Yes, you CAN be a PT and work outside of patient care.
Written by: Meredith Castin, PT, DPT
Founder of The Non-Clinical PT
During PT school, if you had told me that I would leave patient care after only five years, I would have called you a liar.
Very few physical therapists set out to get their DPTs and use them outside of a clinical setting, myself included. Generally speaking, physical therapists go to physical therapy school to spend their careers doing one thing: treating patients. This is admirable, and it is what makes many, many therapists happy to go to work each day.
For some of us, though, patient care can feel stifling at best. Patient care can be emotionally and physically draining, and the income ceiling can be low, unless you’re willing to “work to live” by working multiple jobs or becoming an entrepreneur/clinic owner or doing travel physical therapy, which isn’t an option for everyone.
As much as we have pushed for the DPT and all it brings to us professionally, there really aren’t many established paths for clinicians who want to leverage their degrees creatively. Yet, many physicians, pharmacists, and nurses obtain their degrees as stepping stones to education, industry, research, or corporate leadership roles. This works out nicely for them. After all, medical professionals get injured, depressed, burned out, or simply curious about what else is out there. It’s great that they have options.
Unfortunately, I was one of the PTs who found myself burned out a few years in, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I tried many things, including changing settings, changing employers, working per diem, and changing settings again. My hands ached, my back ached, and my…being (for lack of a better word) ached. I found myself eager to try anything else, so while I was off work for a surgery, I launched a company to perform mobile prehab services for patients having elective orthopedic surgeries. I found that I enjoyed building the website, writing the content, and creating the graphics more than I ever enjoyed patient care. I started applying for entry-level marketing jobs, but I had no real direction. I had a few brief stints here and there, but nothing felt right, and nothing came close to feeling like I was actually leveraging my PT degree. I felt awful.
So, when a colleague approached me to work on a website with him, I jumped at the opportunity. I have always enjoyed writing to some extent (though I never thought I was much good at it), and it seemed like a wonderful outlet. Three years later, leading the content team at NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com (and its parent company, CovalentCareers.com) became my primary focus. After a bit, I realized that I love writing so much, but am also so passionate about providing non-clinical options for PTs, it made sense to leave CC/NGPT and get a full-time writing job, while launching The Non-Clinical PT.
Now that the DPT is the mandatory entry-level degree for physical therapists, we’re in a unique spot as a profession. We are perfectly primed to leverage our hard-earned doctorates: we simply need to remove the stigma of leaving patient care and put ourselves out there when we do.
If we want to become clinically excellent and treat until we’re 65, that’s fantastic! But there are certainly other non-clinical careers for physical therapists and we are absolutely capable of pursuing them, either out of necessity or out of pure interest. I have made it my professional goal to unearth these non-clinical options and help other rehab professionals have the tools to land them, should they desire.
Here are a few of those non-patient-care jobs:
Clinical Reviewing/Utilization Review
Clinical Education Specialists/Clinical Trainers
Canine or Feline PT
My goal with The Non-Clinical PT is to find more of these roles and do three things:
- Cover them on the site so that physical therapists know they exist and that a PT is qualified to be in these roles.
- Eliminate the barriers and stigma regarding pursuing these roles.
- Create a master resource of companies that hire PTs into non-clinical roles.
f you’re reading this article, I would love your help to expand the reach of our incredible profession. Please connect me with non-clinical PTs when you come across them, and please send people who are considering leaving patient care to the site so they feel supported, rather than isolated. Please tell me if you hear of non-clinical positions that were filled with PTs, so I can reward those companies by showcasing them on the resources page.
Our profession needs non-clinical PTs out there. We need PTs in innovation positions, in all levels of education, and in consulting and influencer roles. Only when PTs embrace the non-clinical side of our profession, will the rest of the medical community get a better understanding of how we are a doctoral-level profession, and we are well-suited for leadership roles, rather than being an “ancillary” service.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me! Thanks for listening to my soapbox speech 🙂
About the Author:
Meredith graduated from University of St. Augustine (San Diego) in 2010 with her DPT. Since then, she has worked in outpatient orthopedics, inpatient rehab, acute care, and home health settings. After burning out on patient care, she helped launchNewGradPhysicalTherapy.com, continuing to launch The Non-Clinical PT. She is passionate about helping new grads feel welcomed into the PT community, no matter how they choose to use their degrees. In her spare time, Meredith enjoys rock climbing, snowboarding, creating art and music, and spending time with her husband and three cats.