How Experiences as a Physical Therapy Patient turned into a Physical Therapy Dream

How Experiences as a Physical Therapy Patient turned into a Physical Therapy Dream

Meet Student- Athlete Tristan Barr

Team Physiolete met Tristan last year when she completed a Sports PT internship with us for one of her college classes. While she interned with us, we got to nerd out with her using some of our fun VALD performance testing and functional testing to help her in her recovery process from a calf injury. We are happy to have Tristan in the clinic with us more this summer and last week we caught up on some questions about what it is like being a student-athlete while pursuing the path to a career in physical therapy.


Why do you want to go to Physical Therapy (PT) school?


Physical Therapy school has always been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl! Growing up, my dad was a doctor at our local hospital. I have always looked up to him as he cared for patients so well. One of my favorite memories was visiting my dad at his office and getting to spend time with him and all of the friendly people that worked there and visited. I remember everyone telling me how much they appreciated my dad. These memories certainly played an early role in leading me to pursue a career in healthcare. 

I grew up competing in gymnastics which led to many injuries and subsequently many trips to physical therapy! I remember my first physical therapist so clearly! She cared to know me on a personal level and she always did extra research to make sure the exercises I was doing were the best and customized to my situation to get me back to doing what I loved. I went back to visit my physical therapist after I healed and returned to competitive gymnastics and she was genuinely ecstatic for me. She truly inspired me to follow her footsteps as well.

I think the beauty in physical therapy is that the physical therapist literally gets to be with the patient every step of the way to accomplish their future goals. I love how personal and intentional the profession is and I truly want to help people reach their goals and make a difference in their life.

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I am now a student-athlete at The University of Alabama and I compete in the pole vault for the Track and Field team. After many years of gymnastics, pole vaulting, rehabbing, interning, and now working at Physiolete--I have seen many different PT settings. I think it is so beautiful that every setting has the same underlying goal to help the person meet goals and live a better, more functional life. I also feel called and encouraged to a profession that is rooted in helping and putting others first. As a believer, I know this career path gives me the opportunity to love people well and be a light to many.


What is it like balancing school, track, and applying to PT school in your senior year?


I feel like I have a very interesting perspective as a student-athlete applying to PT school. While it’s been challenging at times, I have learned a way to balance it all as well. It was a struggle to get experience at clinics and hospitals with my track practice and meet schedule throughout the last few years. As student-athletes, our lives are not only centered around success in the classroom, but also on the field. This means many hours practicing, preparing, and competing. A fun by-product of being an athlete is that it has helped me with several of my undergraduate classes. I have been able to apply knowledge from training into my classes and I have also been able to apply what I’ve learned in class in my training! Playing sports has encouraged me to keep going when classes get hard or when I feel overwhelmed. Sports have played a huge role in my life and they have helped me realize that I am capable of doing more than I could have ever imagined.

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Tell us about what you’ve learned being on both the patient and PT side of things?


The reason I wanted to be a physical therapist in the first place was because of the PT I had in elementary school. Being on the PT side of things (internship and my job as a tech) has given me a unique perspective from the physical therapists point of view. However, being a patient has helped me to not only see, but also feel what genuine “care” feels like. As a student-athlete, I have been in physical therapy several times. One thing I have picked up on is the difference between good and great PT. I have had good PT where we focused on my injury or my pain only. While I got a little better, I didn’t get back to feeling extremely confident. Fortunately, I have also had great PT where we used kinesthetic and functional testing to see why my body moves and functions the way it does. In getting to the root of my issue and not just treating my symptoms, I have been able to feel and compete with more confidence.

I think being a patient has made me “hyper aware” of how impactful the care of a physical therapist is. I have seen how much more enjoyable and effective sessions can be when I know my PT is invested in me and getting to the bottom of my injury. I will remember all of the lessons I have learned as a patient when I begin my pursuit in physical therapy!


We have no doubts that Tristan will be a great physical therapist one day and we are so thankful for all of our incredible students that work with us at Physiolete. If you are interested in fall internships please email [email protected]!