Karen Litzy, host of the Healthy Wealthy and Smart podcast, and Richard Severin, clinical assistant professor in Baylor’s doctoral program in physical therapy, share their advice for new graduates who are starting out in their physical therapy careers. “You’re gonna face challenges in your career,” Severin says, “but challenges are just opportunities for growth.”
Litzy transitioned early in her career from acute care to working in a high-end gym in New York City, and she credits the move with getting her thinking outside the box when it comes to physical therapy. “It’s important to find a good mentor,” she says. “Don’t be too intimidated to just go up and talk to someone.”
When coming up with your vision for your practice, Litzy advises thinking of who your ideal patient would be - everything from where they shop or what they do for fun, to what injuries they might have and how those affect their life. “Don’t build a practice and bring a patient in,” she says. “Think of your ideal patient and build a practice around that.”
Your next steps should be finding a lawyer, an accountant and good insurance, and it’s important at this stage to seek out the experts - and never to try and do it all yourself. “That’d be like someone going to a lawyer and saying, ‘My back hurts; can you fix it?,” Litzy says. “Who would do that?”
“You really gotta stand out,” Severin says, reminding new graduates of the importance of networking. He points to attending and presenting at conferences as a great way to stand out from the rest of your peers. When it comes to your clinical rotations, Severin suggests putting yourself in settings that will expose you to the area practice you’d like to do a residency in.
When Litzy first began attending the Private Practice Section Meeting conference, she noticed that most of the presenters were men. So she and two other practitioners, Sandy Hilton and Erica Meloe, founded the Women in PT summit, putting the first one together in just seven weeks. For this year’s conference, the keynote speaker is Emma Stokes, president of the World Federation of Physical Therapists.
“Things are changing,” Litzy says of the profession, and she says her hope is that new graduates will be the ones to push for that change. “As a practicing clinician, your patients are now your community,” Litzy says. “It’s your responsibility to be a good leader in your community.”