James Madison University

Alumni Highlight - Nick Vitale - Class of 2011

BS Kinesiology: Exercise Science, Pre-Physical Therapy,  Class of 2011

Undergraduate Internship

In January of 2011, I started my internship just as all seniors do. I spoke with a fellow student about her practicum experience at a physical therapy clinic called Wampler Rehab on Resevoir Street. Mr. Wampler had come in and presented for the Pre-Physical Therapy Society, in addition to being a guest speaker for KIN 201 my sophomore year. These experiences had led me to believe that an internship with him would be both a great learning experience as well as an enjoyable working environment.

During my time at Wampler Rehab, I had two different sets of responsibilities. One set was in the office while the other was out on the floor with the therapists and patients. I did what most physical therapy aides would do, like retrieve hot and cold packs for patients and wash, dry and replace towels and pillowcases. I also had the opportunity to shadow Mr. Wampler and sit in on evaluations. Mr. Wampler answered any questions that I had and also rattled off a few in my direction, which kept me on my toes. Eventually I was given more freedom to work with patients and walked certain patients through their exercise programs. One aspect of Mr. Wamplerís facility that may be unique to where most students have worked prior to completing their internship is the availability of a pool. In the clinic I worked at while I was home, we did not have a pool because it was very expensive to maintain and took up a lot of room. It did, however, seem to be a valuable asset for patients at Wampler Rehab.

As for in the office, I learned a lot about insurance companies and the paperwork side of physical therapy. I faxed, mailed, and received evals signed by doctors and therapists and made up charts for new patients. I searched for old charts in order to bill the patients or send proof that they had attended a visit.

Jim made this an invaluable learning experience by taking me through every patient that was being evaluated for the first time. He briefly examined their medical history with the patient and if they didnít mind I was allowed to listen. This was followed by a barrage of questions regarding their current ailment. During the eval, Jim would often turn to me and explain what something meant more in depth or ask me a question about what I thought was the problem. Interactions such as this are so valuable because you canít get them in a classroom. I recommended this clinic to a few students and would definitely encourage anyone else interested in physical therapy to take a trip down to talk to Mr. Wampler.

Graduate School

I chose to go straight into Physical Therapy school without taking any time off. I started my application process on ptcas.org the summer going in to my senior year because I heard that it can be very hectic balancing applications with school work. When I started hearing my friends talk about all of the schools that they heard back from, while I had yet to hear anything, I started to think about the possibility of taking a year off. When I finally heard that I got interviews from all three schools I applied to, I was naturally extremely relieved and excited. After my interview at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) I learned that I was one of 650 applicants competing for one of two remaining spots. This again made me think about the reality of taking a year off. I took the GRE, but it turned out the scores were not required by the schools I applied to. My overall GPA was a 3.3 (Kin- 3.65, math & science- 3.2) which was average for the applicant pool. Ultimately, since most other applicants were well-spoken and conveyed adequate communication skills, it was likely my letters of recommendation and the 2,000+ volunteer/employment hours that separated me from the other prospective students.

NYIT started two weeks after I graduated from JMU so there was not much time off. Anatomy started May 23rd and went until early July, and was followed by Kinesiology from early July until mid-August. The fall semester started in September with a class focused on orthopedics, biomechanics, and modalities (all with a lab component), pathophysiology, and a massage class. NYIT structures its program with a short spring semester so the students can get out to their clinical rotations early. I just finished the semester March 16th and since I got placed in the second of the three rotation slots, I have two months off. My clinic runs from May through July and then I have another few weeks off before the fall semester starts.

Going into PT school, I heard that the academics were very difficult. This worried me as my undergraduate GPA was only average amongst my classmates, but I ended up finishing my first year of classes with a 3.70. I had to work extremely hard but attaining good grades is definitely possible, even in grad school. Now, after finishing classes, I only have my clinical rotation left to complete my first year of PT school. I was placed in an outpatient clinic pretty close to home so now I have time to work before heading to clinic.