Congratulations! You’ve officially entered the world of physical therapy—a field that, according to Forbes, is one of the strongest in the country right now in terms of growth. (PT job opportunities grew 7% between 2010 and 2013 and are projected to continue to climb this year.) I know I speak for the entire therapy community when I say we’re so happy you’re here. You’ve graduated at a wonderful time—a time when opportunities abound and the entrepreneurial spirit is as strong as ever. You can expand your knowledge, make a name for yourself, and really make a difference for your patients and our industry. Unfortunately, you’re also graduating into some challenges—increasing regulations, decreasing payments, and of course, the ICD-10 transition. That’s enough to overwhelm even the most senior healthcare professional, but don’t let it do the same to you. Every generation faces its own obstacles, and you know what? We always come out ahead. There isn’t anything we can’t handle—together, as a unified, engaged profession. After all, we’re physical therapists. It’s about time we own that title and convince the world of the value that we bring as healthcare professionals.
So not only am I charging you—the newest group of physical therapists—with the responsibility to provide exceptional clinical care, but I am also urging you to add your voice to the #GetPT movement. I’m asking you to help us brand PT. You’re a doctorate-level medical professional—a peer to physicians—and an integral part of the medical care team. That’s why it’s especially important for you to find your voice early—and then use it to stand up for yourself and our profession. Take pride in your work—everything from your clinical care and customer service to your documentation and billing. Know your value, and display it proudly. Talk about it; blog about it; tweet about it; post about it—embody it. Let’s make sure everyone knows who we are, what we do, and why we do it. Let’s make sure everyone knows that we are damn good at our jobs and that we provide exceptional care to our patients. Let’s make sure that when people think muscle or joint pain, injury, or surgery recovery, they automatically think of PT.
This is the new age of medicine, and it’s being driven by the consumer. Your patients all have a choice of whether to seek your services or a chiropractor’s—your services or a surgeon’s. Whose services do you think would be most beneficial? Yours, of course, and we have the research to prove it! But we can no longer simply sit back on our haunches, waiting for a physician referral. It doesn’t work that way anymore. We’ve got to be proactive. We’ve got to find a way to build awareness about our services and market our strengths directly to the consumer.
Considering that 41% of those surveyed in a PwC study said that social media sites influence their choices of providers, hospitals, or medical facilities, the Internet seems like a really good place to start. And you have a huge advantage in this area. You bring tech savviness and branding skills that I didn’t have when I graduated. You already know the basics of marketing, because you’ve spent much of your life marketing yourself online—whether you realized it or not. Now’s the time to apply that knowledge and experience to marketing your chosen profession—to building up not only yourself, but also our industry.
The first step toward being a successful member of the PT community is to realize that we’re all in this together. Regardless of our individual specialties, we are all physical therapists. With that, welcome. I can’t wait to see the mark your generation will leave on our industry.
About the Author
Heidi Jannenga was a scholarship athlete at the University of California, Davis. Following a knee injury and subsequent successful rehabilitation, Heidi developed a passion for physical therapy. She started her 16-year physical therapy career after graduating with her Masters from the Institute of Physical Therapy in St. Augustine, Florida. In 2008, Heidi and her husband Brad launched WebPT, the leading web-based Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and comprehensive practice management service for physical, occupational, and speech therapists. As the company’s COO, Heidi is responsible for product development/management, billing services, and customer support. Through her role with WebPT, she has had the opportunity to speak as an industry expert at numerous industry trade shows and professional conferences. Additionally, she has participated as a panel speaker at local and regional technology, entrepreneurship, and women in leadership events. Heidi resides in Phoenix with Brad and their daughter.