Lauren Riley

Ever wonder what the future of physical therapy looks like? Look no further than a group of dedicated, outspoken DPT students who are vocal about all sorts of PT-related issues on social media, helping to spark a healthy dialogue about the current state of the profession and the direction it’s likely to take in the years to come. I am lucky enough to get paid for lurking on monitoring our social media accounts, so I tend to come across Twitter chats about physical therapy. Judging by the depth of dialogue under the #DPTstudent hashtag and the positive response these discussions elicit from experienced PTs like Ann Wendel (who guest blogged about this topic in April), the future of our profession looks bright. Even the APTA recently took notice of DPT students making noise in the Twitterverse, helping to spread the word about these weekly chats with a timely reminder tweet.

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to catch up with one of these DPT students for a brief phone conversation. Lauren Riley (@LaurenrSPT) is the founder of the #DPTstudent Twitter chat, and she was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule (finals time) to tell me more about herself, the Twitter chat she started, and what she hopes to accomplish with the chat and her PT career.

A fellow East Coaster, Lauren moved from Philly to Washington for undergrad and stayed in the Capital to work as an accountant. So, how does an accountant become interested in physical therapy and inspired to attend graduate school to earn a degree in this challenging field? The same way a collegiate basketball player gets into PT and eventually launches an EMR company for physical therapists—a knee injury. Nothing will get you excited about being a PT like seeing first-hand the difference physical therapy makes in people’s lives. And so, with D.C. in her rear view, Lauren headed west to Regis University to begin the first year of her DPT program.

Year one was not easy, but she loved the experience. In addition to completing her assignments for school, Lauren wanted to make sure she got involved outside of the classroom. She wanted to create professional networking opportunities for herself and her classmates early into their graduate school careers. Lauren had experience writing for social media, having developed a personal blog in D.C. to document her triathlon achievements. When she realized there were active students and PTs on Twitter and Facebook, Lauren decided to find a way to bring them together and put her prior social media experience to work by launching an online conversation for DPT students specifically.

That’s how the #DPTstudent Twitter Chat was born. The topics are genuinely interesting and relevant to students and practicing therapists alike, and Lauren does an excellent job as moderator with well prepared questions and prompts to keep the conversation flowing smoothly. Plus, it’s truly a great networking opportunity for the participants, who get a chance to interact with classmates, with other DPT students from all around the country, and maybe most importantly, with practicing physical therapists, who offer advice, mentorship, and professional guidance. On any given night, students may hear about clinical issues related to acute care from a practicing therapist like Ben Fung (@DrBenFung), or they may get a perspective on marketing and business development from Jerry Durham (@Jerry_DurhamPT), another practicing therapist and Twitter regular who participates in the chats.

Unpredictable and often changing schedules have made it a little challenging, but the number of participants continues to grow and the #DPTstudent hashtag keeps gaining momentum. Lauren would (of course) love to see this trend continue, and she hopes more and more students, professors, and PTs participate. In fact, that is one of her biggest pieces of advice for first-year DPT students—find ways to get involved outside of your studies. Classwork obviously comes first. However, staying current on the latest happenings in your industry and networking with people who may be in the position to help you advance your career are equally important.

With that in mind, I encourage you to check out the #DPTstudent chats on Twitter every Wednesday at 9:00 PM EST (tweet this!). For transcripts of previous chats, check out PT Think Tank. And follow @LaurenrSPT so you’ll know the topic ahead of time and can come prepared with insightful and entertaining tweets. As for me, I’ll continue to lurk on monitor our Twitter feed for all things physical therapy related and will definitely fill you in on the cool stuff I come across.