• This Is Why

    Practiced Approach

    The business of finding a calling.

    Podcast: Listen to 'This Is Why'  

    A football injury landed me in rehab as I prepared to enter my junior year in high school. Football was a huge part of my life, so the prospect of not being able to get back on the field was devastating. With the help of my physical therapist (PT), however, I was in playing shape for the season's first game. On that day, I knew I wanted to be a member of this amazing profession.

    Later, when was I completing my last clinical experience in PT school, I was offered the opportunity to essentially take over a struggling physical therapy private practice upon graduation. I jumped at the chance, and my career path as a PT was set.

    I was enthusiastic from the start, but also very green, of course. On one level, I didn't care about the challenges of clinical practice and running a business-I was going to help improve people's lives, and I was going to do it my way! On another level, though, I knew I had a lot to learn.

    During those first couple of years, my primary focus was on developing clinically. Along the way, though, I also figured out the basics of keeping a practice afloat. Clinical success soon dictated that I hire more staff. This was good-or at least I thought it was.

    For the next few years, my practice grew. At the same time, though, my enthusiasm waned. I felt frustrated by the business side. It impinged on the enjoyment I got from treating patients. The more I learned about what it took to operate a practice at a very high level, the more overwhelmed I felt. What I most wanted to do simply was to work on becoming a great PT.

    For the first time, I questioned my career path. But then I had an epiphany. If I wanted to help more patients and clients, I needed to expand my practice. And if I was going to do that, I had to make a commitment. I needed to roll up my sleeves and squarely address the business side of private practice.

    What I discovered after making that commitment was something that was fascinating and beyond anything I could have imagined.

    The satisfaction I gained from helping my growing staff develop into outstanding professionals proved to be every bit as rewarding as my own clinical successes with patients and clients. Actually, it was perhaps even a little more rewarding than my individual achievements, because my well-trained staff was helping us improve far more lives than I'd ever have been able to accomplish on my own.

    What was more, I came to see that the better and more efficient I was at running my practice, the more my therapists and support staff flourished, and, in turn, the better our patients did!

    What we do as PTs is awesome. The services we offer our patients are critical. I entered the profession wanting nothing more than to become an excellent clinician-albeit one who also had a practice to run. I'm proud of my clinical skills, and I'll always cherish the time I spend treating patients. But what I discovered is that the primary barriers we must overcome-if our profession is to flourish and the needs of our patients and clients are to be optimally served in today's health care environment-are financial and organizational in nature, not clinical.

    That's why, last summer, I co-founded a company that aims to help other private practices emulate the success I've achieved.

    We have much work to do as a profession, but I believe we can get there.

    Since I figured out how to contribute on this level, I haven't looked back.

    Column - This Is Why Author 

    Blaine Stimac, PT, is the owner of Professional Therapy Associates, a multipractice group in Montana. He also is cofounder of Health & Rehab Solutions Inc, which oversees and guides the development of physical therapy private practices.  

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