I would like to give a huge thanks to Dr. Meredith Victor for sharing such great advice and experiences. Also please take the chance to check out NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com, its a fantastic resource.
Bio: Meredith graduated from University of St. Augustine in San Diego in 2010. She has worked in multiple settings and strived to experience as many environments as possible. She currently works as a rehab intake liaison at South Bay Rehab Center in San Diego, and runs NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com.
- How was the transition/learning curve coming out of school and starting your first job?
My first job was pretty interesting, actually. In many ways, I had a pretty nice situation at a hospital-based outpatient clinic. We had charting time included both before lunch and at the end of the day, so I almost never had to stay late or work through lunch. That was awesome!
The patients' diagnoses ranged from fibromyalgia and chronic pain to the occasional total knee replacement or orthopedic condition. We even saw some TMJ patients and had a pool to offer aquatic therapy to our spine and arthritis patients.
The toughest part for me was feeling like I was losing some of my ortho skills, since I really didn't get to use them that often. We had an HMO, so our patients were subject to capitation spread throughout all the HMO patients. That meant our clinic had chosen to provide 5 visits per patient, unless they were post-op or special circumstances. That could be frustrating, since new grads like to see patients for longer than 5 visits to gauge whether their treatments are effective.
Another challenge was the language barrier. We had quite a few patients who either didn't speak English, or came from cultural backgrounds where treating pain with exercise was unheard of. It was pretty difficult to convince them of the efficacy of PT if we only had 5 visits to do so, and most of our 30 minute treatment was spent fumbling with an awkward translation phone. It was very frustrating, and the combination of those factors is what ultimately led me to seek employment elsewhere.
I do really miss my coworkers, and the patients were quite sweet.
- What is your work load like and what is typical day is like for you?
I have two really unique jobs right now, and I love them!!! I work as a rehab intake liaison for South Bay Rehabilitation Center (at Paradise Valley Hospital). The job involves no direct patient care, but there is quite a bit of interaction with patients and their families, as well as collaboration with other disciplines in the hospital.
My role is to market and promote our fantastic sub-acute inpatient rehab program. We spend a lot of time educating doctors, case managers, patients and their families about the intake criteria for admission to our facility. It is a perfect match for my personality, so I feel incredibly blessed to have the job!
A typical day involves a combination of speaking with case managers and physicians, filling out intake paperwork, brainstorming with the team about marketing efforts, going to various hospitals around town to meet with potential candidates (and their families) and working on our social media and web strategies. Before I was a PT, I was a web and graphic designer, so I've absolutely loved being able to merge my two careers this way.
My other "job" is running NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com, which is a website devoted to helping new PTs with the transition from student to professional. I love the opportunity to help new PTs carve their own paths and provide resources that to help them tackle the mundane tasks that take away from the joy of being a physical therapist.
While those two gigs keep me pretty busy, I don't want to leave patient care entirely. I do some per diem PT work to keep my skills sharp :)
- What do you wish you would have known/been prepared for after graduating?
I wish I had known that acute care was out there. I never had a clinical in acute, and rushed into outpatient when I graduated. I found that having a set schedule of solo treatments was not for me. I didn't hate it, but I felt very drained by the end of the week. I was also pretty sore from doing manual therapy.
A PT school classmate suggested I apply to an acute care job at his facility, and it was such a great move! I much preferred the flowiness of acute care, and I loved the interaction with OTs, nurses, MDs, pharmacists, etc. I do much better in a collaborative environment, and I find that acute was my favorite setting. I loved being able to help people take their first steps after surgery, and the fact that my patient load was always changing kept things interesting and fun.
However, once I was out of school for about 5 years, I really found myself missing the creativity of design work, so it was time for a real change, which led me to my current positions with South Bay Rehab Center and NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com. I'm extremely happy, so I also wish someone had told me that you don't HAVE to do patient care to use your DPT to the fullest.
- Coming out of school what was compensation is like/managing student loans, etc?
Because I work in a large city with two PT schools, compensation is not, shall we say, "competitive." I didn't go into physical therapy for the money, but rather for the flexibility. I am lucky in that my husband has a stable job with benefits, which has enabled me to create a work schedule for myself that fits my personality. I am also able to work at a higher per diem rate, since I opt out of benefits. I strongly urge therapists to check out per diem work, if they're feeling burned out. With the Affordable Care Act as an option for health insurance, you can choose to work at several positions at a higher hourly rate, with more flexibility. Of course you don't get paid time off with per diem, so make sure to consider that when you make your decision!
- Additional thoughts.
PT is an excellent career for anyone who can be creative about carving a path for themselves. It is not unusual to get burned out at some point in your career. Some therapists work 40 years and never feel burned out. Others are ready to leave patient care after a year of treating. Don't judge yourself for where you land on the spectrum. Just take stock of your strengths and your passions and life will present opportunities to move in the right direction. Good luck, everyone!
Thanks again to Dr. Meredith Victor for her contributions to www.creatingapt.com.
Feel free to write any questions or comments in the comments section. If you feel you have something pertinent to share on www.creatingapt.com send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click HERE to read about other PT's experiences.
Click HERE to read about other PT's experiences.