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Each spring, a panel of alumni from the Division of Physical Therapy’s DPT program spend an evening sharing their professional experiences and answering questions from current students about what to expect during the process of finding employment. This year, the conversation offered students the opportunity to learn about what to expect after graduation, tips for succeeding in the workplace, and types of physical therapy roles graduates can explore. 

This year’s panel featured:

Sheryl Duke (MPT ’99) – Physical therapist at UNC Rex Outpatient Rehabilitation

Gwen Hall (MPT ’02, tDPT ’06) – Northeast Regional Chief Therapist for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP)

Elizabeth Nixon (DPT ’16) – Outpatient physical therapist and clinic site supervisor at Duke Health

Bart Satterfield (DPT ’18) – Physical therapist and board certified orthopedic clinical specialist at Duke Health’s Meadowmont Outpatient Clinic

Deanna Sipes (DPT ’19) – Physical therapist contractor for Wake County Public Schools and pediatric home care physical therapist for Care First Rehab

Jamie Sutherland (MPT ’98) – Executive Director of Trinity Rehab

Sarah Richardson (’21 DPT) – Pelvic health and lymphedema physical therapy resident at UPMC

Key Takeaways for DPT Students

Those on the panel shared much insight into approaching the job market after graduation and provided unique perspectives regarding career path possibilities for physical therapists. A few key points from the discussion included:

  • Questions to ask before accepting a job offer, including opportunities for mentorship and workplace culture
  • The importance of maintaining work-life balance and healthy habits
  • When and how to negotiate salary and benefits – it can be helpful to talk to alumni in your geographic location to learn more about compensation and area-specific expectations
  • Choosing between practicing general physical therapy after graduation or starting immediately within a specialized area
  • Residency information, including when to pursue residency and what to expect

Sutherland prompted the students to determine their “why” and stay true to their reason for pursuing physical therapy as a career, while also being open to growth and evolution over time.

Richardson encouraged students to recognize that they have received an incredible education, and they are prepared and deserving of the positions they will take after graduation – even though it might be overwhelming to enter the workforce at first.

Finally, all members of the alumni panel emphasized the importance of enjoying the last bit of PT school and everything that comes with preparing to graduate and start a new chapter. The Division of Physical Therapy has prepared each student well, and both faculty and alumni look forward to seeing what the class of 2022 will achieve after graduation in August.