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Bail! Do something else with your skills?

So many of my therapy friends are jumping ship!


Unless you are or know someone in the rehabilitation profession or work adjacent to it, you may not know that in the last year there have been a tremendous amount of highly-skilled, therapy professionals who are leaving the field. From reimbursement cutbacks to pay cuts, more rules to too many new graduates flooding the market, to pandemic exhaustion: the reasons are many.

Therapists and therapist assistants are opening their own businesses, modifying the homes of the elderly, going to work for insurance agencies, becoming nurses, opening daycares and doing telehealth! Some are staying - and we desperately need some to stay.


But if you know me, you may know that it's been years in the making. Healthcare doesn't feel like care, or caring sometimes. Yes, profit has always been a factor, money has to come in to pay the salaries and the utilities -- but is has gone too far lately. See more patients, be paid less, layoffs and rehires with different pay, risk pandemic hazard without hazard pay or overtime pay ... not be appreciated? I have heard and read a lot of scenarios and it makes me sad.


A HUGE reason we are leaving seems to be an emotional one, involving the heart. Times change, yes -- but a lot of us are leaving the profession because it is important to us to have heart.


We're smart, analytical people. That's what they pay us for: how fast can we assess something, analyze it, make a plan, fix it, document it all? By the way, do it in 60 minutes or less, please. But there is only so much your soul can take. (That goes for a lot of industries and jobs, right?)

I once worked in an orthopedic clinic owned by 2 surgeons. Everything seemed great: I was the director, I could put new policies in place, I could hire some staff. (Still not sure why this hadn't already been done?) I could make a difference in people's lives, their pain, their disability; I could help them return to being ABLE and quality of life returns to "prior level of function" ...


Well, once the honeymoon period was over (it didn't last long), I began to question. A nudge or two here and an analysis there ... I was trying to make things run more smoothly and see patients also. Why was it so hard to get something done?


It became frowned upon to purchase supplies, everything was scrutinized. Why did we need more towels? Um… because we can't use the same towels on different people or we have to keep washing them so often. Buying 10-15 more towels is a drop in the bucket, no? Buying some items to have in stock that patients need and can buy from us directly, isn't that a basic idea? One stop shopping?


I took it in stride but inside I was in knots.


Then, one boss started with: Elsa, can you do a massage on me - my back is killing me! … Oh, you're about to go home? …. Just 30 minutes .. (tries to pay me $20). I did it once but then began to listen after hours when I would hear his footsteps coming from his office and I would wave as I dashed out the opposite door, down the stairwell: "See you tomorrow!"


This was never a sexual thing, it was about power and milking employees out of every bit of energy and time they had, after hours was the only time I could catch up. After all, I was a salaried employee - they owned me.

And it was about making making profits.


I dreaded the weekly meeting where they went over my "sales" numbers: how many units had we billed and how many patients did we have booked? Why was I only seeing 3 people at a time when I could see 5? Why could I not bill more than 4 units? (1 unit = 15 min by the way). The gym should be full, 10 people at a time between me, a second PT and a technician. The techs never had much rest either, they we shuttling patients from place to place, cleaning up, eventually doing receptionist duties and taking payments when our receptionist was sent to work downstairs part of the time.


I don't mind running a copay here and there, I don't mind working hard and I do work hard -- but there is a limit. I could see my PT students exhausted, taking on my burden. One asked me why I worked there and I found myself making excuses for everyone.


Why WAS I working there?

I was supporting my husband and our business venture and couldn't let anyone down. That was why. But, I could rehab three knees at a time and help those people, and I could create a program where PT students could give free talks on anatomy to patients, there could be an ACL program for weekend warriors and we could be on the field with the high schools, we

could have back care clinics and teach patients a few basic things they can do at home ... BUT ... then your dutiful and quick brain gets a heart override and your heart says ... no more!


I lasted almost a year, one of the worst of my life, definitely the worst job I ever had. I gave them 3 months notice so they could find a replacement. My other PT coworker left also. I realized I had been a buffer. The techs were all going on to better things : )


The week before my last day there was still no plan, at least no plan that I, or our patients knew of. Who would see these patients?


Why did I still feel so obligated?


Because heart, we are human. We need more heart, especially in the treatment and uplifting of our elders and injured folks.


I applaud my fellow rehabilitation professionals: OT, COTA, SLP, PT, PTA and techs.


They are brave. I hope to employ some of them.


Go make a greater impact!

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