Ashley Williams was working in her university’s career center when she stumbled across a posting for an internship at KCP Physical Therapy. A junior with a clear intent to become a physical therapist, she applied for the position and was thrilled to be accepted. She spent the next three years interning at KCP and says, “It was a perfect fit.”
Ashley is now pursuing her doctorate in Physical Therapy at Elon University. She says that the experience at KCP was “amazing” and helped her with her vision of what a physical therapy practice should be.
Patient-Centered Physical Therapy
Through the PT program at Elon, Ashley shadows in a variety of settings and locations. As she reflects on her time at KCP, she says that biggest difference was seeing how a PT-owned practice is run.
“KCP is owned and run by physical therapists,” she says. “Every decision is made with the patients in mind. It’s not just about the numbers. It’s completely patient-centered.”
She also discovered an environment that was less transactional and more relational.
“Most PT environments will discharge a patient after rehab, and then that’s it. At KCP, patients aren’t abandoned when they finish rehab. They can graduate to the training program where they can continue to work out in an environment that is safe for them,” she says.
Ashley says she loves the philosophy of incorporating a lifelong fitness perspective into the practice.
“The fitness classes at KCP are such a welcoming environment. Everyone that comes to them has had some sort of rehab, and it’s neat to see how all of the people encourage each other,” she says. Training clients begin to form a community with each other in addition to being able to maintain a relationship with their physical therapist.
Every Person is Different
One of the biggest lessons that Ashley says she learned was from the patients themselves.
“Every person is different,” she says. “I learned that each time you meet a new person, you have to disband your expectations. People have different preferences when it comes to their treatment. Some people just don’t like certain things, and you will have a better outcome if you recognize that and create an environment that the patient wants to be in. You need to work together to come up with a treatment plan that works for the individual.”
Listening was one of the most important skills that Ashley found was needed for a good physical therapist. “Patients need to feel heard and believed,” she says. “They need to know that you are listening every step of the way.”
Why Physical Therapy?
“I can see myself waking up and doing this every day,” Ashley says when she talks about her future in physical therapy.
Early exposure helped Ashley develop an understanding and appreciation for the profession. She saw firsthand the difference that physical therapy made in her mother’s and sister’s lives.
When Ashley was young, her mother was hit by a drunk driver in a car accident. Afterward, she had to re-learn how to walk. Ashley says that she knows that physical therapy made a huge difference in her mom’s recovery and continued well-being.
Her sister was born with brachial plexus palsy, a condition which causes arm weakness and loss of motion. A physical therapist came to the home and helped with exercises to keep the joints limber and the muscles functioning.
As she continued to seek out more information about the field, Ashley found more and more to love.
“I like the whole process,” she says. “I like talking to patients, getting to know them, seeing them frequently, and forming relationships with them. As new problems arise, I already know their backgrounds and am in a good position to help.”
“I also like that it’s different each day,” she continues. “I like watching the progress and seeing how far people come when they believe in themselves. I love hearing and seeing the success stories.”
Ashley will graduate in December 2023 with her doctorate in Physical Therapy. In addition to taking academic classes, she will also complete an outpatient rotation at a top hospital in China. While there, she will shadow US-trained physical therapists in acute care and pelvic floor rotations. She says that she is excited about the opportunity to shadow in another culture – something she thinks is important in healthcare.
Although she says it’s too soon to declare a specialty, Ashley says she’s definitely interested in general orthopedic PT, manual therapy, and pelvic floor therapy.
Once she graduates, she plans to return to KCP.
“I am so thankful for the experience I had there,” she says. “I am so fortunate to have had that kind of experience before going into PT school. I really love the environment at KCP, and I can’t wait to return!”