Faculty Interview

Lauren Hinrichs

Lauren Hinrichs, PT, DPT, OCS is a lab instructor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. She assists with the Musculoskeletal track courses, Examination and Evaluation, Foundations of Intervention, and the Sports and Advanced Manipulation electives. In addition, Lauren works as a clinician at Cascade Sports Injury Prevention and Physical Therapy in Arvada, CO.

Where are you from?

I am from Belleville, IL, which is a suburb of St. Louis.

Where did you go to undergrad and Physical Therapy School?

I went to the University of Miami Ohio for undergrad and studied Exercise Science and Athletic Training while taking the prerequisites for pre-med/physical therapy. I received my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Northwestern in Chicago, IL.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy hiking/snowshoeing, endurance sports and CrossFit. I try to do a race or two per season. In addition, I love to cook and bake whenever I can, which everyone knows about at Cascade. Most recently I started to blog for Cascade Physical Therapy.

Favorite places to eat in Denver?

Stoic & Genuine
Euclid Hall

Favorite book/blog?

Right now, I really enjoy reading Dean Summerset’s blog: http://deansomerset.com/. I also visit Barbell Physio a lot to get information on exercise prescription. I can use a lot of this information for all types of patients.

What made you interested in physical therapy?

When I first started undergrad I was debating between exercise science or actuarial science. I ended up deciding on exercise science and athletic training. While working for the school’s football team as an athletic training student I had the opportunity to shadow the team’s physical therapist. Having never experienced PT before, this shadowing experience showed me that I wanted to pursue physical therapy.

What was your first job after graduating from PT school?

Right after school I wanted to move out to Colorado. I found a job at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital in Loveland, CO where I worked both in and outpatient rehab as well as long-term acute care. Northwestern has a strong neuro track, which helped me feel comfortable working with this population. I really enjoyed the job. Already having an athletic training background I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge and work in a setting I hadn’t really done before.

Most students know that you were one of the first physical therapists to work at Cascade. What led you to work there?

I loved working in inpatient, but realized outpatient orthopedic was where I truly felt at home. At the time, I was living in Denver, and after a long time searching I finally found a private practice clinic in Denver. This is where I met Justin. Justin was doing a lot of on field soccer tournament coverage and sport injury prevention programs. With his schedule growing more and more busy, he asked me to assist with weekend coverage. After doing this awhile, an opportunity arose to lease the perfect clinic space, and he invited me to work for him. I began by working part time at both clinics and eventually became full time at Cascade.

What are some of the benefits and hardships of working in a private practice clinic?

To start, I love having the scheduling flexibility, which allows me to work as a lab assistant here at CU. I also have total autonomy to treat based on my knowledge and prior experiences. Some clinics, unfortunately, do not value autonomy and employees are told how to treat. A hard part of private practice is marketing and getting people in the door. However, marketing has been good for me to learn and the community has hopefully benefited through the education and injury prevention seminars we provide.

When did you start assisting at CU?

I have been helping out at CU for 4 years. Every year the opportunities and responsibilities have increased. I first started helping out for the musculoskeletal course lab content, and have since assisted with exam and eval, the sports and manipulation electives, and most recently foundations of intervention. I also have the privilege to assist with the CAPE experience. All of these opportunities have been wonderful experiences, and I have enjoyed helping out at all of them.

What should students look for in a PT program when applying?

Look into the research that is being published and it will give you an understanding of the strengths of the program.

What is some advice you would give new grad physical therapists?

Look for how the clinic facilitates growth. Don’t just look at critical thinking and skills, but also leadership growth and mentorship. At the first private practice I worked at, we had monthly in-service or journal clubs. People were using this time to learn new things and critically think through new ideas. I would also recommend spending a day in the clinic so that you can get a sense of the culture of the clinic.

Do you recommend new grads doing continuing education/residency right after graduating?

I think it’s important to reflect on who you are as a learner. For me, I waited two years to do a residency. In school we get into this mode of feed me information; tell me what to do and I will internalize it and try to make it my own. But I think that until you are in clinic and making decisions on your own and seeing the consequences of those decisions, whether good or bad, it’s hard to say you have internalized the info and understand your potential.

I believe you students know so much more than you think you know if you ask yourself the right questions. So, in regards to devoting time and money to a residency, I would recommend waiting in order to self reflect and understand what you need to grow in. If you jump from one educational setting to the next you may find yourself leaning on others to give you the information vs going out and seeking the information yourself and taking ownership of what you learn.

Having two years of clinical experience gave a deeper richness to the residency. I was able to attend journal clubs and have deeper conversations based on real experience. It made it much more meaningful.

If anyone is interested in doing a residency make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. That’s the most important thing. Taking a few years off won’t cause you to lose the student mentality. You have motivation behind your decision.

Where did you go for your residency?

A few years after graduating from PT school I completed an Ortho residency through Temple University. It was their second year of being accredited, and was still small. This was a remote residency allowing me to work full time in Denver while attending 6 weekend courses. Paul Mintken was actually my mentor through personal relationships at Temple. I became an OCS in 2013.

What do you believe differentiates a good therapist from a great therapist?

Ultimately, constant curiosity. In addition, being able to think outside the box and see each patient as an individual instead of falling into a standard protocol. Treat the person wholistically and view every patient as an outlier.

Additionally, if you are working with a special population, it’s important to know the sport and knowing what they can and cannot do because they are going to respect you for it. I try to educate myself on the language and nomenclature of the sport in order to better help my patients.

Where do you see PT going in the future?

The students graduating are really skilled, but if you ask a 1-3rd year on how to progress a person through an exercise they look at you like you are speaking a foreign language. I believe we need to take back ownership of being exercise specialists. I think other professions are doing a better job at exercise selection. Blogs I follow are more gym and sports related to get exercise prescription knowledge, but this can be applied to all areas of PT. We’ve taken exercise out of PT because it is hard to study and treat and is very individualized. Right now there’s not a lot of research out there on exercise in the PT world. A lot is very general exercise knowledge.

Interview done by Elysse Marcuccella and David Treichler