Physical therapists are experts in movement — they help patients restore mobility through exercise and similar treatment plans. Exercise science major Colin Turner '19 received hands-on clinical experience while also experiencing a new culture when he spent his summer working alongside physical therapists in Ireland. The exposure to his discipline in an international setting took his learning to an even higher level, and the transferable skills he learned brought him one step closer to his ultimate goal of helping people improve their quality of life.
Turner was an intern at Physiotherapy Works, a private clinic in the town of Naas, about 45 minutes southwest of Dublin. Physical therapy is a rising profession in many countries outside the United States, where it is often referred to as physiotherapy. At Physiotherapy Works, each floor of the clinic focused on a specialty: physical therapy, personal training and Pilates. Turner assisted the professionals in all three departments.
While helping instruct patients in their therapies, Turner learned how to use a variety of equipment and techniques common to the practice. Dry needling, a technique used to treat myofascial by injecting needles into muscle areas known as trigger points, is used by many of the physical therapists at Physiotherapy Works. Turner saw a patient who received the treatment to treat his back pain. After several appointments, the patient had improved to the point where he no longer needed surgery. Turner also gained experience working with ultrasound machines, orthotic casting materials and dynamometers.
Turner’s internship site expected him to have extensive background knowledge on the various subjects physical therapy draws on, such as physiology and nutrition, and he did. He cites his courses at Colby-Sawyer, especially Anatomy and Sports Psychology, as being instrumental to his success.
Turner also experienced an amazing cross-cultural exchange. His study abroad program, Learn International, pointed him in the direction of cultural landmarks, such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Wicklow Mountains, and he also visited Dublin and Galway. A gift to Colby-Sawyer from Jean Cragin Ingwersen '54 helped make Turner’s internship possible by defraying some of the travel costs associated with completing an internship abroad.
At the clinic, Turner had productive discussions regarding Ireland’s approach to physical therapy. “I gained a useful perspective on health care systems in countries outside my own and how they operate,” said Turner. He also learned about the business side of running a clinic while completing office administrative duties.
One of the most important aspects of physical therapy is communication, which became clear when Turner treated a boy whose muscles had undergone atrophy during the time his arm was in a cast following a surgery. Turner and the physical therapist devised an exercise to target the boy’s weakened muscles that also functioned as a “secret handshake.” The creative solution became an effective way to et speed up the boy’s recovery. “These human interactions make patients focus less on the treatment and the pain they may be experiencing,” said Turner.
It’s that kind of compassion that makes Turner eager to start his professional career. Though he found it challenging not to have the full freedom of a licensed physical therapist, his internship helped him feel more equipped to fulfill the needs of his future patients.
“I gained a love of what I will be doing one day as a profession and this is very important,” explained Turner. “Before this internship I didn’t have much experience and because of that I was less sure than I am now about my career choice. I am now even more set on becoming a physical therapist and hope one day to open my own practice.”