Emily’s Path from Internship to Expert

From Physical Therapy Internship to Expert: Emily’s Journey at Carolina PT

My name is Emily Nordberg, and I am a staff physical therapist at Carolina Physical Therapy in Lexington. I attended Gardner-Webb University for my undergraduate degree, where I majored in Exercise Science. I attended Wingate University for my Doctorate of Physical Therapy. While I was in physical therapy school, I completed four clinical rotations, one of which was an internship with Carolina Physical Therapy in Lexington. Below, I will share my experience in their Student Education program.

The Application Process

For clinical rotations in physical therapy school, I was able to research potential clinical sites outside of those facilities with whom Wingate already had established connections. While researching potential opportunities in the Columbia, SC area, I found Carolina Physical Therapy through the company website. The faculty at Wingate University reached out to Carolina PT to request an affiliation, and I was able to set up my clinical internship with the Lexington location. I was interested in Carolina PT as a site for my clinical rotation after looking at the company website. What stood out to me most about Carolina PT was the business philosophy and approach to treating patients, as well as the diversity of treatment options, including aquatic physical therapy.

Due to the DPT department policy at Wingate University, I was not able to contact the company or my potential clinical instructor personally before my internship, so I did not directly apply or interview with anyone at Carolina PT. The Director of Clinical Education at Wingate reached out to the staff at Carolina PT to discuss a potential clinical affiliation.

Expectations vs. Reality

As it was my third clinical rotation and my second outpatient rotation in PT school, my initial expectations for this rotation were to begin to develop confidence in managing 50-75% of a full-time caseload by the end of the rotation. At the beginning of my rotation, I worked to gain familiarity with the EMR (documentation system), meet the patients, and learn and practice different manual therapy techniques.

One difference with this clinical rotation compared to my other clinical rotations was that this was a larger PT clinic than my previous experience. My first outpatient clinical rotation was in a small clinic with only two therapists, and at this location, there were 5-6 therapists on staff, which resulted in a different flow and use of space.

Emily, DPT at Carolina Physical Therapy and former Physical Therapy Student intern, working with a patient in our Columbia, SC clinic.

Day to Day Activities

During my internship, I gained a better ability to multi-task and improve my efficiency by seeing more patients. I also improved my manual therapy techniques with instruction from my clinical instructor (Bill).

My internship with Carolina Physical Therapy helped me develop into a more well-rounded clinician, with the ability to focus not only on treating the patient but creating a welcoming environment for our patients. This was something I found very valuable and wished to carry forward into my own practice.

Team and Company Culture

During my internship at Carolina Physical Therapy, I was impressed by the team-based approach to patient care. Most patients have the opportunity to interact with multiple clinicians throughout their plan of care, so they gain the perspective and ideas of more than one therapist to contribute to their treatment. Additionally, therapists here are always willing to help each other to take the best possible care of the patients.

By the end of my clinical rotation, I felt I had been integrated into the team. I was able to learn from and understand the treatment styles of multiple therapists, and I also developed a familiarity with the patient caseload. I felt very comfortable with the clinic setting and with the other clinicians and staff at Carolina PT.

Emily Nordberg, DPT at Carolina Physical Therapy in Lexington, SC, with her fellow CPT team for Christmas.

The most memorable moments from my clinical rotations were the connections that I formed with my patients. There were several patients that I helped to evaluate and then followed through their course of treatment, and I was able to see the difference that it made for them.

Networking and Mentorship

One unique opportunity that I had during my internship was I was able to go with Bill (my clinical instructor) on one of the days when he went marketing. He and Brad (Carolina Physical Therapy Practice Manager) brought lunch to a family practice office. During that lunch, I was able to learn the process of networking and marketing to the local physicians’ offices.

The mentorship that I received during my internship was very impactful to my career. I not only received instruction and feedback from my clinical instructor (Bill), but I also received advice on how to contribute to a welcoming environment, assisting with patient retention, and networking. This was very valuable to me as a student, as this was not something I had learned from previous clinical instructors. I always felt I was able to ask questions and discuss feedback with my clinical instructor. I was also able to have the opportunity to learn from other therapists in the clinic, and so I received mentorship from multiple clinicians during my internship at Carolina PT.

Emily Nordberg, DPT at Carolina Physical Therapy, during her internship at Carolina Physical Therapy in Columbia, SC.

My Recommendations to Future PT Students

Undergraduate Interns

  • Take notes – It can initially feel overwhelming to learn a lot of new information at once, so writing things down can help to keep track of what you have learned and also allow you to have something to which you can refer back.
  • Ask a lot of questions – If you see a therapist doing a treatment or an exercise you don’t know, asking questions helps you to make the most of your internship experience.

Physical Therapy Students

  • Learn from more than one therapist when possible – Different therapists will have different styles as well as different knowledge, and a physical therapy student can benefit from seeing multiple perspectives.

One thing that I did as a physical therapy student that I felt helped me to make the most of my rotations was that I wrote specific goals that I wanted to meet during the rotation, with time associated with each one. I discussed these goals with my clinical instructor, and it was helpful for me to have something written as a way to communicate what I was looking to do as a student, as well as a way to measure my progress and obtain feedback.

Closing Thoughts

My internship at Carolina PT solidified my goal to enter the outpatient setting after completing my degree. I had completed one inpatient and one outpatient rotation at the time, and I enjoyed this experience, so I chose to pursue an outpatient position following graduation.

I had a great experience as an intern with Carolina PT! I would recommend it to any student looking to complete a physical therapy internship, whether as an undergraduate student or a DPT student.


If you would like to learn more about our Student Experience program at Carolina Physical Therapy, click here.