Mairead O’Sullivan: “God is Greater than the Highs and Lows”

My favorite part of having this blog/instagram page is the opportunity it has given me to connect with pre-physical therapy students, student physical therapists, practicing physical therapy clinicians and people who are truly passionate about improving health for themselves and others. One of the first people I connected with when I created Compass Performance was @cpt.dpt.all_things_pt or in real life, Mairead O’Sullivan. I first connected with her because someone had shared her post about her experience and tips she had for applying to Physical Therapy School. Not only was the content unmatched, but the picture she used was of my school, High Point University. Since then the mutual support for each other is second to none.

So who is Mairead O’Sullivan?

Mairead O’Sullivan is a first year physical therapy student at MCPHS University, who has known she has wanted to be a physical therapist since she was 14 years old and had to attend PT after a volleyball injury. Physical therapy offered her the perfect combination of her want to “help” others and give back. Currently her goal is to eventually become a board certified in Neurology and would love to work with the armed forces.

Why did I want to sit down and talk with Mairead?

Not only is Mairead an incredible person, but also she offers an unique perspective on the application process and the extremely challenging transition to a doctoral program during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the interview I focused on 4 main categories,

1. Personal information,

2. Her insight and tips on the application process,

3. How her transition to Physical therapy school has been going

4. Her views on the current state of the physical therapy profession.

Personal information:

When you think of the word “Success”, what comes to mind?

Life fulfillment through academic/job success and personal happiness.

Can you tell me about the most memorable patient you have ever had?

During my senior year of high school internship at the PT clinic I was a former patient at, we had one older woman come into PT post TKR. She came in highly unmotivated and negative about the entire rehabilitation process, but by the end of her time with us, she became positive and hopeful. Seeing that mental change as well as her physical change made me set on becoming a PT. She became part of my “why” and what I look forward to with every patient I encounter. A fun fact is I tied this story into my undergrad college admissions personal statement.

What is your favorite muscle in the body?


Who are your favorite health/physical therapy Instagram accounts?






Physical Therapy School Application Process:

What is the biggest piece of advice you have for someone who is currently going through the Interview process?

Let your “why” carry you through and remember that all of this hard work will pay off in the end when you finally get to live your current dream.

What were you looking for when you were applying to PT school?

Location, cost, timing, length, and choice of rotations, pro bono clinic, accreditation, graduation/NPE exam pass rates, faculty, class size, teaching style, grading system

Physical Therapy School:

With Covid how has it been being an incoming student, having to adjust to a new area as well as taking on Doctoral level class work?

It’s definitely been interesting. I was in another PT program for 1 semester last year, so I knew the amount and depth of work that would be required, so on that end, it hasn’t been an adjustment, but it’s been interesting comparing the 2 programs in terms of experience due to COVID. I’m now further from home than I was in undergrad and it’s actually been the longest amount of time spent apart from my parents, which is weird, but in terms of moving to and living in a new place during COVID, it’s been hard. I’m not familiar with Worcester, not even Massachusetts, so I don’t know what’s around the area and since most places are closed/restricted, it’s been tough to get to know the area. The silver lining is that I’m finally living downtown in a city, which I’ve always wanted to do, and my lab group has become my home away from home.

What have been the Pros and Cons of online classes?

Pros: I can sleep during class and rewatch lectures if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. I can dress casually for class, which is so great since my school is a White Coat campus. I can log into class 1-2 minutes before it starts.

Cons: I haven’t been able to interact/meet with half of my cohort. I feel that there’s a disconnect and a difference in opportunities and experiences offered.

What has been the hardest adjustment from undergrad to PT School?

Having to learn to be more accountable for myself and prioritize things better since outside of classes, PT school consists of mostly studying for future exams/practical and little to no homework or written assignments

How do you typically study?

I’m definitely a night owl, so I am most productive from 5 pm to 2 am. I prefer to study on my own first to get familiar with and learn the material, then study in a group to make sure I have the concepts down, quiz each other, and talk through concepts I’m not completely understanding. I definitely need complete silence when I’m studying, so I am either in the library or at home with my door closed without music on.

How do you balance your time to workout, study, etc…

School always takes precedent, but I also remind myself daily that I am a person, not just a student, so I always take some part of my day to recharge and do the things I love to do whether that be hanging out with friends, exercising, reaching out to family, etc. I used to plan my days by the hour, but always felt discouraged when I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do, so now I set loosely based goals for myself to hit each week and only do things outside of school that I know I’m going to enjoy and want to do.

Scale 0-10 how nervous are you during practicals?


Physical Therapy Profession:

What do you view as the biggest problem in physical therapy?


How do you think physical therapy can improve?

Better advocacy for the profession and our patients, more adequate reimbursement from insurance, direct access in every state without restrictions, and becoming a more routine annual check up for people like annual check ups to the Physician

Where do you see the physical therapy profession heading in the future?

I see telehealth expanding to cover a larger % of PT sessions, an increase in direct access states, and PTs becoming as highly regarded as Doctors.

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