Skip to Main Content

Simulated Activities Give View into PT Career

Students Promote Profession with High-schoolers

UMass Lowell Image
Caitlyn Denehy '14 checks the oxygen level in a student’s blood with a pulse oximeter after he exercised.


What does a physical therapist do? In the spirit of show rather than tell, university graduates designed hands-on activities to teach local high school and college students about the profession. 

Recent physical therapy graduates volunteered at the Health Occupations Students of America State (HOSA) Leadership Conference at UMass Medical Center in Worcester. HOSA, a national organization that provides professional networking experience and exposure to health profession options, hosts an annual symposium for youth members to learn about jobs in the healthcare field. 

“We wanted students to understand that physical therapists diagnose and treat people who have medical conditions that limit their ability to move and perform activities,” says Jessica Dumais '14. “We thought that the best way for them to understand was through simulated experiences.” 

The nine-student team designed a multi-station workshop that showcased the tests and measures used by physical therapists and simulated real-life situations. For example, students asked participants to wear a nose plug and go up stairs. This limited breathing simulated the effects of asthma, or, in more severe cases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), on exercise tolerance. 

“Most students were especially surprised by how difficult it was to exert themselves when they couldn’t breathe well, and they hadn’t considered how COPD and asthma affect everyday activities,” says Caitlyn Denehey '14. Joseph Lee and Abigail White led an activity detailing screening tests used in the Special Olympics, using FUNFitness examinations for strength, balance, flexibility and cardiopulmonary fitness. 

Colleen Giansiracusa '14 met individually with students who participated in speed networking. Students asked her specific questions about responsibilities, daily life and what they should do in order to become a physical therapist. 

She says: “My classmates and I are extremely proud to be graduates of the UMass Lowell PT program. Hopefully, our excitement and enjoyment of what we do made an impact with the students.”