Gait Topics Class

written by William Riddick

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In early 2017, as Mission Gait’s Clinical Researcher, I reached out to Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Physical Therapy school to start a student special interest class in gait rehabilitation. Having personally gone through a similar program, I recognized the need and benefit of such a program to be developed. Many physical therapy programs across the country offer special interest courses to allow students to investigate potential areas of future focus. Few of these focus on gait. For many students, this can shape their future career path and interests in clinical practice. As Mission Gait aims to bring more rehabilitation professionals into specialty practice for individuals with complex gait disabilities, this was an opportune time to achieve those aims.

With the approval of VCU faculty, the Gait Module began to take shape. Lectures were constructed of materials from Mission Gait’s professional certification program with the addition of new lectures, videos, and graded projects. The resulting product was an 8-week course, focusing on normal walking and then introducing specialty topics with lecturers made up of Mission Gait staff and local experts.

In the fall of 2017, students had the opportunity to select their special interest classes and six chose the Gait Module. The module was discussion-focused and case-based, offering students the opportunity to learn in the classroom and in the clinic. Through pre- and post-surveys, all students made significant improvements and greatly appreciated what they learned from the module. Recently, one of these students wrote to us:

“The module gave me a new perspective and appreciation for how gait can be a diagnostic tool, as well as the most meaningful goal for someone to achieve. In my first clinical rotation at a VA (Veteran’s Administration) hospital, I was very prepared to apply what I learned about prosthetic gait training with several veterans with lower limb amputations; I knew how to initiate training with them once they received their prostheses and helped them reach the level to ambulate in their home environments. The module gave me the resources, practice and confidence to provide what those veterans needed to walk again. I continue to use the knowledge I gained on a daily basis…”

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With the success of the first class, Mission Gait was given approval for a second year. Upon student selections, the class met its maximum capacity of 13 students! A quarter of the entire physical therapy class chose to learn more about gait rehabilitation. As with the first class, the feedback was very positive, with one student recently saying:

“In my current clinical rotation, I have been able to take the knowledge and practical skills that I learned through the gait module and apply it in my practice. I was able to introduce my clinic to outcome measures and specific rehabilitation techniques for patients with complex gait and neurological pathologies.”

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As Mission Gait now looks forward to a third year with the Gait Module, a new goal is to bring this opportunity to more students in universities across the country. However, the challenge to making opportunities available at multiple institutions is that most utilize varying curriculum designs. This variation limits the direct transfer of class materials as they are not often compatible. The Instructor Resource Library is a new Mission Gait project that will work to achieve this goal. The library accommodates for these individual differences by not only offering multiple course formats, but also supporting an ‘a-la-carte’ approach to materials. The library can be used to construct an entire program or as an adjunct to the instructor’s personal content. This allows potential instructors to choose what fits their program and their student’s interest appropriately.

In 2019, Mission Gait will be further expanding its educational impact to include students at Old Dominion University by supporting a topics class through this library. This partnership will allow further development, testing, and inspiration for the library materials. Through this opportunity, the development of the Instructor Library, and the goal of an expanding educational impact, Mission Gait hopes to pioneer a new generation of physical therapists dedicated to those with complex gait disabilities.