Congratulations! You’ve finished physical therapy school and have passed your board exams. But with those hurdles now cleared, what comes next for new grad PTs?
To first give some background for my own story, I graduated from PT school at the University of St. Augustine in 2016, and I went right into work. I was excited to start my new job, as I had obtained employment in outpatient orthopedics, which was the setting I wanted to be in after finishing school. I saw myself working in this setting for years to come. The issue about working in the outpatient setting, however, is that it is generally the lowest paying setting. With the amount of loan aid I had accumulated, I knew I would have to do supplemental work to stay ahead. So a couple months after graduating, I decided to work weekends at a SNF.
Eight months after graduation, I had two jobs – a full time, Monday to Friday position at an outpatient facility, and another position working weekends at a SNF. After doing this for a couple months, I knew I wanted more for myself. I wanted to give the highest quality care to people so that they could enjoy the best patient experience that I can provide. I understood that the only way for me to do this was to run my own business, and so I decided to do just that. The beginning of starting a practice is always toughest due to the slow patient caseload, so to complement my business I worked in home health. Working in this setting allowed me to meet my goals financially but also allowed for the flexibility I needed to begin the business. Within a year of graduating, I started Neokinetic Physical Therapy and Wellness, and I have enjoyed the benefits of self-employment ever since.
This list provides my insights into the field of physical therapy as a recent graduate, working in a variety of settings, and someone who has successfully started his own business. These are ten things you should be doing as a new graduate to jump-start your career and help you achieve your aspirations in PT.
1. Set goals for yourself
When I first graduated, I set goals to find a job that I would enjoy. In pursuing this goal, I worked in numerous different settings before realizing that, in order for me to be happy, I needed to venture out on my own and start my own business.
With that said, my suggestion is to figure out the direction you want to head into and decide what is best for you. Setting goals will encourage you to be ambitious in achieving your aspirations and helps to block out distractions. It will provide you with the motivation and focus that can shape your career and build your future.
2. Network and meet new people
One thing I looked for after graduating was building relationships with peers or fellow graduates. Taking time to have a conversation is something that will lead to not only friendships, but also professional resources and peer support that can help you in your career as a physical therapist. Whether it is building a relationship with older PTs, new grads, or others in healthcare, meet new people and don’t turn down a conversation.
3. Build a support system
It is always good for new graduates to build a support system to connect with. This can be professional contacts, friends, family members, or anyone who has a positive impact in your life. Surrounding yourself with those who possess a similar mindset will keep you in line with your goals and push you to strive for possibilities you would never have imagined. Success is contagious, and by surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, it will push and motivate you to reach your potential.
4. Believe in your abilities
As a new physical therapist, confidence can be an issue. Examples of this include not knowing how to apply your skill set, or not knowing when to assert your authority with a patient. However, one thing I realized early on is that we are all well prepared to solve people’s problems. Our training, both in the classroom and during our internships, has given us the insight, technical knowledge, and ability to perform at a high level. Showing confidence and believing in your abilities can rub off on your patients. Keep a positive attitude and motivate your patients to get better, and the results will come.
5. Find a mentor
Something I sought for when looking for that first job was mentorship. My first job offered in-services and didactic lectures twice a month. This helped me learn more techniques and gain knowledge on things that I had questions about. New graduates should seek out mentors to help the transition from studying all day to working a full-time caseload run smoother.
If your job does not offer mentorship, look for it outside of work. Many resources on the internet exist that allow you to learn from home. I have utilized mentors to learn from those who are experienced and willing to take you to the next level of your career.
6. Try new things
You’ll find it is very easy to get into the same routine day in and day out. Developing a dependable routine may be desirable, but if you are looking for more as a professional, embrace going outside of your comfort zone.
One thing I learned from working in numerous settings is that it was a great way to learn. I put myself outside my comfort zone but I also realized that even though I may have not known everything, at the end of the day I still made a difference in people’s lives. The physical therapy profession is a lifelong learning process, and the experience of meeting different people, learning new diagnoses, and seeing the positive impact you have made in people’s lives makes all the difference. It affirmed for me that I was in the right profession.
If you do not try new things, you will not know what else is out there. As a new grad, it is a perfect time to try multiple settings to find your passion.
7. Keep learning
PT is constantly evolving: techniques improve, ideas develop, and groundbreaking research is always being published. Though you’re now done with school, it doesn’t mean that you’ve learned everything you’ll need for a long and successful career. Take continuing education courses, read research articles, talk to your colleagues and mentors. Continuing the learning process will keep you informed and have you better equipped to perform your job and serve your patients. You must appreciate the fact that you never stop learning as a PT; it is a lifelong process that you need to embrace.
8. Make your own opportunities
Now that you have graduated, you must prepare for the reality of having to work. You will need to update your resume, take on job interviews, and accept the best-fitting job for yourself. Your determination and perseverance in finding work and opportunities will be the difference maker between success and failure in the physical therapy field. You have to go out there and take it. Work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.
9. Celebrate your accomplishments and have fun!
Be proud of what you have accomplished, as it has gotten you to this point in your life. Every action you take from this point on will guide you towards your future. So take some time to celebrate and appreciate this important milestone in your life.
You just graduated from physical therapy school, now it's time to have some fun and relax. Go out and enjoy yourself, you deserve it!
10. Keep pushing forward
One last thing I will say is that we progress on a daily basis, so keep taking small steps towards your goals, maintain a positive attitude, continue to work hard, and stay confident.
Hopefully the recommendations will be helpful for you, and if you have any questions or comments please let us know!