Finding Your Niche
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Today, I am the proud owner of my very own private practice, Girl Fit Physical Therapy and I'm working with a patient population and in a setting that I have a passion for. That's today, though. It wasn't always that way.
I've known that I wanted to be a physical therapist since I was 15-years old, and I never looked back.
When I entered physical therapy school I was dead set on pursing pediatrics; however, throughout physical therapy school I kept falling in love with every different thing we learned. I went from the girl who never changed her mind, to feeling a little lost and confused when graduation came around.
When I was in school, residencies were really gaining popularity and I felt like I had to do one in order to be a good clinician. I had a problem, though. I didn't know what I wanted to do yet. Because I was still unsure of my career path, I knew it wouldn't be wise to pursue a residency. At least not yet.
With some advice from a mentor, I decided to "create my own experience." I was reminded that our profession is so vast and varied, it allows us to work in so many different settings with different populations, and more.
After graduation, I decided to take a job where I had done one of my clinicals, an orthopedics and sports private practice, where I had an excellent mentor. He agreed to let me work just 4 days a week so that I could also work at a children's hospital doing inpatient pediatrics, another of my interests.
I made a point to surrounded myself with good mentors, I said "yes" to every opportunity, I put my head down and worked hard, and I soaked up everything that I could.
About a year later I received a call from my friend, Becca, someone who I met through APTA. (Side note: We've since become BFFs.) She said: "Kate, I heard about this job you should look into." Fast-forward 3 months and I was a traveling physical therapist with Broadway shows. I had the awesome opportunity to work as a cast physical therapist for Broadway shows like the Lion King, Wicked, Come Fly Away, and War Horse.
After a couple of years of traveling off and on I was tired and ready to settle down. Again, I was faced with trying to figure out what I was going to do in my career.
I spent time thinking about my experiences and what I enjoyed about each one of them. I really loved the kind of problem-solving found in orthopedics, I still loved working with kids, and I had a big interest in athletes. I felt like pediatric sports medicine could be the right job for me.
My head was spinning with so many continuing education courses, hands-on mentorship opportunities (that I was very lucky to have), and APTA conferences that I squeezed into my first 3 years. I decided to reach out to Becca once again. This time, I wanted a study partner for our upcoming orthopaedic clinical specialty certification (OCS) test.
Getting my OCS at that stage in my career was perfect for me. It did exactly what I hoped it would do. It organized everything I had learned in school, continuing education courses, from my many mentors and through work experience in the context of evidence-based practice. Honestly, I really think it made me a better practitioner.
I ended up working for the next 3 years at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta in pediatric sports medicine. Then my husband got his residency in Boston, so we packed up, bought some sweaters, and headed north.
I didn't know anyone in Boston except Laura, another colleague I met through APTA. She immediately got me involved in the Massachusetts Chapter of APTA, but I still couldn't find a pediatric sports medicine job that fit me perfectly.
A year ago I decided to take a leap into starting my own private practice.
I called my mentors, did a ton of research, and decided to go all in on my niche practice with the patient population I loved treating most. I'm now the owner of Girl Fit Physical Therapy, specializing in adolescent female athletes, and have 2 other amazing physical therapists by my side.
After years of career soul-searching, I finally feel like I've found what I was supposed to do all along.
So how did I do it? I surrounded myself with mentors of every kind, thought outside the box when it came to my setting and clientele, and seized every opportunity that came my way.
I hope that you will do the same and more as you start to create your own journey.
If you want to hear more from Kate or to hear more about how to find your niche within the physical therapy profession, join us on Sunday, October 15, at 6:00 pm ET for our October #XchangeSA chat.
Kate Hamilton, PT, DPT, is owner of Girl Fit Physical Therapy. You can find them on Twitter at: @girlfitrocks.