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Pregnancy, Bodybuilding and Pursuing a New Career in Women’s Health Physical Therapy

I have just completed my 6 week clinical experience in the Women’s Rehab and Men’s Health with UPMC Center for Rehab Services. Unfortunately, according to company policy, I was not permitted to perform internal examinations and based on my school policy for clinical sites, I was not eligible to complete a longer clinical that includes internal pelvic floor examination. I began to seek education and training on my own.

My interest in women’s health physical therapy began over 5 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had been an avid exerciser for my entire adult life, worked in Fitness and Wellness for over 10 years and co-owned a gym for about 2 years. I had competed in natural bodybuilding and strength sports for about 8 years and I was now being told that I should consider a new hobby because my body would never be the same and I should stop lifting weights for the health of my unborn child. Of course, I went back to my exercise science roots and began doing research. I found some helpful sources but decided that I wasn’t 100% happy with my findings. I began researching certifications and training for women’s health so that I could not only find information for myself but also for my personal training clients. One of my clients (an OBGYN) at the time suggested looking into physical therapy. After a week of researching the specialty, I had decided to go back to school to pursue my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree with the intent to specialize in women’s health physical therapy.

I am now in my third year of physical therapy school and have completed my 6 week clinical experience in the specialty. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it was more than I could have imagined! The biopsychosocial aspects along with the personal success stories solidified my interest and I will be applying for a residency program. Upon graduation, and hopefully after successful completion of a residency, I will be working for the Veterans Health Administration (VA) as part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). I know that there is a growing interest in beginning programs through VA sites and I would like to either find employment at a location with a program or start a program at my site upon graduation and placement. Until my clinical, I did not understand the depth and breadth of women’s health physical therapy and I want to take full advantage of all training opportunities that I can in order to build my skills.

I have been a member of Section on Women’s Health since I first became a student APTA member in May of 2016 during my first semester of classes. I attended my first Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) this past February in New Orleans, Louisiana and thoroughly enjoyed the Section on Women’s Health presentations that I was able to attend.

More recently, I used the available resources and research during my clinical experience for in-service topics, journal clubs and PowerPoint presentations. The 2014 Update of the Guidelines for Women’s Health Content in Professional Therapist Education was a cornerstone of my “Treat the Whole Person” presentation discussing chronic pelvic pain and the biopsychosocial model. I am extremely grateful to be a student member of the Section with all of the opportunities available to members and plan to volunteer for the Section at CSM in 2019.

Brandy Schumaker, SPT
Brandy Schumaker is the recipient of the Section on Women’s Heatlh Pelvic Health Physical Therapy Level 1 course in Garfield Heights, OH that was conducted September 14-16, 2018.
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It’s Not “Normal”: My Drive to Learn More
How My Pregnancy & Childbirth Experience Set Me on a Path to Pursue Pelvic Health Physical Therapy

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