If I ran the world, outpatient physical therapy clinics would only be open from 8:30-2:30pm. Employers would be flexible enough to allow their employees to flex their time to have physical therapy during the day. And all commuting would be done on magical rainbow unicorns – OK, maybe that last one is stretching things a bit too far.
Why am I daydreaming about this? I just sent my youngest child to kindergarten this year. After eight years…I find myself at home…alone. I am not quite sure what to do with myself. I want to work. I have spent too much time and money on my education not to work. I like working. In fact, I do work two days a week and I work until closing. Which means that by the time I am done charting and driving home, my kids have already had dinner and are almost ready for bed. So that leaves me three other days a week that I am home. Home…not because I am unwilling to work, but because I am picking my family over the crazy demands of working in an outpatient clinic. Because of my choice to want to be home when my kids are home, I am a bit hard to hire the other three days of the week. Saying that you are available three days of the week from 8:30-2:30 is not the most popular way to get yourself hired. No, this is not a plea for someone to hire me, but a challenge to employers out there. I think we can do things differently, and it just might work. This may sound like I live in some modern dream bubble from the 1950s that merged with today, but I want to be the one who picks my kids up from school, bakes cookies, and hears about their day; as well as have a fulfilling and rewarding career. I don’t think that my dream is that farfetched; because when I teach, I hear this same sentiment from almost every mom in the class.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014 69.8% of 244,000 employed physical therapists are women. That’s more than two-thirds! So how do we harness all this great girl power? Even though in my dream I would like clinics to only be open from 8:30-2:30, I know that it isn't practical. What I do think is practical is getting together a group of highly educated and fellowship trained females to open a practice together. You have a clinic that needs to be open 40hrs per week and you tell them to work it out themselves. They pick the hours and days that work for them on that given week. As the empty nester, maybe you want to get up and do yoga before work and do not mind working late. As the young mom, you are already up at 5:30am so why not go to work at 7? As the employer, you have specific hours that you want the clinic open, but who is specifically working what hours can be left up to the therapists. You give them the freedom to balance their home and work life and they will be the most loyal employees you can find.
So until I can find this village of women to make this clinic a reality I will be treating patients on a cash pay basis when it is convenient for both parties involved. Why do I think this will work? Very simply – education. My fellowship training has given me the skill set to make my services valuable. Valuable enough that I currently have a patient that drives one and a half hours each way to see me because his comment to me was that I helped him more in two visits than his previous therapist did in six months. Valuable enough that a person is willing to switch their lunch hour to 10am so that we can both be done with work by the time our kids are out of school. Valuable enough that patients can see the difference your education has made in your ability to treat them that they are willing to work with your schedule.
So what do you think?!
Stacy Soappman, PT, DSc, COMT, FAAOMPT
Stacy teaches manual therapy around the country as a faculty member of NAIOMT. She also does extensive mentoring with fellowship students through NAIOMT's Manual Therapy Clinical Fellowship Program. To find an upcoming course with Stacy or another NAIOMT instructor browse our fall manual therapy continuing education schedule.