3 Tips for Maximizing Your Career as a Physical Therapist

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™, and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your physical and financial health.

Physical Therapy is a rewarding field, but many Physical Therapists struggle to experience career satisfaction if they overlook a few critical factors. As a PT myself, I’ve seen firsthand how important it is to address these three key elements in your work and personal life: finances, time management, and job variety. The next step to maximizing your career as a PT is to address what most PTs don’t learn in school: Financial Education.

Tip #1: Invest in Your Financial Education

If you’re like me, you didn’t go into Physical Therapy for the money. But I guarantee that the money you earn from PT plays an integral role in your career – you pay your bills with it! Money may not be the draw to this field, but if you want to be successful you need to plan your finances wisely.

There’s a shameful lack of financial education in PT school, but the good news is that you don’t need an MBA to understand how to handle your finances. If you’re a PT, I encourage you to approach financial education the same way you tackle your required continuing education. If you build on your financial knowledge regularly, you will grow and maintain financial competency. Reading just one personal finance book a year is one of the best investments you can make in your personal and professional life.

Not only will continued financial education enable you to save for the future, but it will also help you achieve your short-term goals. For example, once you understand how your credit score affects your ability to borrow money and start a new business, you may think twice before opening a store credit card – something that would negatively affect your credit utilization ratio.

Here are some quick tips for improving your financial literacy in the next few months:

  • Read One Personal Finance Book (I personally recommend The White Coat Investor and books by Ramit Sethi or Dave Ramsey.)
  • Create a Financial Plan
  • Automate Your Savings and Debt Payoff Strategy

Improving your financial literacy and overall financial situation may give you the freedom to explore new opportunities in Physical Therapy. Or it can free up your time at your current job so you’re not having to work overtime.

Tip #2: Become More Efficient with Documentation Time

Documentation is usually the most time-consuming part of every PT’s workday. As a result, you may feel burnt out after a long day and get stuck “in a rut” of writing the same thing over and over.

Instead of lamenting the documentation process, try to implement a few strategies that can help you improve your notes and your time management simultaneously.

  • Use keyboard shortcuts. Most laptops and tablets include a feature called “hotkeys” that allows you to save and reference lines of text with the stroke of a few keys. Instead of writing out repetitive or standard elements of your notes, you can create your own key phrases for quick future reference.
  • Use templates for inspiration. If you struggle with “writer’s block” whenever you document your skilled treatment, you can find inspiration in physical therapy documentation templates and examples. These stock phrases can help you save time and energy as you turn your skilled treatments into skilled documentation.

Not only are these tips timesaving for you, but they may also help generate higher revenue for the clinic itself. If you have an employee evaluation coming up, the impact of your newfound documentation efficiency will be a great talking point – especially if you’re up for a promotion or raise.

Additionally, greater documentation efficiency may increase your job satisfaction, since you’ll spend less of your free time writing notes.

Tip #3: Want a Challenge? Try a New Setting

One of my favorite (and least-expected) aspects of the Physical Therapy career is the variety of job settings. I started in an outpatient orthopedic clinic and thought that was it for me.

But within a year of practice, I started to work as a Home Health PT on the weekends. I had never expected to work in this setting, but to my surprise, I found the work both challenging and rewarding.

Variety in your job setting can benefit you financially as well as keep you from burnout. A much-needed change in pace affects both your wallet and your well-being!

For example, a close friend of mine spent 15 years building a network of outpatient PT clinics before recently selling his business. He wanted a change in pace but was limited by a non-compete agreement. He took this opportunity to explore new ways of providing PT, and as a result, launched a thriving, “outpatient on wheels” home health business.

The flexibility and variety of job settings in PT allow us new and creative ways to use our skills to help people move and live better. Plus, with a little job variety, you can build new skills, gain experience, and achieve even more success in your career.

If you’re interested in varying your current job setting, I highly recommend considering a short-term assignment. Look for something that will give you insightful experience as you determine the next steps. You may even be able to find a short-term travel assignment close to home by searching current travel physical therapist jobs.

A Final Word on Maximizing Your Career as a PT

I know it’s easy to go into “autopilot” mode and simply coast through a Physical Therapy job. But the burden of student loans and the increasing pressure for productivity may lead to work dissatisfaction and burnout.

Instead, take control of your career success by addressing those 3 key elements: financial education, time management, and job/skill variety. You won’t regret the investment, and your newfound skills and insights will help shape the next steps in your career as a Physical Therapist.

Are you a PT interested in pursuing a career in travel therapy? Learn more about the exciting travel PT opportunities that AMN Healthcare has to offer. 

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