Keeping the ‘Physical’ in MUSC’s Physical Therapy Program

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Education has taken a new form in the wake of COVID-19, but that isn’t stopping professors at MUSC from continuing to teach their ‘hands-on’ courses in the digital ‘hands-off’ reality.

For Dr. Gretchen Seif, Physical Therapist and Associate Professor at MUSC, the new normal they’ve grown into, was never in her foreseeable future.  

I didn’t think that I was going to be online, ever. And nor did I think I could teach a lab online. But now what I’ve learned, after being in the 3rd week of this, is it’s actually something I can do—it’s actually something I kinda enjoy. 

Dr. Gretchen Seif, Physical Therapist, Associate Professor, Full-time MUSC Faculty

While their teaching styles and equipment have altered, the coursework has remained the same.  

We’re required by our accrediting body to have objectives in our syllabi to cover, and that’s something that we have to do. How I’m doing that and, in the order, that I’m doing that has changed quite a bit.  

Dr. Gretchen Seif, Physical Therapist, Associate Professor, Full-time MUSC Faculty

According to Ben Kelly, a class of 2022 Student at MUSC, says that knowing the new format is approved for accreditation is more than enough to keep to him going.  

Knowing that, what we’re doing online is okay with the accreditors as well as the school and the professors, that gives me confidence that the way we’re being taught and what we’re learning is what we need to know basically to pass our board exams. I think that’s comforting on some level. 

Ben Kelly, MUSC Student

As for the amount of participation, Dr. Seif says it’s hard to monitor as she’s come to learn there are new expectations with an online format. 

I can’t expect them to all be able to speak up or to ask a question because even in my class of 68, I can’t see all their faces at the same time on the screen. So I can’t even see somebody raise their hand, where in a physical classroom I would. So you have to be more creative in it. The chat room feature has been really good. There’s a hand raising feature that’s kind of interesting, but I haven’t quite figured that one out yet, and then I’ve been doing more interactive things when we’re together. 

Dr. Gretchen Seif, Physical Therapist, Associate Professor, Full-time MUSC Faculty

One of those interactive activities is practicing on an individual nearby, but if a student does not have a partner to practice on, there are other options. One of those is working through the clinical reasoning process or practicing on themselves.

For Dr. Seif’s class, she says they are fortunate to be working on the elbow, wrist, and hand portion of the class at the moment which allows her to showcase the efforts on herself.   

For those students who do not have a ‘patient’ to practice on for their labs, there are extra office hours scheduled to assist them.

While Dr. Seif says she’s more kinetic in her teaching approach with ensuring the students’ placements and manipulations are correct, it’s been a harder area of adaption. But the guidance is still there. 

You can still see that their forearm is in the right position. Are they resisting in the right way? Are they moving it in a certain direction? There are things that I can look for so that I am cuing them. So it’s just a lot more verbal cuing.  

Dr. Gretchen Seif, Physical Therapist, Associate Professor, Full-time MUSC Faculty

Kelly says while the beginning of their online transition was rocky, as expected, all of the faculty has gone above and beyond. 

Everyone is coming together through all of this. I mean, you got people working, you know, countless hours to make sure that this process is as smooth as possible, and I think it’s definitely paying off. You can really tell there’s been a lot of work put into it.  

Ben Kelly, MUSC Student

Despite the lack of a classroom, the education will continue. 

I don’t think they are going to miss anything. Their education is still going to be a great education. MUSC is still a great school, and we’re still going to be going back and doing all those hands on things. It just might be on a different timeline than we had originally planned.  

Dr. Gretchen Seif, Physical Therapist, Associate Professor, Full-time MUSC Faculty

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