IV STEP: Recap & Thoughts from a Student Perspective


Author: Tim Rethorn is an SPT from The Ohio State University, Class of 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @TimRethornSPT

In the pic, from left to right: Dennis Fell PT, MD, T.Najjar, PT, NCS, Bria Varner, PT, DPT, Carrie Minahan, PT, DPT, MS, NCS, Rhea Schmidt, PT, DPT, and Tim Rethorn, SPT. 

I had the fantastic opportunity to volunteer and attend IV STEP. For those of you who didn’t see me spam Twitter with updates, IV STEP was the 4th STEP conference, hosted by the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy and the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy. They tend to happen once every 10 years, and are the premiere conference for research, education, and clinical application for neurologic and pediatric PTs. My school, The Ohio State University, had the pleasure of hosting 750 people from 6 continents that came to Columbus, Ohio for 6 days of talks, case studies, and networking. I did not realize how incredible of an opportunity it was to host IV STEP until I saw the sheer number of PCS’s and NCS’s on nametags.

The theme of the conference was Prevention, Prediction, Plasticity, and Participation. Every talk and case study was focused on these themes, and as the conference progressed the talks transitioned through them. One of the unique things about IV STEP was the case study presentations. Residency programs from around the country presented 13 different video cases over the course of three afternoons, with each day focused unfolding different information about the case, and then on applying information from the morning plenary sessions. The cases were a significant talking point of the conference, and fostered great treatment ideas and discussion between clinicians over challenging patients. The good news is that the facilitators will be writing up the cases and discussions, and should be published in the future.


Here are some quick takes about the conference:


One note, I am finishing my semester of pediatrics, and will begin neurologic rehabilitation in the fall, so some sessions went over my head, but here are my thoughts over the takeaways from sessions I heard.


-I was amazed at some of the research that was presented. One presentation that got many talking was a video showing an epidural implanted stimulator resulting in voluntary lower extremity movement of an individual with spinal cord injury classification of ASIA A. Another video showed intra-spinal cord electrical stimulation, resulting in graded voluntary movement. There are incredible innovations happening, and I can only imagine the advances that will be made in our lifetime!


-Speaking of innovation, several sessions focused on individualized care. One aspect was where our practice could go, using genetics to predict and guide prognosis and interventions. This especially went over my head when they discussed polymorphisms (#NotABiologyMajor). A more directly applicable conversation revolved around telehealth. Telehealth is already occurring in other fields, and PT needs to get up to speed. Some aspects to consider involve what populations and diagnoses should telehealth be used for, who would and would not benefit from more independent care, and research to ensure efficacy.


Dr. Ann Van Sant covered a variety of topics, including the human movement system, standard terminology, outcome measures, and stopping the silos. The human movement system (surprisingly around since the late ‘80s) is a initiative of the APTA to describe our scope of practice. Clearer definitions should hopefully come out of the summit in December. She echoed some other recurring themes of making our practice and research more standardized, in the terminology we use (both within our profession and with other professions) and in measuring outcomes with outcome measures. We also need to stop the silos of knowledge by sharing what works, and just as importantly what does not work.


-The biggest theme of both the plenary sessions and the case discussions was dosing of interventions. How do we dose, how do we measure intensity, are neuro and peds therapists truly following motor learning principles in number of repetitions? What about the individual, are we truly matching our interventions to the client and their goals? These are many questions that I have been pondering, even with only having orthopedic experience.


The final piece that I want to talk about was the incredible networking opportunities that occur at conferences. This story actually starts at NEXT, back in June. I was livetweeting sessions that I attended, as were several other people. One of those people was April Fajardo. We met in person at one of the Student Assembly networking events (shoutout #hashtagkids), and discussed IV STEP coming up. A week before IV STEP, April introduced me via email to some individuals that would attending the conference, including Dr. Dennis Fell. As it turns out, Dr. Fell is the Vice President of the Academy of Neurologic PT. I had a wonderful time conferencing with him, and the rest of the #IVStepTwitterBrigade.

The second part of this story occurred at one of my professor’s houses. My classmates in our pediatric specialization were invited to mingle and network with some of the attendees. The next day, I heard from several of them that they met one of the authors of the textbook we have had our heads in all summer.

These really tell the value of getting involved (especially social media) and attending conferences. I learned this at NEXT and saw it continue at IV STEP.

I am excited to attend National Student Conclave in October, and I look forward to seeing you there!

From the PT Pintcast Team: Interested in Neuro PT and what patients can accomplish? Check out our interview with Nick Balenger, APTA NEXT Keynote speaker, spinal cord injury survivor, walking-with-only-a-cane BADASS.  How can we be better PTs? What makes a good PT? Hear it from the patient. Listen and download episode #86 here.

Balenger--life changing

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