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Ali Sherron joined UNC REX Healthcare as a physical therapist in September 2019; six months into her role conducting inpatient care, Sherron began work on ICU and non-ICU floors treating patients who contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

As a Doctor of Physical Therapy student in the Division of Physical Therapy, Sherron said she most enjoyed two clinical rotations in acute care and knew early on into pursuing her degree that she wanted to work in that setting.

“I have no idea what I’m getting into when I get into work,” Sherron said. “There’s never a dull moment, for sure.”

In mid-March, Sherron said she became part of a team of two physical therapists, two occupational therapists, and two speech therapists working with patients with COVID-19 who required hospitalization, either in an intensive care unit (ICU) or who required care in a non-ICU unit.

She credited the variety of clinical experiences during the three-year DPT program with her ability to succeed as a physical therapist in the ICU.

“School gave us a lot of different experiences during clinicals,” Sherron said. “That’s one of the most important things: hands-on learning.”

In terms of patient care, Sherron said her team is focusing on early mobility with patients who are medically stable enough to begin therapy. This can include maintaining range of motion, moving patients from a bed to a chair, and introducing breathing techniques.

“Any out-of-bed activities are good, but we’re starting pretty small, especially in the ICU,” Sherron said. “Globally, these patients can be so weak.”

Sherron, from Raleigh, North Carolina, said it’s a relief to watch patients improve and begin to think about returning home or moving to a rehabilitation center as they continue the recovery process.

“It’s nice to see this switch of ‘I’m finally getting better; now I want to go home.’ It’s then that we see they try to push themselves a bit harder—when plans of discharge are starting to be discussed,” Sherron said.

In addition to her duties as a physical therapist, Sherron has worked closer alongside nurses, doctors, and other health care providers to provide patient care.

“I get to see nurses and doctors and their view on therapy during this time,” Sherron said. “Everybody came together […] We’ve had one common goal. They’ve helped teach me, too.”

Sherron said treating patients with COVID-19 has been a learning experience, especially since they often require more oxygen than usual.

“It has been very rewarding,” Sherron said. “It’s really nice to see the impact we’re having on these patients, meet their families, and see the impact we’ve had.”

As a DPT student, Sherron was a Mabel M. Parker Physical Therapy scholar.

The Division of Physical Therapy is housed in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Allied Health Sciences. In March 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked the DPT program as #9 in the country.