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Students Improvise to Demonstrate PT Skills Virtually

October 30, 2020
Four PCOM Georgia PT students show off workout equipment on a computer screen during an online class session.
Four physical therapy students are shown on a laptop screen during a virtual conference call showcasing rehab exercises in their homes.
A PCOM Georgia student walks through a pattern of beverage cans in her yard to demonstrate the "forward walking cone taps" exercise.
A PCOM Georgia PT student practices e-stim therapy on a roommate during online learning sessions due to COVID-19.
For a virtual class presentation, a physical therapy student demonstrates a stretch on her roommate as she lies down on a bed.
Physical therapy student demonstrates supported bodyweight squats exercises using his pet dog.
A PCOM Georgia student and her child demonstrate a physical therapy exercise on the family dog.
A PT student shows a static compression stocking on her pet dog during a virtual learning session.

Due to limited on campus learning, PT students created videos and presentations at home to demonstrate techniques and exercises.

COVID-19 has forced PCOM Georgia’s Doctor of Physical Therapy students to stretch their thinking when it comes to demonstrating their understanding of subject matter. When classes went completely online in the spring and now with limited time on campus and social distancing guidelines in place, students are drawing on their creative skills more than ever.

Prior to the pandemic, students would act out various scenarios with classmates in a lab setting using wheelchairs, crutches, exercise equipment and other supplies in front of an attentive group of faculty members and fellow students. Without classmates and equipment at the ready, the physical therapy students improvised – with roommates, family members and even pets to demonstrate their skills via video.

During one set of assessments, the class of 2021 focused on neurological conditions for adults and children, while the class of 2022 presented cases dealing with the cardiopulmonary system, wounds and cardiovascular and lymphatic diseases.

Class members submitted presentations using walkers made from Legos that assisted furry family members in proper ambulation on level surfaces and stairs. Students demonstrated cardiovascular training by using upside down bikes. Numerous pets were filmed doing exercises (with the assistance of their humans) to address range of motion, strengthening, balance and the reduction of edema.

Cats and dogs modeled compression garments and acted as patients with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a spinal cord injury, and a traumatic brain injury as their owners practiced proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation to increase strength and coordination.

According to Shelley DiCecco, PT, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, “The two classes really made the most of a less than desirable situation and our students will hopefully have fond memories to look back on.” She added with a smile, “No animals, roommates or family members were harmed in the making of the students’ videos.”

Another assignment involving patients diagnosed with cancer fatigue and lymphedema led students to practice their telehealth skills on each other. Using an online platform, groups of students acted out scenarios as patients and therapists using commonly found items in their homes.

DiCecco noted that the PT students became proficient at teaching activities via computer without the use of tactile cues or clinical equipment.

“They were able to demonstrate Tai Chi, exercises with bands, foam rollers and weights made of everyday items like soup cans, and the use of ice and heat as part of the interventions,” she said. Following the activity, she said, “The students felt they had a better understanding of how a patient will perform exercises at home and how a therapist can effectively provide a telehealth visit in a clinical setting.”

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  • About PCOM Georgia

    Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science, and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit or call 678-225-7500.

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