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Outpatient on Wheels Might be the Best Setting for New PTs

by Meredith Victor Castin

This is a sponsored post by FOX Rehabilitation, a supporter of NewGradPhysicalTherapy & new graduate physical therapists! 😎


When you graduate from physical therapy school, you’ll likely receive all sorts of career advice. You’ll receive unsolicited advice from well-meaning PTs, family members, friends, professors, and a host of others.

Deciding whose advice you should follow is difficult.

  • Some say to pursue high-paying jobs to pay down loans.
  • Others say to follow the mentorship opportunities to become the best clinician possible.
  • Some others would say find a growing organization with leadership opportunities.
  • Others may say to pursue autonomy, specialization, or variety in diagnoses.

What if you could achieve all of this in a single setting? And what if that setting was one that you’ve likely never heard of?

Let’s talk outpatient on wheels

The outpatient on wheels setting just might be physical therapy’s best-kept secret, and it checks all of the boxes for an ideal work setting for new physical therapy grads. By offering flexibility, autonomy, mentorship, and generous compensation, the outpatient on wheels setting provides an ideal environment for new grads to enjoy the physical therapy profession.

“Outpatient on wheels” is another way of saying “outpatient house calls.” This boils down to providing patient-specific, functional, outpatient therapy (additionally, occupational therapy or speech therapy) services in people’s homes.

The outpatient on wheels setting takes the best of several settings and combines them:

  • The functional treatments and autonomy of home health
  • The high-level goal achievement of outpatient
  • The benefits of acute care

Yes, this is all real, and the outpatient on wheels setting is pretty incredible for PTs.

A look at patient-centered care

One of the areas where outpatient on wheels stands out the most is its patient-centered care model.

Meghan Fallon, PT, DPT, started her career with FOX in June 2016. A brand new graduate at that time, she had spent a clinical rotation with FOX and enjoyed it so much, she was determined to turn that clinical into a job.

“My clinical experience with outpatient on wheels really had an impact on my choice to take the position with FOX,” said Fallon. “I loved the one-on-one attention I was able to give the patients, and I felt like I was really able to adjust their plans of care as needed.”

She had considered home health PT but ultimately chose to pursue the outpatient on wheels setting. She explained, “I chose outpatient on wheels over home health because I liked the idea that I could get people back to higher levels of function, significantly improving their quality of life.”

Dr. Fallon currently works in greater Philadelphia. She’s been pleased that the FOX team was very upfront with her regarding what to expect in her role. Examples of this include how much driving could be expected in a given week as well as the amount of time expected to be spent in assisted living facilities versus geriatric house calls.

Janelle Carney, PT, DPT, who graduated from PT school in May 2016, also joined FOX following her clinical rotation.

She was attracted to the outpatient on wheels setting because of the one-on-one care she could provide to clients.

“It feels much more meaningful to patients when we are able to set goals that are realistic to their everyday challenges inside and outside of their homes,” she said.

Blending mentorship and autonomy

New grads sometimes shy away from in-home physical therapy as their first job. While they think that they will enjoy the autonomy to some degree, they feel some trepidation taking on so much independence so early in their careers.

For this reason, new graduates often steer clear of the outpatient on wheels setting — which is a shame. The mentorship at FOX is simply top-notch.

Dr. Fallon said that her fears of being “thrown to the wolves” in her outpatient on wheels role were quickly allayed. “At first, I was nervous that I would feel unsupported in my first year of practicing since I would be going to house calls alone,” she explained. “However, that has not been the case at all.”

FOX’s mentorship program is more than your average, everyday mentorship program; it’s a formal six-month program with very clearly-defined expectations and structured education. Each participant has an assigned mentor and an on-boarding period that allows clinicians to ramp up to full caseload.

Dr. Carney said that the outpatient on wheels setting has enabled her to offer more in-depth treatments and skill-specific training than she would if she had pursued home health. In addition, she feels that the frequency and length of her treatment sessions are more beneficial to her clients.

Because of these specialized treatments — ones that are as specialized as you’d find in traditional outpatient clinics — mentorship is ever-important in the outpatient on wheels setting.

Dr. Carney chose FOX in large part because of their mentorship program. Even though she had a clinical with FOX, she was still eligible for the six-month Emerging Professionals Mentor Program. Here’s how it’s structured:

  • During the first three months, a new grad starts with a caseload of zero clients, slowly ramping up to a full caseload.
  • Each new graduate is assigned a physical therapy mentor. This clinician is dedicated to helping the new grad learn the documentation system, practice guidelines, clinical training, the flow of scheduling and visits, and the ins and outs of time management.
  • Each new graduate gets plenty of one-on-one time with his or her mentor, which can be used for observation, Q&A, or general clinical growth work.
  • Gradually, the hours with the mentor decrease, but the relationship remains ongoing.

According to Dr. Carney, the program was incredible.

“It helped me slowly adjust to being an independent therapist and learn the documentation system, time management, and flow of each day with the assistance of an experienced clinician,” she gushed. “Having a mentor fresh out of school allowed me to feel more comfortable and ask questions.”

FOX clinicians frequently report that their mentors become their friends and that they have continued to ask them for advice and input on cases long after the program formally ends.

Reaping performance-based rewards and pay

For go-getter physical therapists like Dr. Carney and Dr. Fallon, performance-based reward opportunities are a must in any role they accept.

Dr. Fallon chose FOX partially because of its Professional, Academic, and Clinical Excellence (PACE) program. The PACE program is designed to reward therapists for furthering themselves and/or the physical therapy profession in a number of ways.

The program consists of various optional activities that therapists can participate in to keep their clinical skills and knowledge fresh. Some of these activities include:

  • Journal clubs
  • Advocacy events
  • Clinical instructor programs
  • Community service or events
  • In-service projects
  • Research-based projects
  • Continuing education courses

PACE is a program based on points; depending on how many you accumulate over the course of a year, you can rack up rewards. Some of these rewards include:

  • Cash bonuses
  • Money for Continuing Education Units
  • Paid time off
  • Equipment expenses

Excellent pay

Back in 2015, I wrote an article about how to make the most money as a new graduate physical therapist.

I recommended that energetic therapists who wish to hustle and make money should look for jobs where they could easily take on overtime hours without being shamed for doing so. Quite a few employers look down on overtime. This can be because it makes employees more expensive. Yet if you have patients in need and therapists with loans, it makes no sense to look at overtime as something bad.

Shamed? Perhaps that’s not the right word, but overtime hours aren’t cheap. So, many employers frown upon therapists taking on extra hours, even when their patients need the extra care.

But FOX believes that, if a therapist is willing and able to provide extra high-quality care, overtime is permitted and embraced to allow for sick and vacation coverage so that clients can maintain their treatments per the plan of care frequency.

This policy can be an absolute godsend for therapists who leave school with $100,000-plus in student loans.

Dr. Fallon explained, “Working at FOX has allowed me to pay off my student loans as needed, while still making enough money to comfortably pay all of my bills.”

Dr. Carney often opts for cash to pay down her student loans.

This policy allows for unprecedented flexibility. In many clinics, other therapists would love to step in and help out if a PT needs to take unexpected time off. But because they’re not supposed to go above 40 hours per week, they simply cannot help out. But with FOX, other therapists will often gladly step in when a PT’s schedule gets busy. They can opt to make some extra pay or simply bank hours for time off down the road.

Kick-starting your career with outpatient on wheels

While it can be tough to decide exactly which path to pursue after graduation, FOX’s outpatient on wheels setting makes that decision a little bit easier. By touting flexibility, overtime opportunities, and a top-notch mentorship program, new graduate physical therapists truly can have it all.

Looking for some added motivation in your Physical Therapy career? Click the link below to get started!

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