Beyond the Bottom Line: Succeeding to Serve


Turn success and wealth into a substantial benefit to the community

By Christine Astarita, PT, DPT

We all joined this profession for our own reasons, but the ability to impact other people’s lives and help them was probably involved, as it often is in healthcare. We also start our own practices for our own reasons; it could be for freedom in time or decisions, based on financial considerations, or to make an impact in the community you choose to serve.

It’s likely a combination of all of these, and while it’s incredibly important to focus on areas like growth, numbers, and profit, I would argue it’s just as important, if not more so, to focus on the community you are serving — and not for marketing purposes.

When I started my practice in 2017, I did what most practice owners do: network. I spent my time forming connections within the local community and discovering where my clients like to spend their time. It was then that I developed deep relationships with several local nonprofit organizations that benefit our local disability community. My clinic primarily serves children and adults with neurological disabilities — a highly underserved community. The parents of our pediatric clients spend their days fighting insurance companies for equipment, medically necessary procedures, and services on top of making sure they are doing whatever they can for their children on a daily basis.

As private practice owners, we often get so wrapped up in the day-to-day running of our clinics that we don’t necessarily take the time to think about creative ways in which we can give back. But once my clinic created multiple ways in which we can get involved in local non-profit organizations that help our clients and their families, our efforts wound up bringing us more clients than a robust marketing campaign ever could. By taking the steps below, you can bring more meaning, as well as more clients, to your own clinic.

1. Think about what your clients value most. How can you find ways within your community to give back to those causes? If you aren’t sure, just ask! For example, there is a local nonprofit organization in our community that donates adaptive tricycles to families because insurance does not cover “recreational equipment.” Our clinic teamed up with them to offer “client appreciation parties.” We raffled off multiple gifts, and all proceeds went to the organization to fund an adaptive tricycle.

2. Don’t limit your creativity. I’ve had a passion for running for many years now and decided to take on launching an event that involved running 85 miles while wheeling our clients in adaptive strollers across Long Island all in one day. We raised over $20,000 for a local non-profit organization that helps families with medically fragile children. The exposure and buy-in from our clients and our team was unmatched. I took what I knew our clients valued — the feeling of independence and hope — and worked it into my own passion! Okay, so maybe your idea of fun isn’t running an ultra-marathon, but what is? In what ways can you expand your thinking to give back to your community?

3. Involve your team! There are more benefits to this approach than just helping the community — it helps your team feel like they are making a larger impact, too! When it’s evident you care a lot more about the people you serve than the profit you earn, people want to be part of it and will help you along the way. If your team is especially giving, consider hitting specific financial targets each quarter to allow you to donate a certain percentage of your earnings to a local non-profit organization that your team has chosen together. There are endless ways to motivate your team, and this could be just one more.

Many of these efforts have resulted in free press for our clinic and have opened doors for opportunities we may have never had. And if these steps sound overwhelming, don’t start with an elaborate project. Take small steps to start to see what causes give you, your clients, and your team more purpose. How do they want to contribute and give back? If you want to think long-term, you might consider incorporating pro bono work into your practice or even creating your own charitable organization. There are endless opportunities to make a difference in the communities you serve.

Never forget that it’s not about what you get from running your own clinic but how you contribute to your community that gives meaning to the work that you do.

Christine Astarita, PT, DPT is the owner of Breakthrough Intensive Physical Therapy in Long Island, NY. She can be reached at and on Instagram @breakthroughintensivept.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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