Mar 18 2015

Gallagher, Caitlin

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Professional Goal Statement

Upon graduating from UNC Chapel Hill’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program, I will become a licensed physical therapist and pursue a job with ample mentorship so that I can further develop my skills as a clinician. Although I recognize that I have much to learn, I also recognize that once I graduate I will assume the role of an educator. I will be responsible for educating my patients and their families, and in the future I hope to have the opportunity to educate future physical therapists and healthcare professionals, in both the clinical and classroom environments. I have gained an appreciation for working as part of an interdisciplinary team during several of my clinical affiliations, and I hope to utilize an interdisciplinary, patient-centered approach throughout my career.

While I have enjoyed working in acute, inpatient, and outpatient settings, my greatest interest lies in working with older adults. There is a growing need for physical therapy services amongst this population, and I would like to help our aging population experience life to the fullest. In working with older adults, I have come to realize that aging is not synonymous with decline, and I hope to promote active aging among my patients and for individuals in my community.

Career Plan

Preparation for DPT program

  • B.S. Neuroscience from University of Nevada, Reno (2011)
  • Experience as a PT technician in an outpatient orthopedic clinic (2011-2012)

DPT Education

  • Complete clinical affiliations in a wide range of settings including an outpatient orthopedic private practice, a continuing care retirement community, acute care (trauma service), and inpatient neurological rehab (2013-2015)
  • Maintain an emphasis on geriatrics during electives and course projects (2013-2015)
  • Gain additional experience in outpatient orthopedic setting and exposure to the Selective Functional Movement Assessment to further develop my assessment skills (2014-2015)
  • Prepare for and pass the comprehensive exam required by the Division of Physical Therapy at UNC Chapel Hill (2015)
  • Attend California Student Conclave to develop relationships with future colleagues (April 2015)
  • Pass the NPTE to become a licensed Physical Therapist (July 2015)
  • Graduate from UNC Chapel Hill with my Doctor of Physical Therapy (August 2015)

Career Development

  • Gain experience as a generalist in a hospital, rehab or outpatient setting with guidance from a mentor (2015-2018)
  • Attend continuing education courses related to older adults and orthopedics/manual therapy (2015 and beyond)
  • Explore career opportunities in an outpatient clinic, with an emphasis on older adults (2018)
  • Consider pursuing a clinical specialty certification in my area of practice (2018 and beyond)
  • Implement fall screening and prevention programs in local community (2018 and beyond)
  • Seek a mentor with significant experience in home health services and explore part-time home health career opportunities (2018 and beyond)
  • Become a clinical instructor for physical therapy students (2018 and beyond)
  • Network with physical therapy education programs near my community so that I can pursue opportunities to lecture or become adjunct faculty in a DPT program (2020 and beyond)
  • Publish case reports and participate in research in my area of expertise (2025 and beyond)



  • Communication and educational interventions with patients/families
  • Assessment/treatment of acute and general outpatient patients
  • Assessment/Interventions focused on balance, strength, and functional training
  • Working with older adults across the spectrum of care
  • Participating as part of an interdisciplinary team in acute care, IP rehab, and retirement community settings


  • Lack of experience with manual therapy
  • Lack of familiarity with home health practice setting
  • Assessment and treatment of complex or unusual neurological cases


  • To prepare and sit for the National Physical Therapy Exam so that I can become a licensed physical therapist.
  • To develop the skills necessary to effectively screen, assess, and treat the growing geriatric population so that I can be an asset to my future employer(s) and colleagues.
  • To create a professional resume in preparation for applying for my first job as a physical therapist.
  • Enter the profession with well-rounded clinical experiences so that I can be adequately prepared as a generalist PT.

Strategies for success

  • Network within the community where I will be living and possibly applying for my first job
  • Complete my final clinical affiliation in an IP neuro rehab facility where I will gain experience evaluating and treating patients with a variety of neurological conditions.
  • Create and adhere to a study plan that maximizes my efficiency in studying for the NPTE
  • Enroll in continuing education courses that provide additional instruction and experience utilizing manual therapy skills.
  • Continue APTA membership and become a member of the geriatrics section

Progress to date

Throughout the program I have focused many of my experiences and course projects on developing the knowledge and skills to work with the older population. In the first year, I assisted our faculty in conducting senior fitness testing in the community in order to promote active aging and collect data on the aging population.

During the second year, I elected to take an interdisciplinary course, “Older Adults: Theory and Practice”, which allowed me to explore the perspectives of other healthcare professionals when treating older patients. During this course I collaborated with students from the schools of social work and pharmacy to present, “End of Life Care- An Interdisciplinary Perspective”. In the second year, I also participated in a yearlong interdisciplinary seminar series for students wishing to pursue a career in geriatrics. Toward the end of my second year, I was fortunate enough to spend 8 weeks on clinical rotation at Carolina Meadows, a continuing care retirement community, where I was able to evaluate and treat older patients, some of whom were independently living in the community and others who resided in the assisted living or skilled nursing facilities on the campus. During this rotation, I explored the relationship between mobility, falls, and urinary incontinence in older adults, and presented an in-service titled, “Understanding and Treating Urinary Incontinence in Older Adults”.

As I began the third year of the program, I became interested in exercise-based interventions for treating balance impairments and preventing falls among older adults. During Evidence Based Practice II, I reviewed the literature to develop a Critically Appraised Topic paper for the following clinical question:

For a community dwelling older adult (60 yrs or older) with an identified increased risk of falls, is dual-task balance training as effective or more effective at reducing falls risk, as compared to single task balance training?

As part of my capstone project, I further explored exercise-based interventions for improving balance and preventing falls among older adults. I developed an online teaching module to prepare first year students for working with the older population during the first clinical experience. The components of my capstone project are further discussed on the UNC DPT Capstone Website:

In my final year of the program, I also chose to take both the Advanced Orthopedic Assessment and Treatment and the Advanced Neuromuscular Intervention courses, as I felt these would both improve my ability to assess and treat the older population. During the Advanced Neuromuscular Intervention course, I chose to review the many facets of Lewy Body Dementia and how physical therapists are involved throughout the disease process.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to develop my interest in working with older adults, and I am looking forward to gaining greater clinical experience with this population.


As I reflect back on my three years as a student in the Division of Physical Therapy at UNC, I feel very fortunate for the diverse experiences I have had, as well as the opportunity to explore my areas of interest. When I entered the program, I had a significant interest in pursuing a career in the outpatient orthopedic setting, but since then, my eyes have been opened to the endless possibilities within our field. I truly feel that I will graduate ready to begin my career as a well-rounded generalist in the field of physical therapy. I am equipped with the skills to develop my knowledge and to seek out the resources I will need to grow throughout my career. I am grateful for the variety and quality of clinical experiences I have had- I have thoroughly enjoyed each setting and patient population I have worked with thus far.

Clinical Experiences

  • Inpatient Neuro Rehab- Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Continuing Care Retirement Community- Carolina Meadows
  • Acute Care (Trauma)- UNC Hospital
  • Outpatient Orthopedics- Advanced Physical Therapy Solutions

Each time I experience a new aspect of physical therapy, my interest grows. During the last three years, I have been drawn towards working with the older population, and while it is difficult for me to predict exactly where my career will take me, I have an open mind and a desire to help our aging population live their lives to the fullest.

I am so appreciative of my DPT family, both classmates and faculty, who have made the last three years such a wonderful experience. A huge factor in my decision to attend UNC was the sense of community and welcoming nature of the DPT program during my interview- and now three years later I can truly appreciate how accurate and important those first impressions really were. I feel lucky and proud to be a part of the UNC DPT Class of 2015!

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Gallagher, Caitlin”

  1.   Lisa Johnstonon 05 Jun 2015 at 2:09 am

    Nice job on your capstone. It is a pleasure to see your work and how you have grown. Great job.


  2.   Carla Hillon 05 Jun 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Excellent job composing your professional portfolio. Your interest in working with the geriatric population will continue to develop as you begin your professional career during the aging of the “baby boom” generation, a group of individuals who are motivated to remain as active and independent as possible during their final phase of life. I encourage you to consider a Geriatric PT Residency program in the future. I know you’ll accomplish great things as a PT.


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