How starting my own private practice renewed my love for OT
Setting the Stage
It is July 1, 2020. I am home today with my daughter. My small private practice has survived COVID-19 and the 3-month state-imposed stay at home orders and I have found my renewed love for OT!
The primary elections are approaching as the country remains divided on who should lead, and the Black Lives Matter movement is strong. Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remains on the Supreme Court Justice and it is hard to breathe today without thinking about equality and occupational justice for mankind.
I am an OT (occupational therapist) with 20 years of experience. I am also a woman, a spouse, a mother, a child, a friend, and a small business owner.
Making the Transition
Twenty years ago, when I finished school, the thought of entering private practice and being a small business owner never crossed my mind.
In OT school, directly or indirectly, we were ushered to join the traditional healthcare system where we would work for others and provide care while our organizations provided us stable income, a schedule of patients, and a range of benefits. I joined this process and happily worked as an OT for years moving from different groups, from hospital to outpatient to rehab to long term care. All along, working for someone else, putting in my time and hoping I would get the Friday after Thanksgiving off each year, paying more money as my group health insurance increased, carrying over unused vacation days because my time off request were not approved, watching as my benefits of continuing education vanished, being uncertain as I was transitioned from a salaried to hour employee, and quietly complying as demands for productivity and efficiency increased while my salary didn’t change.
Sounds bleak, right?
While these were the black and white truths of my situation, it is important to add, not all was bad. Despite all this, I remained committed, loyal, and even dedicated to my career. I advanced into specialty practice, advanced into clinical leadership roles, and fought to support the OTs around me. As OTs, we are exceptional at seeing the light in the dark, but somewhere along the line, I lost my love for OT.
I Watched the Bottom Drop Out
In 2018, the currents of healthcare reimbursement began to shift (yet again), and I was laid off, from what I thought was my dream job. I was one of the hundreds in my company laid off during my wave with at least two more massive layoffs behind me. At that time, I was devasted and in shock. Looking back, it seems incredible to me that I had no exit plan for an industry that for years had been asking for more and more while giving me less and less.
In my desperation, I looked around and began scrambling for a job with another company. This is what you do, right? You find another job. And this is what I thought I had to do until my mentor and my spouse confronted me and encouraged me to think about something different – to think about starting my own practice.
At first, I absolutely discounted creating something of my own. I had no skills to do this. No one had ever taught or even encouraged me to think about this. How could I, just an OT, do this? Who would ever want the services I provide?
Finding the Courage to Change
Then I met a friend who challenged me and asked me why I continued to tell myself so many lies. Lies? This really struck me. I am an honest person, I live with integrity, how could I be lying to myself? But I could not shake this thought and so I dug in and I started to question.
- What if all these thoughts I’m having are because of the framework of my life?
- What if I actually could do this?
- Maybe I do have the skills?
- And maybe I could create something great?
Then I took it further and I began to dream about what my own practice could be.
If you have not read Kobi Yamada’s What do you do with an Idea? I strongly recommend it. This book encouraged me to dream. In this book, the main character has an idea. It shows up as an egg. At first, the character doesn’t know what to do with this idea, but over time begins to love it and helps it grow. Spoiler alert, in the end,
“What do you do with an idea? You gain the strength to change your world.”
So, this is what I did. I decided to break free of all the ideas and frameworks that were holding me back – the idea that I was a woman and should be the primary caregiver for my child – the idea that men run small businesses – that many ideas aren’t as important as mine – or that my gifts aren’t worth sharing with the world. I let go of them all and I jumped in, feet first, and created my own private practice.
I Finally Knew What I had to Do…
I’ll never forget the day I finally knew what I had to do and began (Mary Oliver, The Journey). Since then entering private practice has been a game change to my career, to my attitude, to my happiness, and to my entire life. I am in charge. For the first time, the buck starts and stops with me. The word autonomy does not even feel big enough to represent the freedom, creativity, and choice I now have in my own practice.
In my practice, I partner with my clients. My clients choose me and in choosing me we work together towards their goals. We go beyond what healthcare ‘says’ we should do, and I get to use all my wonderful OT training to help problem-solve real community-based problems.
I Found My Renewed Love of OT
Being in private practice, connecting with these clients, creating something of my own, has truly saved me and re-ignited my love for occupational therapy. Occupational therapy is one of the best careers. We have the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to change lives, but our current healthcare system has us so wrapped up in reimbursement, productivity, and efficiency that it is strangling any opportunity to take a breath and be creative. In my practice, I enjoy facilitating occupational justice, community integration, and support transitioning life roles in a way that the conventional healthcare system would probably say is not even valuable – but I know it is and my clients do too.
If you are unhappy in your current work setting, let me tell you, you do not have to be. Feel empowered to know you can change your entire situation. If you do not agree with the demands being placed on you, I encourage you to raise your voice and explore options that fit your needs and the life you want. Doing so for me has made all the difference and in doing so, I have found my love for OT again.
- Love being an OT? Explore your role at https://www.aota.org/
- Learn more about Susie & Adaptive Mobility
- Become a driver rehab specialist!
Yamanda, K. (2014). What do you do with an Idea? Compendium Inc., 9th Print Edition.
Oliver, M. (1963). The Journey.