It’s easy to talk yourself out of a challenge. But Shantel Blume, who is set to graduate from Arcadia University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program on Jan. 19, says: “When it’s really right, a lot of times you get affirmation about it.”
Blume took a few moments to reflect on her two-and-a-half year journey at a small gathering of the Arcadia Physical Therapy community at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia on Nov. 29. She remembers a time when she tried to talk herself out of an experiential learning trip to Jamaica. One day at church, listening to a message on responsibility, she was struck when the pastor said, “Sometimes responsibility is one’s ability to respond.” Affirmation received.
For Blume, the experiential learning component made all the difference. “I have learned so much in this curriculum,” she says. “I’ve been very well prepared. I have the opportunity to go and impact somebody’s life. Why not go?”
After graduating cum laude from Hampton University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2008, Blume, a native of Maryland, decided she would pursue a degree in physical therapy. She applied to four schools. Among them was Arcadia. But the University didn’t top her list until she attended an open house on campus, which included a presentation from Dr. Becky Craik, Professor and Chair of Physical Therapy.
“I was really, really intrigued by the experiential learning and I thought, well, I’ve heard of some other schools doing something similar, but not to this magnitude,” she says. “Maybe [other schools] send one or two students or maybe they give an option to do something stateside, but it’s not required and it’s not at this level. That really was the driving factor and after that open house. I thought, ‘Oh, please let me get accepted there, because I don’t want to go anywhere else.’”
As a first year student at Arcadia, Blume couldn’t hide behind her text books. She had the opportunity to develop her leadership and organizational skills at West Oak Lane and Foulkeways, two retirement communities in the Greater Philadelphia area. While instructing chair aerobics and various other activities during weekly sessions with classmates, she realized the profound importance of getting involved.
“It gave us the opportunity to practice a skill that you don’t always get in the classroom and that you certainly can’t learn in a book—the opportunity to teach,” she says. “[It’s] an integral skill to becoming a great physical therapist.” She also notes that regardless of a patient’s age, therapists should continue to challenge patients within their limits and goals, noting a few very formidable 70-year-old aquatic volleyball players at Foulkeways.
The second year was a chance for Blume to put her knowledge to the test and her “hands to the plow”—specifically at Mercy Pro Bono Clinic and Aaron Stay Fit Clinic. Thinking outside of the box, she was challenged to exceed the limitations of high co-pays and the uninsured. “It’s just one of those things that you can’t teach it, and you can’t experience it until it’s right there in front of you, and you’re stuck with that challenge of ‘What do I do now? How do I still impact this person’s life?’ Because we can.”
At the end of her second year, she was challenged again, this time on an international platform, when the opportunity arose to do pro bono work abroad. Blume elected to participate in the two-week clinical experience in Jamaica with several classmates. The experience was in collaboration with Friends of the Redeemer and Arcadia alumna Brooke Riley ’04DPT. She was intimidated by the idea of working with neuro-patients—she was interested but didn’t recognize it as her strong suit—as well as the prospect of getting sweaty and dirty. But today, she’s glad she received that affirmation from her pastor.
“I decided to go, and it was an absolutely phenomenal experience,” she says. “And all of those things that I was worried about were not an issue.” Without advanced equipment at their disposal, she and her classmates had to develop creative solutions to meet patients’ needs and asked Riley for help with the skills that they lacked. They returned to Glenside with an improved skill set.
These are skills “that I’m taking with me even now—that I’m not just using with patients with strokes and Parkinson’s,” she says. “I can also use them with my orthopedic patients… It was a great opportunity to get back to basics, to use all of those fundamental skills that we’ve already learned and really impact the patients. So it was absolutely phenomenal, and I think that I’m a more well-rounded person now and certain that I’ll be a much more well-rounded therapist.”