Published on June 24, 2024 by Alison Ingle  
Bright Ideas TBI Camp 2024

Caring for the whole person. While this message appears simple, its impact is profound. Each year, students experience this impact firsthand through the summer's Bright Ideas TBI Camp, a program for people living with traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries and their caregivers.

students working with TBI camperHosted in partnership with the Alabama Head Injury Foundation (AHIF), students in Samford University’s School of Health Professions' physical therapy, speech-language pathology and physician assistant studies programs worked together in interprofessional teams—alongside occupational therapy students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and faculty and students from social work and nutrition—to assess, provide treatment and hold education sessions based on individual needs.

The 16 individuals who attended the camp were at least three years removed from their injury and have often exhausted their health care and therapy resources, leaving caregivers feeling like they are running low on options. They come to camp knowing they will leave with a renewed action plan—created by the students—and new therapeutic tools to use when they return home.

Despite its short duration of three days, the Bright Ideas TBI Camp leaves a lasting impact on its participants. The interventions, including exercises to improve strength, balance, coordination and flexibility, are designed to empower the participants. Engaging in activities such as football, Just Dance, hikes, painting, games and cooking, the campers achieve small yet meaningful victories, which are the true measure of the camp's success.

examining TBI camperWhile the camp provided meaningful time for the patients and caregivers, it also strongly impacted the students involved. In caring for the whole person, the student's relationship with the patient plays a vital role, one that is based on compassion and empathy.

Second- and third-year students have several opportunities for patient interactions prior to camp, but for many, this was their first chance to work with a patient for three consecutive days. "We have the unique and impactful opportunity to help shape this new life they are working towards after their accident," said a third-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student. "We get the opportunity to help them through a dark time and remind them that they can improve physically and emotionally."

Another student said, "Our camper's mom told us that she had not seen him smile so much in a long time. I will not underestimate a future TBI patient based on my personal experience with my camper."

The Bright Ideas TBI Camp's interprofessional nature allows students to observe how each discipline evaluates the same patient. "This experience allowed me to see the importance of working with the other schools, and being present in their sessions was a unique experience I am not sure I will ever have again," one student said.

"Before this experience, I had very little experience working with a patient with a TBI. I learned skills and other lessons that will stick with me and make me a better clinician for all patients I work with in the future," added another.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.