The Difference a Physical Therapy Residency Can Make- Jeff Karlik

The Difference a Physical Therapy Residency Can Make- Jeff Karlik

by evergreenpt, October 9, 2017

Residency and/or Fellowship trained Physical Therapists:

What is the difference between Physical Therapists who have gone through a residency or fellowship program from those who went to work straight out of PT school? Essentially it’s access to the critique of master clinicians who pass on their years of experience in a more consolidated, intentional way.  Simply, it’s mentoring… Physical therapists who pursue these programs are seeking inspiration and sometimes awkward critical review by PTs who really know their stuff in an area of specialty and expertise.  Evergreen currently has 7 therapists who have completed or currently participating in residency and / or fellowship advanced training programs. For some insight to the residency programs we sat down with our newest family member Jeff Karlik, DPT and asked him why he chose to pursue advanced training upon completion of his doctorate in PT from APU.


I had very little knowledge of what physical therapy was and what it took to become a physical therapist before going to college. I remember sitting at the computer and researching majors to study at APU after getting my acceptance letter. I stumbled upon the major describing a career in PT. The brief description was intriguing and spoke to my love for sports and movement. I stopped my search and selected Applied Health with a physical therapy emphasis as my major. A rude awakening soon occurred as I was hit with biology and chemistry classes early in my college journey. I took 2 quick C’s in chemistry and contemplated changing majors with the fear of failing looming large in my mind. It just so happened that the cute girl that I liked was also in my same major looking to go to PT school. I previously attributed my stubbornness to stay in the major and pursue PT as sheer determination and will power, but crushing hard after a girl pursuing the same career interest may have played a more significant role. I turned my grades around with a newfound purpose and desire to study and succeed (luckily for me my crush and eventual wife was a solid student)! We applied to PT school together to 4 different schools and both were accepted to APU. The DPT program at APU opened my eyes to the complexities and challenges of being a PT along with the joy of guiding someone in the process to get out of pain and return to the activities they love. I am forever grateful for receiving my training with a Christian perspective to provide love and care to a hurting world.

As I neared the end of the DPT program there was the next decision to make regarding where to work. I remember getting a little anxious as it seemed that all my classmates had their futures and career paths lined up and I had little clue into what I wanted to do or where to go. Up until this point in my life there had always been a convenient next step of life in a school setting that had a time limit. Each phase of school had a nice conclusion. I was now standing at the beginning of my adult life with a wife who also had little clue of what she wanted to do. I realized during school that I had learned a little bit about a variety of topics and felt ready to enter into a wide variety of fields for PT. Although I felt prepared, I also felt a need for mentorship. The realization that occurred to me during my clinical experience as a student was the space between head knowledge and actual experience. I had a desire to grow and improve in my career and feared that simply starting work at any clinic would allow me to remain stagnant in my knowledge. This led to seeking out an Orthopedic Residency Program. My wife and I applied to the Residency Program within Kaiser Permanente. Residency is not a requirement in PT like it is in Medical school. After being over ½ through the Residency program, I feel grateful for the experience and mentorship. I have continued to be challenged on a regular basis in the clinical setting. The process has been difficult while also being very rewarding. If given the chance to go back in time, I would make the same decisions and be grateful for every step of the journey, even the most challenging and exhausting.

The Residency process feels like having one foot in the career/adult world and one foot still in student mode. The career/adult world has been a tough adjustment. It took some time to get used to handling a full time schedule and full patient load. Its also a trial by fire in regards to learning the ins and outs of the medical system. It seems as though I continue to learn something new everyday, and sometimes I learn things the hard way. Documentation was the first beast to overcome and it definitely took time. Another challenge has been learning how to handle peoples emotions and questions. Patients generally come to see a physical therapist in a vulnerable position. They are in pain and are commonly fearful of what is happening in their body. It is definitely an art form to be able to handle the emotions of a person along with correctly providing a physical therapy diagnosis and implanting an effective treatment plan. Patients will frequently ask if they need an X-Ray or MRI or if they can continue to do a certain activity. I found myself making a lot of answers up initially and hoping for the best. I feel more prepared for the majority of questions now and am comfortable with the unfortunate truth that I do not have all the answers. I also feel more comfortable telling people that I do not have all the answers while still maintaining some level of credibility (I hope). The other side of residency is receiving mentoring weekly. An expert PT will observe you evaluate and treat patients for a few hours and critique and correct your thought process and techniques. I like to think of myself as a humble person, but receiving mentoring is definitely putting humility into practice. It can be deflating to hear about your shortcomings in the field you have been working so hard to get to. My face usually gets a little wet from sweat and not tears, but I have felt like crying at times (and that’s hard to admit as a male!). Through it all I have learned the importance of keeping perspective at all times and being thankful for each experience. I am thankful to have a loving God to guide me through this crazy game of life. New challenges continue to arise in each season of life and yet there are always things to be thankful for.

Evergreen has been a breath of fresh air. Starting to work part time with Evergreen while continuing to complete the Residency program has been a huge blessing. I love getting to work in such a warm and welcoming environment filled with talented people. Evergreen always provides the best care for each patient while also maintaining a fun environment to rehab/prehab. As a new Clinician, I am grateful to work in a place that provides great care in an ethical manner while also providing me the space to learn and grow in the field. Life has been an adventure so far. Looking forward to continuing this new adventure at Evergreen!


Jeffrey Karlik, PT, DPT

Subscribe to Our Blog and get email alerts when we post something new.