The Athletic Training Residency Experience at St. Luke’s: A Tale of Two ATs

By Morgan Lock

Carly Wilson and Chandler Batiste are athletic trainers completing St. Luke’s Athletic Training Residency Program in Boise, Idaho. Like all accredited residencies, St. Luke’s provides residents with mentored patient-care opportunities and structured educational programming to advance their training in a specific content area. What are residencies like and how do ATs decide on this career move? Carly and Chandler share their stories.

First, about the program at St. Luke’s. During this 12-month program with a specialty area in orthopedics, residents work with physicians, Athletic Trainers, and other medical staff in multiple rotations, each of which lasts 4 to 6 weeks and include both clinical and didactic responsibilities. Extensive feedback from mentors is a hallmark of the experience. The resident ATs are paid a salary and engage as a member of the healthcare team.

And how does an AT decide to complete a residency? Batiste graduated from Eastern Washington University with her Bachelor of Science in athletic training and immediately took an opportunity to work in an outpatient clinic focusing on sports medicine. She continued to work in the outpatient and collegiate settings for several years, enjoying the rewarding experience of  helping people to get back to what they love doing.

Then during the pandemic, she shifted gears and began working in a setting she had gravitated towards – outpatient orthopedics. She quickly realized that while there was a significant overlap in the knowledge and experience she had gained in her previous jobs, there was a notable gap of knowledge in orthopedics she yearned to bridge. “I discovered the option of residency and found it as an opportunity to gain expertise in a specialty area of athletic training in a way that provided mentored learning, accountability, and hands-on experience for patients with a breadth of health conditions, procedures, and treatment options.”

Wilson took a more linear path to Athletic Training, finding her passion by watching how the Athletic Trainer’s interacted with student-athletes on the field of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers football team.

“Once I got to college and was starting to shadow the collegiate Athletic Trainers before getting into the program. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Wilson said. “And then getting in the [residency] program, I love that it’s still orthopedic but allows me to interact with patients of all ages. As I’ve progressed, my experience as an athletic trainer has become more focused on the patient-centered care aspect. That’s the driving force now.”

Wilson obtained a post-professional degree in Athletic Training at the University of South Carolina, where she gained hands-on experience in her rotations with both the equestrian team and Student Health Services. “I was glad I was exposed to the collegiate atmosphere of Athletic Training working as a healthcare professional, because as a college student you don’t really see the kind of the rigors they go through,” Wilson explained. “Once I got to work at Student Health, I realized the increased number of patient encounters and new diagnoses that I was exposed to. I really like being on the side of doing an evaluation and finding the diagnosis versus more of the rehab side. I think that’s what kind of piqued my interest in the residency program.”

To refine their clinical skills, Batiste and Wilson do rounds with the physicians, seeing 15 to 25 patients each day. After obtaining a history and completing an evaluation, they discuss their differential diagnoses with the physician and then observe the physician’s process with the same patient.

Both Wilson and Batiste reiterated the importance of repetition to expand their library of how many patients with similar injuries they have seen. The more times they evaluate patients with similar injuries, the more comfortable they become in understanding how the same injury can have such different impacts based on the patient’s situation.

“I’m far more comfortable now with understanding a wider breadth of pathologies across the lifespan, from pediatric to geriatric patients,” Batiste said. “Just being able to have a better dialogue with the patient about what they’re experiencing, why they might be experiencing it.”

Residents gain crucial technical skills such as reading radiographs and MRIs. They also become more comfortable with working with patients with common orthopedic injuries like ACL tears and adhesive capsulitis while expanding their repertoire to less common conditions like Legg-Calvé Perthes disease. Administratively, residents facilitate referrals, order x-rays, and respond to incoming messages. The didactic portion of the residency requires quarterly case studies as well as weekly presentations that Batiste and Wilson alternate.

“Having wanted to further my skill set, what I have experienced in residency is a lot of exposure,” Batiste said. “What I really take from this residency is being able to see a lot of patients with a lot of injuries every single day. I’m exposed to different pathologies, whether it’s patients that I’ve seen or procedures that I’m watching in the OR, or in a clinic. It has also been rewarding to experience how we as athletic trainers are such a valuable asset within the clinical setting to both patients and providers.”

What’s next? When looking beyond residency, Batiste is currently interviewing for positions throughout the United States. While she ultimately hopes to stay close to her home in the Pacific Northwest, it is ultimately important to her to secure a position as an athletic trainer in the clinical setting where she can operate to the fullest scope of practice and be involved in the operating room as means to achieve the utmost patient satisfaction and efficiency in healthcare delivery.

Wilson also has the goal of staying close to home and utilizing her training to its full potential. She has already started applying to athletic trainer positions in the clinical setting in the Wisconsin area and is hoping to share her knowledge and experiences with other residency programs in the future by serving as a preceptor. Wilson also enjoys nonoperative procedures such as injections using diagnostic ultrasound and platelet-rich plasma and would love the opportunity to work with a physician who specializes in this realm of orthopedics down the road.

Are you an Athletic Trainer looking for a chance to gain experience in a focused area of practice? Maybe a residency is for you. Explore the options by searching for programs on our searchable database.