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Congrats to the First Graduating Class of Physical Therapy Residents at LVHN

This prestigious 12-month program provides education and on-the-job-training through a partnership with Arcadia University

First Graduating Class of Physical Therapy Residents at LVHN

Through Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN)’s partnership with Arcadia University, LVHN colleagues advance their clinical expertise through a specialized Orthopedic Residency Program for Physical Therapists. LVHN is proud to announce the inaugural class of physical therapists has completed the residency program. LVHN physical therapists Katie Drayton, Andrew Buttillo, Justine Walker and Evan Wescoe completed the orthopedic residency program in January and took their board-certification exams in March.

“Cultivating excellence in physical therapy through the use of residency programs not only elevates the level of care that is provided to our patients, but also fosters a workplace culture of continuous learning and innovation within our field,” says Christopher Rodolico, Program Coordinator. “We are incredibly proud of our initial class of residents and are committed to providing colleagues with the best possible opportunities to advance their professional development.”

This voluntary benefit gives physical therapists the opportunity to participate in a dual-training program to become an expert clinician. The academic course component consists of six two-credit courses, completed at Arcadia University. These incorporate a hybrid model of learning with classroom and laboratory sessions. The residents also participate in a mentoring component at LVHN, where they complete 150 hours of patient mentoring and nearly 40 hours of patient care per week. This benefit is offered at no cost to the residents and requires that all residents be employed by LVHN.

“What better way to serve people than by going through advanced, skilled training in our field to help improve their outcomes?” - Andrew Buttillo

Flexibility in the program

For Walker, this program was an easy choice. Passionate about continuing her education to enhance her skills and knowledge, she eagerly sought the mentorship of more experienced physical therapists at work in addition to taking classes. LVHN’s partnership with Arcadia was an ideal fit for her to learn and advance her career.

She started the residency on the same day she returned from maternity leave after giving birth to her first child. Throughout the challenges of weekly classes, a full patient-caseload and studying, the program leadership and her colleagues eased her mind and helped her succeed by offering kindness and flexibility. 

“My colleagues at the office were great at providing encouragement and keeping my head in a positive space to keep going,” Walker says.

For Buttillo, this program has made a huge difference in his patient care and clinical skills, while he balanced home, work and residency life. In October 2023, he and his wife welcomed their third child. Together with his wife, he was able to develop a plan to successfully finish the program while balancing the responsibilities of his growing family.

Enhancing excellent care

The students apply their learning in real time, incorporating new techniques and exercises right away.

“As physical therapists, we serve the patients we treat,” Buttillo says. “What better way to serve people than by going through advanced, skilled training in our field to help improve their outcomes?”

The informative lectures and materials help them learn to look for root causes to better assess problem areas and adapt them to improve results faster.

“I have gained confidence in my examination skills and clinical findings,” Walker says. “It brings me immense joy to see my patients respond quickly to physical therapy, which means they are able to be discharged from therapy sooner with even better outcomes.”

The students have seen their patients improve more quickly, require fewer visits and manage their condition on their own by incorporating the learning from residency training.

Since the program focuses on evidence-based treatment, Wescoe learned about the special tests or interventions backed by research for specific conditions. Residents have access to meaningful and current research, which helps them apply theory in a clinical setting.

“The most rewarding part of my training was the first time I was able to take new information I learned and apply it in the clinic,” Wescoe says.

Mentorship in the program

Wescoe found value in multiple aspects of the program, one of them being mentorship. This program is suited for a potential candidate who prefers mentorship over independent study because it allows residents to develop connections with other orthopedic physical therapists.

“The mentors are committed to your learning and are valuable resources during and after the residency,” he says.

Students form valuable relationships with the other LVHN residents, learning from them and receiving support through the program. This network of peers and mentors offers an additional benefit of this training opportunity.

“The mentorship I received from both LVHN and Arcadia University was a huge benefit to the program and helped me to gain hands-on learning experience,” says Drayton. “Being able to talk and work through my toughest patient cases with my mentors gave me a fresh viewpoint and new ideas for evaluation and treatment.”

More to come

Additional physical therapy residency programs are in development. Stay tuned for opportunities to learn more and apply.

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