DPT student Allison Hoey got experience helping COVID patients at Cardinal Hill

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Allison Hoey always wanted to be a physical therapist, ever since she was a young athlete.

It made sense. She’d had a lot of experience working with PTs. She can tell you that recovering from an ACL injury leads to nine months of rehab — because she did it in high school.


And she can tell you how hard it is to come back from that kind of injury.


But she did. And the California native decided she wanted to help people come back from injury, too. So, after her family moved to Louisville, she enrolled at Western Kentucky University and earned a degree in Exercise Science, with her sights set on UK’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

The 24-year-old was accepted into the DPT program in 2019. Now, the second-year student will be going on her first full-time clinical experience this month — at a small, outpatient orthopedic clinic in Richmond.

Before that, she was assigned an integrated clinical at a local rehabilitation hospital. Her assignment? Rehabbing post-COVID patients.

She was nervous about it, but then again, maybe she was more prepared than most. Because just a few months before her integrated clinical, she’d beaten COVID herself.

Here’s 5 questions with DPT student Allison Hoey …

What led you to DPT at UK?

From the get-go, I wanted to go to UK. UK was my top choice because the physical therapy program just has the reputation, and the rapport with students and clinicians.

It’s established. I valued the PT school and that was my top choice. I was hoping that I would make it in and I'm very blessed and thankful to earn a spot, so it was very simple.

And this led to your experience at Cardinal Hill. Can you explain what that is and what you did?

In the PT program, we have an integrated clinical just to get our feet wet and so in the fall, we went five times for half a day and then this spring, we went one day a week, full-time, or one day a week for the full day for eight weeks.

Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital is about seven minutes from my house and if you’re hospitalized, and you need more therapy and more care, you can go to Cardinal Hill, where you’ll get three hours of therapy every day.

Usually you get speech, physical therapy or occupational therapy.

I saw patients with post-COVID pneumonia. Some of my patients were on ventilators, and some were COVID-positive patients.

WOW. So how did you handle that?

I had no idea I was going to get COVID patients at first. Originally I was going to be working with stroke patients, but the pandemic changed everything. The stroke unit became the COVID floor at Cardinal Hill, so that was what I got. I was super nervous. It’s one of those things where you can’t prep yourself for it until you’re actually there.

But it was actually refreshing for me. Don’t get me wrong, the pandemic has been awful. But I was able to see patients when they were getting better and recovering from it. That made my outlook on everything so much better.

Most of the patients I saw were ready to go home and they were really motivated. They wanted to see their friends and family so they were willing to do whatever it takes to get home. Sometimes I had patients who could only walk 50 feet with a walker before they got out of breath. We would have to monitor vital signs constantly to make sure they didn’t have what’s called Silent Hypoxia, where they just lose oxygen. But they worked, and I saw some great success stories.

I’m really proud, honestly, to say that I worked on the front lines.

Did this reinforce what you want to do in the future?

At Cardinal Hill I got to see anything and everything. Sometimes I would see people who got COVID, and other times, I’d see a person who had a total hip replacement.

But I also saw how important it was to be careful. I actually got COVID in November of last year, before I was doing this clinical. And no one talks about the mental effect it has on you. You have the body aches and fever and fatigue. I couldn’t even stand long enough to scramble some eggs. But it’s so much more.

There’s a lot of guilt and shame when you get it. And having to be in isolation. Having to be away from friends and family. Having to miss a holiday with them.

I didn’t go to church or the gym. But it was a blessing in disguise. I got COVID, and then I got put on the COVID floor, just by chance. By that time, I was immune, and then I was able to get vaccinated, so I was fine.

But I could identify, at least in some small way, with what they were feeling. And that helped. I could empathize, which is important. I’m so proud to say I got to work with these patients.

I was proud to say this was my job. This is what I love to do.

So what would you tell someone who was interested in DPT at UK?

I think one of the things our program does well is it really helps you during the transition into the school.

The faculty will say, ‘Yes, you are students. But you’re also going to be our future co-workers, so we’re going to treat you like adults, like people who are part of a profession — and someday, you may be on this faculty with us.’

Also — they make sure we have connections to our counseling services at UK, which are wonderful. They’ll check in on us at least once a semester, because they know that mental health is so important. I used those services when I had COVID. I mean, this has been a challenging year for everyone. Our class motto is that we’re resilient. We’re warriors.

But we also realize we’re very blessed to be living in the 21st century where we can do all of these things while still continuing our education online.

Overall, the pandemic was hard, but I’m so proud to say I’m part of this PT program. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do, and I’m proud to say I’m here at UK.


One Year Later

It’s been a year since COVID-19 first began to change our lives, so here in the College of Health Sciences, we are taking time to celebrate our health and well-being, while also to honor those we’ve lost along the way. 

We are publishing a series of stories that will celebrate our faculty, staff, students and alumni. Never have we been challenged in the ways we were over the past year. We are determined that we will not forget. And we will persevere.