Graduating from physical therapy school is a great accomplishment. You’ve overcome the stress, gotten through all the sleepless nights, and conquered all those pesky practical exams. Now it’s time to find a job and you’re more confused than ever!
I am a new graduate working in an outpatient orthopedics and sports clinic called New York Custom Physical Therapy & Performance Center. We treat and provide performance-based services for long distance running athletes in NYC. It was an interesting road getting into a niche market practice that doesn’t accept insurance right out of school, and I am going to help answer the questions you may have about niche practices.
It’s okay to feel lost.
Many students start physical therapy school unsure about which setting they want to pursue. They decide that their courses and clinical affiliation experiences will help them make a decision. Well, sometimes physical therapy students still feel the same way after they graduate. It’s a good problem to have because there are openings across all settings, but how do you decide? Some professors recommend taking a job that is general- one that will be broad enough to expose you to the gamut of patients with different diagnoses. Other professors recommend taking a job at an acute care hospital in order to learn about the medical field as a whole and to better understand the continuum of care.
When I was searching for a job, I knew that I wanted to pursue a position in outpatient orthopedics. I was made a few offers, but one specific clinic caught my eye. I found this position on the APTA Red Hot Jobs page, which has plenty of great opportunities by the way. I would definitely use it in addition to LinkedIn and Indeed when applying to jobs.
I have a background in exercise physiology, biomechanics, and sports performance, so I wanted something that combined my training from my graduate and undergraduate studies. My facility conducts biomechanical running analyses and VO2 Max testing in addition to traditional physical therapy services. The majority of the clientele are runners- not exactly the population I was trained to treat in physical therapy school… But I saw it as an opportunity to carve out a little niche for myself in this market. It sounded like a really cool job, so I decided that it would be something worth trying.
Taking positive risk.
In life, we never regret the decisions we make. We only regret the decisions we didn’t make- the opportunities we didn’t reach out and grab. This was the opportunity I was looking for. At NY Custom Physical Therapy & Performance Center, I was afforded the opportunity to work with a client base that I wanted to work with. I was given the opportunity to provide ideas that would be incorporated into the business, and I was given the chance to learn about marketing and building connections with like-minded companies within the health and fitness industry.
Go with your gut.
Pursuing a position in a niche market can seem intimidating. You have to trust your background and the training that you do have. If a company believes in you and provides you with the support and confidence that you need, then you will be able to adapt. If you are passionate about a certain population, then don’t be afraid to apply to that clinic. You will get the necessary training. Just be sure that the clinic supports you in your efforts and endeavors. For example, I was shown active release techniques (ART) and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization techniques (IASTM) that I wasn’t so familiar with coming out of school. Now, I have a few more tools in my clinical tool belt, which I can utilize for my patients today and in the future.
Is a niche practice for me?
If you aren’t sure about what setting you want to pursue, then a niche practice may not be the best idea. It’s a highly demanding job because of its specificity. You’ll really need to immerse yourself in the culture of that clinic, and in the evidence available to achieve the desired results for your clients. The patients I have are very high level, so I find myself evaluating their running mechanics more than muscle testing their gluteus medius. I find myself progressing them more quickly, and challenging them with plyometric exercises that aren’t done as often in an ordinary outpatient clinic. If you are interested in a specific patient segment, dive right in! You will learn at an incredible pace in a niche practice.
Niche market as a new grad.
I have found that treating running athletes is extremely exciting and rewarding. Runners are knowledgeable about their health and well-being. They are intrigued by what you do as a physical therapist. They are committed and disciplined- wanting desperately to complete those 26.2 miles while healthy. I have already learned so much from this population. I have learned a lot about marathon training programs, running economy, foot strike patterns, and much more!
Even if you are not at a runner’s specific physical therapy clinic, many outpatient orthopedic clinics see running athletes for acute and chronic injuries. We must be able to assess their running mechanics, make the appropriate changes, prescribe the appropriate stretches and strengthening exercises, and increase their mileage safely. I hope to be your go-to running physical therapist moving forward as I continue to write articles that assist you with your treatment of the running athlete!
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