Students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) are putting self-care into health care.
Last fall, the Physical Therapy Student Organization (PTSO) created four new health and wellness positions to encourage peers to stay active and destress.
Jenny Black (DPT ’22), Theresa Buechler (DPT ’21), Angela Petretta (DPT ’22), and Dana Schwartz (DPT ’21) have literally jumped into leading lunchtime workouts and sending weekly reminders, tips, and strategies promoting healthy habits. All four students recognize that the healthy habits will pay off now and with their future careers – if they don’t take care of themselves, caring for patients will be more difficult.
“If you want to pursue this career, it’s a good idea to make physical and mental health maintenance routine,” said Black. “As PT students, we do a lot of the research on our own already and we wanted to share information to motivate each other.”
In addition to leading workouts, the health and wellness chairs have created a weekly “Wellness Wednesday” newsletter, advocated for resources such as foam rollers for the student space, and hosted mental health sessions with guest speakers. They’ve also provided healthy snacks during exams and organized the October Steps Challenge that promoted physical activity.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, the health and wellness team moved their workouts to Zoom and sent a quarantine wellness checklist to help their peers with self-care while home. The daily checklist reminded students to exercise, hydrate appropriately, get eight hours of sleep, and complete a mindful activity, among other items.
Looking to post-COVID-19, the students have some new ideas in the works. They hope to create a lounge in the PT suite to provide a meditative place for students to destress and bring in massage therapists during finals.
“My favorite thing about the position is hearing from a classmate that they are excited about a healthy recipe we’ve included in the newsletter or some other way we’ve helped them,” said Schwartz.
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