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DPT hybrid students pose during their immersion week


To understand my daily routine as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) hybrid student, I feel it necessary to reflect on why I chose Pitt’s hybrid option in the first place. To start, I come to Pitt’s DPT program working towards my second career. After having a career, with a salary and benefits, it was really scary to think about leaving financial stability to go back to school full time. The hybrid option has allowed me to be more flexible with maintaining a job during a DPT program. Taking classes from home has definitely seemed to allow for more shift availability and more time available for a commute to work. Another reason that weighed in on my hybrid choice was my two puppies, Parker and Maverick. Having pets as a responsibility can be difficult with a traditional residential program. With the flexibility of the hybrid schedule, I can take classes from the comfort of my home, and my dogs can maintain their level of “spoiledness.” I don’t have to worry about them being home by themselves all day, without a “bathroom” break, especially with me having to go to work after classes.  

Burrelli's dogs

The most important factor of my hybrid student lifestyle is my family. My fiancé and I have a 4- year-old daughter. The hybrid schedule has allowed me to maximize my time with my family, from the big moments to the everyday little things. A lot of my mornings as a hybrid student involve getting her ready for preschool and something to eat before class. Sometimes, class periods involve turning off the camera so I can wipe some tears and kiss a boo-boo, and a lot of times it just means a lot for her to be able to sit near me during class and draw or practice her writing. These moments would not happen in a traditional residential program. My hybrid lifestyle has allowed me to not only be more present but also share my learning experience with my step daughter.  

Burrelli's family

On a day-to-day basis, my hybrid schedule looks like me waking up early to workout and eat breakfast. I am a morning person, so I usually try to be productive before class, completing assignments or modules. A lot of times my productivity turns towards doing the dishes, laundry or other house work up until the very last minute I have to log into class. I would be doing these things even if I had to commute to an in-person class, but at least the virtual synchronous session buys me some significant additional time for productivity.  

Between classes, I have the luxury to go back to chores, get a workout in if I missed my morning routine, have lunch with my family or whatever I need to do that day. To get even more personal, this past year, my mom unexpectedly had to undergo some pretty scary surgery. As a hybrid student, I was able to stay at my parents' house, attend classes and most importantly, help care for my mom while my dad was at work during the more acute stages of her recovery. Those days were hard but I was able to be a student and a caretaker. To top it off, my classmates and the faculty at Pitt were beyond supportive even through a virtual model. To summarize, my hybrid life just looks like “life” but when I take the time to reflect, the level of flexibility is greatly appreciated and utilized.  

There are significant difficulties that come with a hybrid schedule. Virtual fatigue is real. Synchronous lessons are on the computer, asynchronous modules are on the computer, homework is on the computer, zoom review sessions are on the computer and the list goes on. Without having to switch spaces, leave the house to go to class and back, it is hard to differentiate when to turn the learning on and off. Hybrid students do not have as much of a concrete line between school and life, in my personal experiences. For me, it has been especially important to learn when to take a step away from the computer. It is not easy to do, knowing that school work is there. Planning or scheduling time “off” throughout the day seems to be helpful. Knowing and executing my own definition of self-care is crucial.  

The other difficulty with hybrid learning is socialization with classmates. In a traditional program, students are constantly surrounded by their classmates in person. In a hybrid program, when the Zoom meeting is over, there are no classmates walking out the door with me. This has made it really easy to self-isolate, which is not ideal. To cope with this, I have met up with my fellow hybrid students in person, outside of class to study or to go do something fun. It just takes a little more effort. 

Despite the distance, I have met the most amazing, supportive people through the  DPT hybrid option. I have friends around the country and would not trade this experience for the world. They make the little extra effort to socialize worth it and make me want to strive to be better at it. To top that thought off, immersions are like a weeklong family reunion. We all learn, laugh, struggle, sweat, cry, lose sleep, explore the city and enjoy every moment together. It is an experience truly unique to us as hybrid students. Yes, it is a week loaded with information but it is such a great break from the online routine and the best opportunity to see all my incredible classmates, faculty and friends.  

Overall, this experience is a roller coaster. Pitt hybrid learning provides a strong support system with a unmapped platform to grow. So far, this experience has allowed me to grow in my ability to be a productive, multitasker who likes to squeeze in a workout, cuddle with my dogs or “chef up” a gourmet meal, maximizing my time in-between classes. It is helping me learn more about myself and my own learning styles. It is forcing me to identify my priorities in life and daily routine. Most importantly, it has allotted me the time and given me a lifestyle where I can grow into the wife and mother I want to be while keeping my career goals an equal priority. Some days are easy or uneventful. Others are difficult and full of tears. I am thankful for every one of them.  


Written by: 

Katelyn Burrelli 
Student, DPT Class of 2023