilitation journey.

Although her family notes that she had traveled outdoors only in a wheelchair the last 2 years due to safety concerns, she told me that before that, at 94, she had still taken her daily walks across the Brooklyn Bridge to her English classes, because she wanted to stay healthy and smart to communicate with her great-grandchildren.

Our initial long term goals for her included 50ft of ambulation with a RW, which was a common standard for household ambulators. However, by the 3nd session, she had already progressed to walking 75 feet with minimal assistance, and even reported that she would love to practice more! She had her limitations, but would choose to take rest breaks over giving up. She always made the most out of each day’s 35 minute session, and always used returning to good health, her motivation for doing the best with each activity. By the time she left the hospital to return home, she was walking 250ft with the walker without assistance, and had minimal pain and swelling remaining in the affected extremity.

She proved to me that age is just a number. With creation of sustainable healthy habits, a sense of purpose, motivation, and good friend/family support, we are capable of achieving so much. She reminds me every day, to never assume a patient’s abilities based on their age or profile. She has taught me that we should always strive to stay healthy, regardless of the barriers that life throws at us. Most importantly, she has taught me that as a clinician, showing compassion, care and belief in my patient interactions, can manifest into unveiling the patient’s true capabilities.

Winnie’s Tips for Students

Pre PT

What is your biggest advice for someone who is currently going through the Interview process?

Do your homework! 

Find what interests you about the program you are interviewing for. 

Does the school’s faculty research participation interest you? Does the option for CEU affiliations during your time as a student stand out to you? Does the facility space, and therefore, your playground of learning, catch your eye?

Go into each interview with a unique response for why you are interested. Show the school that you care about this opportunity, and that they should too! Be genuine and you’ll shine in your interview!

What advice for people who are in the first year of physical therapy school?

Learn to manage your time from the beginning! Although the first semester will seem overwhelming, with the load of new material you’re expected to learn, play around with your study methods. 

Do you like to study in groups? Alone? In long study sessions, or broken up in small chunks?

Early on is your time to test out your study methods before you dive into a greater courseload! And if your study methods change over the 3 years, that’s fine too! Be comfortable with making adjustments based on your time and your course load. Being adaptable will help you loads!

Current SPT’s

What is the biggest piece of advice you have for current Physical therapy students?

Study hard, but do not study to memorize. I know that’s easier said than done. When you have a looming test on 5 chapters, it seems impossible to learn everything, but I promise you, the material you actually take time learning, rather than purely memorizing, will carry over for the long run. The material that you cram and memorize to ace the test, will not help you ace your future patient interactions. 

Doing a little worse on the test, but retaining an understanding of the material, is much more meaningful and purposeful when you are actually a clinician. No employer hiring you will evaluate you based on your GPA.

What is your biggest piece of advice for being successful in your clinical rotations?

Be comfortable with not knowing, and communicate that.

I was so nervous coming into my last clinical rotation. Growing up, I’ve always been afraid of needles, blood etc. When we practiced our acute care simulation labs in school, I always fumbled with the lines, and felt like I couldn’t get a good handle on organizing everything on time without seeming dumb. Even though I felt like I had the knowledge to be successful in this rotation, I surely didn’t have the confidence going in.

However, from Day 1 of starting, I was clear and open with my CI about wanting more practice with patient line management. I communicated with her about my worries, but demonstrated that I wanted to learn and to improve. Because I was honest with her from the start of my rotation, it allowed her to guide me into the rotation in areas I was more nervous in, and sharpen my skills under guidance. By the end of the clinical, I was handling her full case load without a problem!

How do you balance your time with School, social media, and self care?

Throughout my 3 years in PT school, I’ve learned to separate out my school time, from my exercise and self care time. I try my best not to study or do school related material in the evenings after classes, and to use that time to spend with family, and/or exercise. I will block out longer study sessions on the weekends so I can have a larger period of productive time for schoolwork. I also make sure to have time for myself, to breathe and relax at some point on the weekends. 

With social media, it varies. These last couple months have been the most active I’ve ever been on technology, so it’s honestly been a bit harder balancing the 3. Luckily I am on clinical rotations now, so I have had less school work to catch up on each day. I generally will devote a few hours in the evening to create my captions/video editing, because that’s strangely when my creativity sparks, and will stay off social media on the weekends, so I can be more present with my loved ones, or myself.

Depending on what your goals are with social media, and what your form of self care is, there can certainly be a healthy balance between the three, but I encourage you guys to not underestimate the importance and power of self care among the 3! I’ve found myself to be most productive and efficient with my time when I remember to take care of myself!

Winnie’s Views on the Physical Therapy Profession:

Where do you see the physical therapy profession heading in the future?

I believe that as we continue to advocate for our profession, and share the knowledge and skills we have as Doctors of Physical Therapy, we will begin to have a more regular role in a patient’s healthcare. People routinely see their PCP (primary care physicians) for annual health checkups, the same can and should be implemented into the PT profession for movement checkups!

As PTs, we have a responsibility to continue fighting for recognition and integration of our profession. Together, as a community, we can help move our profession forward, to provide even better care for our patients.

Biggest issue in the Physical therapy field currently?

The limited insurance coverage our patients have for PT.

Unfortunately, in our healthcare system, insurance payouts ultimately dictate the amount, frequency and duration of physical therapy a patient can receive. Based on how a patient reports their initial health status and how it has changed with PT, using subjective measurements of pain, impact on their daily lives, etc., they may or may not be authorized for more visits. 

It’s disheartening to see that the knowledge, compassion, and skills of the PTs are there, but the opportunities to provide adequate care for our patients aren’t. PTs, especially in the outpatient setting, end up having to load their schedule up with patients, to accommodate for the limited compensation and authorized visits per patient they can receive. 

Winnie Fun Facts!

Favorite muscle in the body?

Glutes! As a runner, I’ve been through so many knee injuries. After going through rehab so many times for the same t the common component in all the injuries was a lack of hip stability and strength. After all, everything is connected in a kinetic chain! Instability & weakness in one joint leads to compensations and greater likelihood of injuries in other parts! Since I’ve incorporated more glute and hip strengthening into my exercise regimen, I’ve noticed significant improvements in my running and decreases in my injury frequencies!

Books/podcast/youtube that you think Physical therapy students should read?

Honestly, I don’t think that there is a recommended set of books/podcast/youtube any PT students “must” read. As someone that almost never watches tv, or uses my phone/laptop outside of school / this page, I honestly barely indulged in PT related content during my time in school, because I chose to use my down time exercising or spending with my loved ones.

I would say that whatever your interests are, pick up a book or podcast or video about it! Just because you’re a SPT, does not mean your life should revolve around Physical Therapy! Find things that make you happy, and learn and become knowledgeable in things that excite you! I sometimes listen to Buddhism podcasts, put on Spanish psychology podcasts, read books on nutrition, watch videos on exercise training. 

Being able to talk about random things, and connect with PEOPLE on things outside of the medical realm will make you a better clinician in the future! Trust me, no one wants to spend time with someone that just spews medical jargon at them. Whatever you want to spend your time listening or reading, do it!

Favorite health/physical therapy Instagram accounts?

@themovementdpt. @dr_jacobdpt @drmalekpt

@docjenfit @chungychung @wocinpt

@devonhoffman.dpt @therapyvault @leepster

How has it been living in NYC during this pandemic?

Mentally draining. 

Living in NYC, especially in Manhattan, means you’re in close proximity with people more often than not. I’ve felt like we’ve had to be on guard at all times the last couple months. Social distancing is not a possibility in my home, especially when I was working in the hospital with Covid patients each day. Each day, after a 10 hour shift, and 4 hour total commute, wearing PPE, I would come home to continue wearing my mask until I got into bed, to make sure I didn’t risk exposing my family. It has not been easy.

It’s been eerie waking up and coming home to empty streets each day, especially ones that used to be hustling and bustling with people at all times.

How does it feel almost being done with school?

I can’t believe it! I remember when I first got the call from my school 2 Decembers ago, it feels like it was just yesterday when I bursted out in tears, screaming, “YES YES YES!! I’LL SEE YOU IN MAY!!”.

Even though I’ll be done in just a couple months, I believe that learning is a lifelong process. Learning within the profession does not end when I graduate, there is ALWAYS more to learn, whether it’s with a new patient group, a new diagnosis, a new method of treatment, or a new interdisciplinary team to partner with. I am certainly relieved to be done with PT school, but I can’t wait to keep learning in the field.

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