Cast Away, to PT School

During my first week of Physical Therapy School, I had an epiphany. It occurred to me as I met another one of my ninety-four new classmates.

β€œMy name is Wilson,” he said, extending a hand. β€œLike the volleyball.”

Then it hit me – PT school is a little bit like the 2000 epic survival film Cast Away.

A little bit.

I’m not entirely saying that attending a prestigious doctorate-level program is similar to being stranded on a faraway island after a fiery wreck, but bear with me for the remainder of this metaphor.


We begin our story in an unfamiliar place. Our school is our island, and we are Tom Hanks. His quest for survival is our quest for physical therapy mastery.


Surrounded by a deep, daunting ocean of information, we learn about our island and the resources available to us.


By our third week on the island, we must become self-sufficient as learners.  As Tom Hanks learned how to fish, we learn how to learn. Fish represent valuable learning experiences, a-ha moments, or self-reflections. These lessons fuel us and further our drive to keep fishing. Down the line, we will catch bigger fish, as our learning experiences become more thorough, applicable, and durable. Learning, much like fishing, requires perseverance and patience.


All PT/PTA students have made this face before. Perhaps we scored highly on a exam or produced a cavitation on a thoracic manipulation.  This face is one of self-actualization. We have been challenged, but we have triumphed.


As our first year winds to a close, we have built a foundation for our remaining time on the island.


The island may seem lonely at times, but we are not alone. Tom Hanks had a friend named Wilson – and we, too, have a friend named Wilson. Wilson is our classmate, our teacher; he/she is every member of our ever-growing #PTFam. We rely on Wilson to carry us through the tougher times, and unlike the movie (*spoiler alert*), Wilson will always be there for us.

To fit the APTA into this metaphor, the APTA is sending you care packages every step of the way. They also throw parties (aka conferences) each year for you and Wilson to enjoy.

This island will be our home for ~3 years, but there will come a time when we must leave/graduate.  However, by then, we will be prepared.  PT school will have helped us build our clinical β€œraft”, using the skills and knowledge we’ve gathered on the island. Although, I imagine that we’re building more of a yacht than a raft. After three years, we will embark on our own voyage navigating this limitless sea of knowledge. Our destination is physical therapy expertise.

The most beautiful thing in the world is the world itself.
— Cast Away

The physical therapy world is vast, beautiful, and generally unexplored. The potential is limitless for students and new graduates to discover their purpose within it.

Whether you’re on your island or already out at sea, build up your yacht and fill it with Wilsons.

Most importantly, enjoy the ride.