The Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) prompt for the 2017-2018 cycle reads as follows:
"What is professionalism in the context of being a student in a doctor of physical therapist degree program?"
This prompt presents greater challenges compared to the standard personal statement prompt that asks, “Why do you want to pursue this profession?” The PTCAS prompt requires pre-PT students to describe their notions of professionalism as a student physical therapist without experiencing a DPT education themselves.
While this prompt is difficult, I have organized a few ideas from my experience as a current student physical therapist to assist you in writing your statement:
This is the single most important aspect of professionalism that a student will need to practice and utilize throughout their education and beyond.
Can you accurately express your ideas through written and verbal communication? Do you utilize an appropriate vocabulary for your audience? Do your posture and body language match your words and tone? In addition, can you listen effectively and without judgement?
Not only will you practice these skills as a student with faculty, clinicians and peers, but you will undoubtedly need to be an effective communicator for patients. Professional communication is integral for developing strong patient-therapist relationships and achieving the best outcomes.
Part of being a healthcare professional student involves recognizing that you are responsible for your own education. Are you willing to accept this responsibility? If you are struggling in a course, are you able to understand your shortcomings? Or are you quick to assign blame to the professor, the TA and/or the test questions?
DPT programs move fast, and unless a student requests to slow down or clarify information, the faculty will assume that everyone is on the same page. Therefore, the student must ensure that they fully understand the material presented in class or seek out additional resources. Find a study group, reflect on your habits, develop a study schedule and/or ask professors for strategies to improve your learning.
Students must demonstrate this sense of initiative and accountability for their education. As an undergraduate, the consequence for poor performance on an exam might be only a low grade. As a DPT student, this same lack of accountability for one’s education could affect patient care.
Physical therapists must maintain a professional license. Do you understand what it means to follow an ethical code? You may encounter situations during your clinical rotations that may force you to report unethical practices. The admissions faculty want to know that you will abide by the law and act in the best interest of your patients when confronted with these dilemmas.
If you have other professional licenses, write about what it means to uphold them. Do you follow a religious code or belief system? Have you been confronted with an ethical dilemma, and if so, how did you respond? An understanding of ethics is important for maintaining a professional license and therefore it should be articulated in your statement.
This attribute can be shown in multiple ways. As you will hear repeatedly, a DPT program can be very stressful. In order to succeed in this environment, a student must be reflective of their own intellectual, social, physical and emotional wellness. In addition, a student must understand their personal needs for maintaining these areas of wellness, especially under stress.
Beyond managing personal wellness, a student will need to be able to learn and discuss health issues in a mature and professional manner. Patients entrust their care with physical therapists while they are in a vulnerable state. Without the maturity to conduct a professional examination, therapists cannot expect to build strong relationships and/or achieve the best patient outcomes.
These are a few topics of professionalism that you may want to discuss in your personal statement. Be mindful of the language and tone of your personal statement because this will also reflect your understanding of professional communication. Remember to not only answer the question, but incorporate aspects of yourself by writing about personal experiences. After all, this statement is your best opportunity to provide context to your story and why you want to become a physical therapist.
Do you need extra help in writing your personal statement? Contact us today for application solutions from our team!