Courtney Stump poses with Lion Shrine at Penn State Mont Alto

Physical Therapist Assistant student’s passion to help goes above and beyond

When Courtney Stump decided to enroll at a college, she knew her degree had to fit her passion to help people — that’s why she chose Penn State Mont Alto’s Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) associate degree program.

It was a way for her to not only help resolve a person’s physical issues, but also, she could connect one-on-one with her patients and truly make a difference in their lives.

It was during her final set of six-week clinicals at Innovative Rehab Associates — a small Chambersburg physical therapy (PT) office ― that cemented Stump’s belief she is entering the right line of work. It has also earned her the 2018 Pennsylvania Associate of Colleges and Employers (PennACE) JoAnne Day Student of the Year Award for exemplary performance as a physical therapist assistant intern. Stump is the first Mont Alto student to receive this honor.

“Courtney was able to multitask, address each patient based on their personality and culture, juggle multiple patients, and remain pleasant and calm,” according to her superviser Sherry Rickman.

The internship and a patient Stump met while there would have a lasting impact on her life.

The middle-aged woman who came into the PT office, was almost completely paralyzed from the waist down and was confined to a wheelchair, Stump said.

“Despite her circumstances, she was very pleasant and tried to see things in a good light,” Stump said astounded by the woman’s resolve to see life positively.

Unable to work due to her physical limitations, the patient would often bake cookies and bread to sell.

The staff at Innovative Rehab Associates marveled how the woman was able to produce such delicious baked goods when her kitchen was not handicap-accessible, Stump said.

They discussed how difficult it must be for the patient to clean her cooking utensils and bowls in a sink that was too high for her to reach, Stump said.

So, she took action.

She began looking for a portable dishwasher the patient could use when she was baking and push to the side when she wasn’t using it.

“I got to thinking that this would be really nice to help her out. The lady is just such a pleasant person to be around. So, I thought, ‘why not look into this and see if I could get it for her,’” she said.

Between college classes and clinicals, Stump worked as a waitress. She decided she would save up her tips from two weekends to buy the woman a used, portable dishwasher for about $100.

After doing her research, Stump found a gently used, portable dishwasher an hour and a half from her home in Chambersburg.

“I wasn’t looking for anything in return, I just wanted to do something nice to help make this lady’s life a little easier,” she said.

The next day, she took the dishwasher to the Chambersburg PT office.

“She (the patient) came for her normal treatment session, and we put the dishwasher out in front of her van. She was just so happy to see it,” Stump said. “Her smile made it all worthwhile.”

Stump’s adviser Renee Borromeo, PTA program director and associate teaching professor, was touched by Stump’s giving spirit.

“She’s a good student, and she certainly has her heart in the right place. She is the kind of person who sees that something needs to be done and she does it—she sees a problem and she solves it,” said Borromeo.

Since the PTA program began in 1981, Penn State Mont Alto has graduated about 650 Physical Therapist Assistants.

“We try to instill taking the patient’s needs and personal situation very seriously and using that in terms of therapy. But, Courtney has gone above and beyond,” said Borromeo.

The program tries to instill in all the PTA students that a patient’s needs come first, she said.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in Letters, Arts and Sciences in May, Courtney plans to enroll in a physical therapy school to advance her degree. Her goal is to, one day, operate her own PT practice.

“I want patients to be treated correctly and for clinicians to be patient advocates, not because it’s a job to earn a paycheck, but to come into somebody’s life and make a difference,” she said.