• October 20, 2013 at 5:46 am #4990

    I graduated with my DPT in May 2012 and have worked in an outpatient general orthopedic clinic for the past year and four months. I began my job enjoying the day to day, being proactive about patient care and researching various treatment methods for each patient. However, in the past 6 months I have started to hate being a PT and have felt very discouraged by the profession as a whole. These feelings stem from being physically exhausted from the extensive massage work we perform at my clinic, and being mentally exhausted by listening to pts all day. I feel guilty and depressed about having these feelings but I believe I am already experiencing burn out and it is only the beginning of my career. All day I dream about finding a job that I could be happier at.

    In short, I am reaching out to the PT community to see if anyone has had a similar experience but been able to use their PT/DPT degree in a non-patient-care setting. I have thought about academia but I feel I would be just as unhappy in that environment. I am imagining something closer to research and development for healthcare devices specifically used in PT settings. Please let me know if anyone has heard of such a job/position.

    Any and all advice is welcomed. I appreciate all who read this and apologize for sounding so whiny.

    October 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm #13625

    First off, I am sorry you are feeling this way. I can totally relate because I am in a similar boat as you right now. I have been a PT for 3 years and have worked in outpatient orthopedics. When I first started, it was 1:1 patient care, max 8 patients a day. Now, it’s gone to 30 minute sessions with constant pressure to overlap. I am getting very burnt out and discouraged. Unfortunately, I have >$150,000 in student loan debt, so I can’t just go back to school or change careers.

    Maybe look into another setting within PT? I just interviewed today actually for a home health position. I have NO idea if it’s the right way to go, but I am leaning towards taking this home health job. As with any area of PT, there are pluses and minuses, but I feel at least I can control my own schedule and get paid a little more while I’m at it. And you mentioned how you have to listen to pt’s all day, and I understand that too. It can be difficult to put a face on ALL DAY and listen to people complaining. In home health, at least you get in your car, listen to the radio, and get a little break from treatment. I see that aspect as a positive thing. Obviously, the treatment in home health is a lot more basic, you won’t be doing massage work :-p I don’t think it is as physically demanding, and you don’t work late hours like you can in outpatient (I am sick and tired of working until 7 pm).

    Good luck to you! I am super stressed myself trying to figure out which direction to go next as well.

    October 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm #13626

    Thank you so much for replying. I can’t tell you how much it helps just to know I am not alone in feeling this way. You made a great suggestion, I may look into home health as well for the exact same reasons you listed; not as physically demanding, you get the break between pts, and no late nights. Please let me know how you like it either by posting or by private message.

    I am also currently looking into different pharmaceutical companies and seeing if my healthcare background and research background would make me a good candidate to be an entry level scientist. Thank you again for posting your message, I have sunken into a depression by feeling this way about my job and your message made it all feel a lot lighter. I wish you the best of luck in the new job!

    October 28, 2013 at 7:06 am #13624

    Working in an outpatient orthopedic setting can be exhausting, especially today since it is much like a production line in most clinics. I felt the same way three years into my PT career. I switches to a skilled nursing setting which pays considerably more than in an outpatient orthopedic setting. I dropped down to four, 8 hour days to help with burn-out. The caseload is less and there is more time with patients. I also found it fun to work with others in the rehab team rather then just talking to patients all day. I feel like I make a more meaningful difference in the lives of people in the SNF setting as well. I hope this helps to make you aware that there are many options out there. You just need to find what is right for you!


    October 28, 2013 at 11:59 pm #13623

    A good book to read to help you figure this out is 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. Maybe you don’t need a career change just a career coach or mentor. I found when approaching burnout taking a continuing education course was good to re-energize myself in the field.

    November 24, 2013 at 4:56 am #13622

    Thank you both for your reply, I will definitely look into the skilled nursing facility and try to read that Dan Miller book. I appreciate your time and advice. Thank you!

    June 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm #30390
    REALLYneed change

    Hi. I feel for you. I have 38 years in the field and have done all areas of PT except sports. I too switched to SNF, but I find that the stress is just as real there, though it is a slightly different type. We get pushed, pushed, pushed for productivity; to have people in high RUG levels, to get lots of Med B units, etc., etc. If my own facility doesn’t have enough census to give me a patient load, they send to me to other cities (through blizzards and tornadoes) to work there, and to get blasted if I have low productivity.

    What I’m trying to say is that I became a therapist because I wanted to improve the lives of human beings. At first that’s what I was paid to do. But in the 1980’s, hospitals became ‘corporations’. Corporations make “money”. Rules become the norm. Making money while avoiding lawsuits is the ultimate goal.

    I did all the right things: got a doctorate, got great Continuing ed. Saddened, I too now am looking for a career that will let me use my education and will allow me to make a decent living so I can someday hope to retire. I want the last decade of my career to be dedicated once again to improving quality of life for human beings, to showing compassion, and to doing the things that make life worth living again. Working for corporations and PTs with MAs in business does not accomplish that.

    August 14, 2015 at 10:02 pm #30713

    I joined this site to respond to this thread. I am sorry you are struggling so much to enjoy your job. Burnout is common in the medical field especially – it is physically and emotionally draining to interact with people all day. The real world is not like PT school! That being said, 1 and 1/2 years into your career getting burnt out might mean its time for a different area of care. I did outpatient for 5 years, 3 in management and really enjoyed learning the work comp world – performing FCEs, camaraderie with patients in work hardening programs and doing pre-employment screenings. I also enjoyed the student athlete population we had, it was rewarding to see young high schoolers return to sport. Things have changed into being more productivity oriented in corporate PT clinics – reimbursement has changed and it really has impacted quality care (I didn’t fully understand this until I got on the management side). When things got overwhelming in outpatient and too productivity oriented for my liking I decided to investigate home health…
    And I have loved it! I worked for a company almost 5 years full time. This company put a lot of training and education into their clinicians which was fantastic. It felt like I was back in school learning again! Now the tough thing with home health is managing the paperwork – there is a learning curve to everything. But getting back to one on one patient care is invigorating and it might be helpful for you to fall in love with what you do again.
    Don’t worry about your salary. Take continuing education you like and apply it to a patient population you like! After 5 years working full time for a reputable home health agency, I learned a ton regarding vestibular rehabilitation and overall case management. I feel confident pulling out the information I need from a patient to get them better and I have a personal relationship with my patients. I love it! I now work for a few agencies in areas close to where I live taking cases I want to take. I also work for a local physician in town to serve his patients that need vestibular evaluations and treatments. His office is like play time for me…I get to treat a patient population I find interesting and his special needs patients get optimum care from a therapist that gives a damn! The doc is happy, I’m happy and patients that aren’t dizzy any more are even happier. I have also taken different types of contract work, run a blog, launched an app relevant to my field and have private clients I see independent of agency work. I am not trying to toot my horn, only saying that we have to reinvent ourselves, takes risks and really know that we have something to offer. Sometimes as therapists, we get underutilized for all we have to offer. Brake off, branch out, find your passion and don’t leave the field this early. There is a position out there for you that you will love and if there isn’t, as a skilled passionate physical therapist…MAKE ONE!!! Good luck to you.

    December 31, 2015 at 5:56 pm #31880
    [email protected]

    PT 831: i agree whole heartedly – if you’re burnt out, change the area in which you are treating. I’ve been a PT for 19+ years and have done it all! It keeps me on my toes and it’s interesting to work with so many different people.
    I would love to read your blog! what is the address?

    January 30, 2016 at 11:07 pm #33399

    Yeah hate to tell everyone I told you so.

    I have fifteen years in PT. 5 left then I’m done.

    I warned everyone about the total lack of ethics when I was even an intern in 1999. No one wanted to hear it. I told everyone that skilled nursing was becoming nothing but fraud due to dovetailing—and now it is. I told everyone if you didn’t stand up to managers in OP then the day would come where every clinic saw multiple patients at a time. And now the 1-1 clinic is a rarity. I refused to ever see patients more than on a one to one basis. I refused to let aides do the treatments. Every time they implemented it I refused. I can’t think of one PT who stood with me.

    I wrote an article about it—in Advance in 2004. Most of you wrote back and called me an arrogant junior therapist who should get out of the field. Well–here we are now. Great profession isn’t it?

    Oh and a lot of us warned about the doctorate. It isn’t legitimate. You don’t do a thesis, go through orals, teach while you are in upper level courses. And no your research paper at end of term does not suffice as a real thesis.

    But everyone wanted to be doctors. Well, you’re not. The only ones who think the doctorates are legit are other DPTs. The rest of the medical field just shakes its head because the notion is so absurd. And it always was.Because you are not primary. You are ancillary. Period.

    Why did any of you get 130K in debt for a career that starts at 60K? And now you can’t get out? You hate the way the PT field is? Well blame all of your fellow PTs. Especially my generation–as we were the ones who sold the field out and turned it into a farce.

    February 21, 2016 at 8:42 am #33500

    Unfortunately I am another PT wanting to get out of the profession. I have 16 years in, graduated with a BS and I’m reluctantly getting my DPT so I can still continue to find PRN work as the years go by (I still have at least 25 more working years to go). I am not on board with the APTA’s push for a doctorate while they neglect the other serious issues in our profession and I’m convinced most of them aren’t actually “in the trenches” when it comes to healthcare. Mostly management or academics who are really clueless or just don’t care. I’m starting to think I’m crazy to pursue a DPT in this profession I want to leave behind because it takes time and money and I have no passion for it anymore, but I’m already seeing job descriptions with “masters or doctorate degree preferred”. What a joke! With the economic future so shaky I still have to have a back up plan. I’m just glad I’m not going to be thousands of $$ in debt with it.

    So to the original poster, try to hang in there. Switch up settings or jobs. It’s almost a shame how much I’ve switched it up, but its one good thing about the career so take advantage. Be careful not to burn bridges and just pay down your debt so you can get out and find something you really like doing. One of my saving graces was doing local contract work for many years because I had more control over when/how I worked and if a place really sucks you don’t have to go back. Its usually more money too. I buy my own health insurance (although it has gotten very expensive now) so I have complete control over my schedule. Local contract work was great back in early 2G, but its dried up in my area now due to the saturation of new grads. I’m a traveler now. I work hard for 3 months at a time (sometimes I’ll extend the contract if the place is good), and I take off for 2-6 weeks at a time. It’s one of the reasons I’m able to stay in this. I’ll travel so I can pay for my DPT and save enough $$ to get out of PT. So while this profession can be frustrating, just switch it up and think of the money. I know we shouldn’t be doing this for the money, but just think about the people who hate their jobs and make much less than we do.

    February 29, 2016 at 12:27 am #33541

    Jomialso, I totally get it and I’m basically in the same boat. I’m currently attempting to transition to HH from outpatient ortho for the next 2-3 years, and then go to PA school. I also feel disenchanted with how our profession is moving and with health care reimbursement steadily tanking, I’m very concerned about long-term career security and job satisfaction.

    March 9, 2016 at 2:48 pm #33579

    To Charles,
    I never join or post at these sites, but after reading “your take” I was so inclined or motivated to do so. I’ve been a PT for 20 years and agree with everything you have written. I could not said it better myself. My ex is s PHD and when we were married encouraged me to continue on with PHD. I did not and wanted to focus on being a good clinician. DPT is a joke and infuriates me. I will not get on bandwagon. I want to leave field all together, and will seek advice from life coach. I was looking for advice here, but nothing new. Good luck to everyone!

    March 29, 2016 at 12:24 pm #33670

    HI all,

    I am also new to this site, having been a PT for 15+ years. I have worked primarily in acute care and outpatient settings, with a little time spent in the SNF setting. Yes, there are days I am sick of the productivity and need to always put the smile on my face (listening to others complaints). However, overall, I still like my profession. As others have said, I think the key to continued enjoyment and fulfillment in ones career is to keep it fresh. Try a new CE course or learn a new specialty. However, my issue right now is questioning my physical ability to continue my career due to my own back issues. An injury in my late 20s is now leaving me in my early 40s with seemingly more frequent episodes of it failing. I question my ability to continue lifting, bending, etc. Yet, I am obviously not old enough to retire, nor do I want to! So, has anyone looked into other medical-type careers that might fit someone like myself? People have mentioned home health, but honestly, that’s more lifting I think than my outpatient patients. Does anyone have info. or surgical sales or the like? Not sure I want to sell pharmaceuticals, as my beliefs sometimes clash with some of the ethical issues there. Thanks all!

    June 2, 2016 at 12:19 am #34017

    I found this post by googling “jobs for physical therapists outside the clinic.” Lots of interesting perspectives here and I’d like to add a couple of my own. First from my life as a mechanical engineer before PT, then now, 2.5 years into my PT career.

    I was a ME for 7 years. I HATED it. I’m a huge extravert, and it was very much against my personality and what would energize me. After a lot of soul searching I decided to take out the most massive loans humanly possible to get my DPT.

    School was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But I loved the learning. I love anatomy, I love health science, and I’m endlessly fascinated by the body, the way it moves, and what it is capable of. It is a machine, but it is soo, so much more.

    I have worked in every setting since graduating except acute care and am in OP ortho, as it is what fits my brain the best. I have experienced quite a bit of burnout and quite frankly I’m starting to get really bored. However, again, that’s my personality. I like learning about things that are interesting and things that work, and passing along those ideas. I’m less interested in implementing them. I actually feel like my true strengths are underutilized by putting all my energy into just working in a clinical setting.

    I’m hoping to soon land a job in OP in a hospital system where this particular clinic does ergo assessments locally, one therapist does video running analysis, and there’s a movement specialist doc moving in to the building with potential for needing help of the rehab team. The treatments are one-on-one, 45 min long. It won’t be perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but it will mix things up.

    That brings me to my next point, though. You can find flaws in any job, ever, in the history of the world. Do I wish and hope for a job that will make me superbly happy? Do I keep striving to find that? Yeah. It’s who I am. And it sounds like that’s who you are, too. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! But I have some responses to some of the comments that were made here.

    The way health care is going, the way we are reimbursed, the DPT, etc etc etc etc etc – all the things about them that suck, well, yeah, they suck. But you know what else sucked? Sitting in a dark cubicle making parts lists, trying to talk to EE’s whose communication skills rivaled those of my ugly cube wall, never working on projects long enough to see their benefit come to fruition, not having much true coaching or mentorship because engineers suck at that too. No matter what you do – there’s ALWAYS going to be something that sucks.

    However, let’s take a step back and look at why we went into this profession in the first place. Despite all the depressing things that have been listed in this thread, take a look at that shoulder patient who can lift their arm now, the post-partum SIJ patient who can walk normally again and comes in with a much lighter and happier look on her face, and the elderly lady who works harder than some younger folks and who you know partly comes to her sessions because she loves seeing you.

    I can’t think of many other professions that have such a fast, direct, significant, and extremely positive impact on people and the world around us. We do SO MUCH for people. We help them, teach them, empower them. It’s very easy to lose sight of how important we are.

    Don’t agree with the DPT? Well, we’re not doing ourselves any favors by being annoyed with it. There’s nothing we can do. Look at the positives: We are poised to make a greater impact in the medical profession by being more highly educated. How? I’m not sure yet. But lots of things that have become common and widely accepted knowledge (sciences are the perfect example) started with nobody thinking ideas or theories would go anywhere.

    Massive student loans? Again – oh well. What can I do now? I’m not going to let it get me down. IBR is in place for a reason. Hell, I’m paying what I can and saving up for vacations. I’m all about living my life. I’m not going to skip my dream trip to Australia and New Zealand because I have some stupid loan to pay off. Bills will be there for the rest of our lives.

    Feeling burned out? You might be just as burned out in any other job, and most of them don’t get to make people laugh and smile and feel better every day. Trust me. I’ve been there.

    I want to add that you are NOT whiny and you have absolutely no reason to feel guilty about your depression. I completely, 100% understand that. We expect so much of ourselves, and society puts a huge burden on us as well. It’s hard and it gets to all of us. But what keeps me going is that patient who complimented me and said “The world is a gentler place when you’re around.” My 83 y.o. who has a severely arthritic knee but has a 50-something y.o. autistic son who she has to care for; she has had a harder life than I could ever grasp, but she keeps coming to therapy sessions and doing her best, she listens to ME talk about my life and vent a little, she tells jokes about sex (somehow in the most innocent way possible), and whispers to my admin girl about me “she is such a sweet girl.”

    Going further, if you do try home health, honestly the PT part is super boring. BUT, we as PT’s are enormously important in that setting. It’s not for me, and when I was in it, I hated it. But even with hating it, I still appreciated and knew that the differences I was making were absolutely life changing for the patients.

    Take the negative thinking cycle and break it. Try to find something that fits your personality and passions; but don’t let the negative thinkers get you down. Surround yourself with positive energy and people. View your frustrations as challenges, not barriers.

    The people who I’ve met who are the happiest in their careers are those who don’t overthink what they do and they have the ability to take what is in front of them, and make it into something interesting and positive. I hope that even if you don’t find that perfect career path, that this is something you can do. (Work in progress for me!!!)

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