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Why New Grad Physical Therapists Should Pursue Geriatric Residency

Introduction – How to be the best YOU

I believe wholeheartedly that if I want to be the best at something and provide a high-quality, high-value service, then I must do, learn and emulate what the best are doing. Formal, structured mentorship from the brightest and most passionate in geriatric physical therapy is my primary reason for pursuing residency training. My goal is to be surrounded by excellence that challenges me daily, holds me accountable and ultimately demands that I question my critical thinking process.

I wish to be held to the highest standards and quality of service I deliver for my patients to ensure my continued growth as a clinician. I look forward to an environment which allows me to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, as I have learned repeatedly from personal experience that this signifies growth.

Residency mindset as a student and lifelong learning

As a student (soon to be new graduate), I am at my most malleable stage of my professional career. I have yet to develop my own set of concrete beliefs and practice patterns, which enables me to be molded by mentorship. The ideal window to expand on my physical therapy school foundation is now; while I am still hardwired to function in a curriculum-structured environment.

As long as I can remember, I have always been passionate about lifelong learning. I believe strongly in evidence-based practice and want to feel confident my clinical decisions are supported by the literature while taking into account professional experience and patient values. A prerequisite to lifelong learning is a willingness to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, an aspect of my development which I have particularly come to enjoy. I realize that residency training can be a grueling process, and I welcome the challenge as I know it will foster my personal and professional growth. Ultimately, though, I aim to provide an invaluable patient experience, and I believe a residency is the most efficient route to elevate myself to that level professionally.

GCS – Why geriatric residency training is for you

Throughout my DPT curriculum and clinical affiliations thus far, I have observed and interacted with multiple Geriatric Certified Specialists who all possessed a much deeper understanding of the vast realm of geriatric knowledge than what I had been taught in school. Their ability to connect with, and understand the needs of each patient gave them a unique ability to form a relationship that only made their decision-making process more distinct and purposeful. The confidence, decision-making abilities and speed with which they performed inspired me to pursue post-professional residency training.

The older adult can be quite challenging to manage clinically. Often these patients are medically complex with a myriad of comorbidities and multi-system involvement. I embrace this challenge and find it highly rewarding to reason through complicated patient presentations. It is this level of critical thinking which fuels my desire to pursue a post-professional education as I believe this level of understanding is prerequisite to most effectively treat the geriatric patient.

Challenges and the art of learning

All I have known throughout my life has been structured, accelerated challenges and learning opportunities. I strive to maintain a busy schedule in a fast-paced environment which combines academics, professional duty and clinical excellence. Residency would provide me with all of the qualities I am seeking as a new graduate: a structured, unique opportunity for reflective clinical reasoning, integration of evidence-based practice and utilization of advanced knowledge and psychomotor skills. I plan to gain novel, clinically relevant and evidence-based geriatric specific knowledge through directed learning activities; specialty clinic observation experiences, classroom teaching, case studies, presentations, in-services, community service, self-reflections and narratives. Eventually I plan to become a mentor for the next generation of DPT students interested in working with older adults, both in the classroom and the clinic.

Having grown up in an underserved and underprivileged background, it is my goal to continue my participation in community outreach activities and pro-bono rehabilitation services for underserved populations. A firm believer in the ideal that “iron sharpens iron,” I aim to be surrounded by like-minded colleagues who are also relentless in their pursuit of clinical, personal and professional excellence. Many residency programs provide ample opportunity to not only work with residents from another specialty (Ortho, Neuro, Peds, Sports, etc.), but more importantly to collaborate and discuss cases with other geriatric residents within the same cohort. As a resident, I plan to strengthen my ability to provide high-quality healthcare as a team; “If you wish to go fast, go alone. If you wish to go far, go together.”

As I continue on this journey through my challenging, yet rewarding clinical experiences, my vision for the future has never been more vibrant. I crave to be surrounded by excellence, both personally and professionally, in a setting where I can continue my pursuit of geriatric expertise in physical therapy. I have a burning desire to refine my problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities to maximize patient outcomes and streamline my evaluation and treatment techniques. Residency is the opportunity of a lifetime to be surrounded by a cohesive team of excellence and continue on my path as a lifelong learner.

The pursuit of clinical excellence

My desire for clinical excellence has only been strengthened as a result of repeated exposure to lack of evidence-based practice. As many of you are likely aware, there is an abundance of readily-available literature that would enhance the care of our elderly population, yet unfortunately, due to a myriad of reasons, it continues to be widely underutilized and ignored. As an individual who is so passionate about our elderly population, I find this extremely frustrating, yet motivating. The only way I know how to shift this paradigm is to be the difference I wish to see in this world. I would absolutely be doing my patients a disservice by not pursuing the pinnacle of geriatric education and evidence-based practice in order to provide the highest quality of care possible for the older adult.

Ultimately, my passion is to advocate for the patient. There is tremendous need to serve this ever growing population, and I hope to become a leader within this specialty practice area one day. I strongly believe there is no better path to achieve this goal than through a geriatric residency program that will challenge me daily to advance clinically and foster leadership skills by working under expert mentorship in a fast-paced and structured environment. I am hopeful that post-professional education is the next step in my path of lifelong learning and a catapult to a highly rewarding career serving older adults.

Being a leader – it starts today

One day I plan to be a leader in this profession; I realize though, before one can lead, one must learn to follow. In order to inspire and lead by example, I need to arm myself with the finest education, training, and exposure possible, all while building a valuable network to call upon in times of uncertainty. I am confident that a geriatric residency program will provide ample opportunity and exposure to experiences that will allow me to learn, grow, and be a catalyst for change.


Joe Daniels, SPT is a 3rd year DPT student currently wrapping up his second full time clinical in an inpatient rehab setting and will graduate in May, 2017. Joe has a unique passion for working with the older adult and was recently appointed as Co-Host of the iTunes Senior Rehab Podcast where he will be responsible for the production of “SHORTS’, the evidence based segment for geriatric rehab clinicians. Following graduation in May, Joe plans to begin a geriatric residency program in pursuit of clinical excellence in the treatment of older adults. Outside of residency applications and recording podcasts for SRP you will find Joe on the basketball court, hiking mountains or on the phone with his family on the other side of the pond.

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About Joe Daniels

Joe Daniels
Nova Southeastern DPT 2017. Future Geriatric PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA. Life-Long Learner. Sports Junkie. World Explorer. Family First. Go BIG or go HOME!

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