Physical therapy students offer free care

Record Staff Writer
Students in the physical therapy doctoral program at Bellarmine University see patients at the CEC twice a week free of charge.

Each semester, more than a dozen physical therapy doctoral program students from Bellarmine University visit the Catholic Enrichment Center (CEC) twice a week. There, free of charge, they treat patients who come to the CEC at 3146 W. Broadway.

The program began in 2009. That’s when two Bellarmine physical therapy doctoral program students studied how much access people of Western Louisville had to physical therapy care.

Dr. Catherine “Kate” Crandell, an assistant professor and associate director of clinical education at Bellarmine Uni-versity, said the students spent one and a half years planning and conducting community “needs assessments” to determine if physical therapy care was needed and would be used, Crandell said.

“We didn’t want to come in and tell people what they needed,” she explained. “We wanted to listen and see if the community would utilize the services.”

The overwhelming response was “yes.” So Crandell worked with the Archdiocese of Louisville Office of Multicultural Ministry, which operates the CEC, to develop the program.

Katie Williams, a first-year student in the physical therapy doctoral program at Bellarmine University, treated Sister for Christian Communities Patsy Guyton at the Catholic Enrichment Center March 1.

The physical therapy students gain real-world experience with patients, and the people who use the CEC receive physical therapy treatment at no cost.

Not only do the physical therapy students gain practical experience in a clinic setting, they are actively engaged in the community — a key component to the curriculum at Bellarmine University and the physical therapy doctoral program.

“With service learning, our students learn about the community in which they serve, and the community learns about us in return. It’s a very rich, very meaningful exchange for our students,” Crandell said.

Each semester, three crews of approximately four students visit the CEC on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon. Bellarmine offers a university-wide free period from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on these days for students to engage in service to the community, Crandell said.

“This experience gives the students a wide exposure to different patient populations,” Crandell, who accompanies the studies on each visit and supervises the treatment sessions, said. “This is one opportunity where we can ensure that they get a small glimpse of what it’s going to be like for them. It’s also about pushing them out of their comfort zones.”

Stephanie McCauley, a first year physical therapy doctoral student, said that seeing patients at the CEC has been her first opportunity to treat patients on her own.

“Until this point, I have learned many of the skills necessary to evaluate a patient but have only practiced these skills on fellow (healthy) classmates,” she said.

McCauley said the experience has been both “challenging and rewarding” and has encouraged her to take advantage of all learning opportunities.

The CEC takes responsibility for advertising the program and forwards all requests to Crandell, who schedules the appointments.

Last semester the students were present for 25 days. In that time they had 11 unique visits (meaning they saw eleven different people), and they provided 48 treatments. There were two cancellations and only one no-show.

“What that speaks to is the trust that has been established and the relationship between the physical therapy program, now in its fifth consecutive semester, and the CEC. … People know we are reliable. They know we are not just coming to collect data or for a self-serving academic purpose, but that the students truly care about the clients,” Crandell said.

Even though treatments are free, students practice how to account for their time and to bill for treatment at each therapy session, Crandell said.

Kim Telesford-Mapp, director of the CEC, said the service Bellarmine students provide to the CEC is “invaluable” and sees their work as a “ministry.”

“What they do is they minister to the whole body and spirit,” she noted. “They’re just so caring and very meticulous in what they do. It’s been an absolute blessing to have the students here.”

For Sister for Christian Community Patsy Guyton, who goes to the CEC on Thursdays for treatment for shoulder pain, the service Bellarmine offers is “very beneficial.”

“There are a number of residents in the area who do not have insurance, like myself, or if they have insurance, they don’t have enough. The (physical therapy) program has made health care accessible to people who do not normally have access to this type of service,” Sister Guyton said.

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