Thanks for sharing your story, Dr. McCrady!
Jenn McCrady is a VT alumna who is currently working as a Physical Therapist. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS degree in Biology and Minor in Chemistry in 2002, before receiving a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Iowa in 2005. She currently works prn as a Physical Therapist for VT Sports Medicine as well as University Physical Therapy in the NRV.
How did you know that your profession was the right one for you?
I always knew that I wanted to work in the medical field. I started volunteering at the hospital when I was a junior in high school and was placed in the Rehabilitation Department (PT/OT/SLP). I was instantly drawn to the field and loved the idea of spending quality time with patients to help enhance their quality of life, improve their sports performance, or recover from an injury.
When did you figure it out?
I was very fortunate to decide on Physical Therapy during my junior year of high school. I continued to volunteer/job shadow whenever possible in the PT/OT department, as well as the orthopedic department and even had the opportunity to observe surgeries. During my undergraduate time at VT, I was fortunate enough to work with the athletes by serving as a student Athletic Trainer. Everything that I saw reinforced that PT was the career for me.
What kinds of experiences in undergrad did you have (over the summer/during the year) that helped you prepare for your profession?
- Volunteering/job shadowing in PT/OT departments (variety of settings including inpatient, outpatient, and skilled nursing)
- Serving as a student Athletic Trainer in the VT Sports Medicine Department
- Observed orthopedic surgeries
- Job shadowing with prosthetics/orthotics professionals
What are some important things to keep in mind when applying to/preparing for professional school?
In general, professional schools are significantly more competitive in terms of admissions (i.e. most PT incoming class sizes are 25-35 students). Everyone applying has competitive grades/test scores. What will set you apart is your demonstrated commitment to the profession and health/wellness in general. This could include things like having a variety of job shadowing, involvement in extra curricular activities that demonstrate communication and leadership skills as well as your ability to adapt to your environment, leadership roles, etc…
What is something you wish you had known during your undergraduate years?
The biggest change from undergrad to grad school was that once you are there, you are all in. Everything that you do will be focused on the profession. Every class is relevant. Every skill that you learn is important. Every patient/case that you are involved in will contribute to your professional development in some way. It is exhausting and the workload is intense.
Overall advice for those unsure of their health profession path
Keep your mind open and take advantage of every opportunity you have to observe/volunteer different medical professionals.