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Student, Joe Heinz, left, is enjoying his time at Marias Medical Center, and in Shelby, while on critical rotation under the guidance of physical therapist, Jennie Gruber. On average, MMC hosts two physical therapy students per year as Gruber is a credentialed clinical instructor.

“As a rural and critical access facility, I have seen a lot of variety in patients while not being overwhelmed by the amount,” said Joe Heinz, a student on critical rotation for Physical Therapy. Marias Medical Center is his first rotation. “I felt my confidence grow in leaps and bounds.” 

Jennie Gruber is one of our Physical Therapists that is also a Credentialed Clinical Instructor that hosts, on average, two students a year. Heinz is from Fargo, N.D., and was excited to go further west for his internship. 

“My first day here I hiked West Butte! I walked to a point in town, saw West Butte and found a hiking trail through a Google search,” he said. 

Students from out of state are not uncommon for Gruber. “We have contracts with MSU in Great Falls, University of Jamestown in North Dakota and the University of St. Augustine, which is based out of Florida, but has a campus in California, from which most of our students come,” explained Gruber.

Since we provide one-on-one care to our rehabilitation patients, students are able to learn at a reasonable pace. Oftentimes, if students begin at a facility that has group therapy care, it can be overwhelming for the student. 

“I like to work with first rotation students because I want them to have a very positive and supportive experience in order to encourage them to keep pursuing this as a career,” said Gruber. “The internship is six weeks long, and Joe has been able to see patients begin and finish their therapy sessions. It’s a good feeling, seeing someone progress and leave better than they were when they came in.” 

While Heinz is completely supervised by Gruber, she allows her students as much autonomy as they are able to handle. Patients have the option to have a student work with them and often they enjoy contributing to their knowledge. 

“Even though I’ve only been here for a short time, I have seen about a hundred people come through and recognize someone wherever I go,” Heinz commented on working in a small town. “I come from a very similar town in Minnesota and everyone here is so welcoming. I have a membership at the Civic Center and joined the Archery Club. Being an outdoorsman, Marias Medical Center was high on my list of choice facilities! It’s exciting to venture out on your own.” 

In addition to the friendly culture, he enjoys the proximity of his temporary residence at the Heritage Center to the hospital. 

“I typically walk to work, but when I had a flat tire, it was the most convenient car trouble I ever had! I dropped my vehicle off at Mark’s Tire, walked to work, then walked over and picked it up!” 

Gruber has mentored eight students since 2011 and found that it is a wonderful opportunity for unintentional recruitment! Two of our past and current Physical Therapy Assistants had originally been students on rotation at our facility. 

“It’s almost like an ongoing six week interview process,” Gruber laughed. 

The student is able to work in an outpatient and inpatient physical therapy setting, experience the culture of the organization, and get a taste of the area. 

We have really enjoyed having Heinz here and look forward to the next visiting student! Thanks to Gruber’s effort, we are able to make a difference for Physical Therapy students in and outside of the state.

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