Taylor University Inc.

12/04/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/04/2023 12:37

New Class Offers Students Physical Therapy Training

  • By:Charis Negley
  • Published:Dec 4, 2023 1 pm

"Okay team, based on what you've observed here, what can we learn about his shoulder's range of motion?"

Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Scott Fenstermacher directs his students' attention towards the patient sitting on the exam table.

"The posterior capsule is limiting the arthrokinematic glide of the humeral head to allow for internal rotation. Now, if we adjust the movement like this…"

Fenstermacher is one of just 3% of physical therapists in the nation with dual board certification, with specialties in geriatric and orthopedic physical therapy. This semester, he's teaching a physical therapy (PT) class for health science students to get real-world, hands-on experience.

This one-credit class brings real patients into the classroom to receive limited physical training services. By observing and even performing some PT services, students are being prepared for graduate school interviews and working in the rehabilitation field. Currently, 14 juniors and seniors are taking the class.

A Call Back to Taylor

Fenstermacher graduated from Taylor in 2013 with a BS in Exercise Science. During his time at Taylor, he fostered deep relationships with his professors, the same professors who are now his colleagues. Per their encouragement, he applied and was accepted to the University of Delaware (UD) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program, the top-ranked physical therapy program in the nation. Upon acceptance, he and his wife, Kathryn (Kroeker '13), moved there.

When Fenstermacher graduated from the DPT program, he stayed on as a clinical faculty member, where he got to teach as well as practice PT as a clinical instructor. His interest in teaching actually began when he was an undergrad at Taylor, where he was a Teaching Assistant and enjoyed helping students make connections with students in the material.

"I really connected with that idea of teaching and training future generations of healthcare professionals," Fenstermacher said.

But the Fenstermachers felt the Holy Spirit preparing them for something different He had in mind.

Fenstermacher reconnected with Professor of Kinesiology Erik Hayes, who was establishing the Invitation Health and Wellness Program at Taylor. Through Fenstermacher's experience in healthcare and teaching at the graduate level, he learned that one of the biggest challenges graduate students have is transitioning from a classroom to working with real patients. He hopes that the PT class will help Taylor students navigate this challenge.

"Having a program that puts undergrads in that setting where they are one-on-one with a real client...and getting feedback is essential," Fenstermacher said. "Students get to work on how they respond to constructive criticism. This translates really well to graduate school."

While the move back to Indiana was nerve-wracking after feeling comfortable in his previous home and church, when Fenstermacher came to his interview at Taylor and sat in on a chapel service, God gave him encouragement in a special way from then-interim president Paige Cunningham.

"Paige Cunningham was talking to the graduating seniors," he said. "She said, 'God's given me two words for you: Trust me.' I felt like those words were exactly for me."

Hands-On Experience

This is the first semester the Kinesiology Department has offered the PT class. Fenstermacher expects that this class will continue to be offered every semester allowing different patients come in. This way, students can repeat the class and have a completely different experience. Fenstermacher hopes that students will be encouraged to take the class multiple times to bring in more experience each time they take it and go deeper into the class material.

The class currently has four different sections, with four to five students in each section, which gives students a more personal, hands-on experience.

Between two to eight patients attend each session. So far, the class has worked with over 30 individual patients since the beginning of the semester, accumulating over 100 treatment sessions.

They have worked with a wide variety of patients, including those recovering from an injury sustained during an intramural sport and post-surgical patients recovering from major operations. Fenstermacher and his students can provide some manual therapies, such as joint and soft-tissue mobilization, and they are able to recommend strengthening and mobility exercises to improve symptoms and increase function.

Senior exercise science major Emma Clarke has enjoyed participating in a class that gives her experience that's not common in an internship setting.

"My favorite part of the class is learning applicable 'tricks of the trade' from Dr. Fenstermacher," she said. "It's being aware of things we wouldn't necessarily learn in a classroom but are important to doing the job well. For example, we learned how to determine which is our dominant eye so that we could better look for symmetry in anatomical landmarks during evaluations."

Fenstermacher supervises all the patients who are present. Once a patient has received a plan for exercises, such as strengthening a shoulder or knee, students work with the patient, frequently checking in with Fenstermacher.

"Instead of performing all of the patients' care myself, I am able to slow down a treatment session and bring the students into the experience," Fenstermacher said. "I know what they have learned in their anatomy and kinesiology classes, and I am able to integrate that learning and have them apply it in the PT classroom. The students can get real experience working with patients, which is a great opportunity to practice communication, professionalism, and critical thinking."

Opportunities for All Kinesiology Students

Even though this PT class is currently offered to juniors and seniors, there are several practical opportunities that freshmen and sophomores in the health sciences can get involved with.

The Fit into Health program pairs student personal trainers with local community members. Clients have a health-related goal, and kinesiology students develop an exercise program for them.

Health science students also get involved with the Invitation Health and Wellness Program. This is a one-semester, two-credit hour course that prepares students to work in a clinic. Students are trained on how to do an evaluation, how to assess a client's fitness level, and how to apply the curriculum Taylor uses to create lifestyle changes and behavior modification. In weekly supervision sessions, students get together with their peers and talk about their experiences and issues in the clinic, and other students can give feedback to solve these problems.

"I think that's really a strength of Taylor Health Sciences," Fenstermacher said. "We recognize it's really important to put our students in front of real patients and get them that practical experience."

Step into Health Sciences

Want to learn more about studying Kinesiology at Taylor? Check out our degree options and more health science opportunities. Come see it in person-schedule a visit today!