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Judy Cirullo, PT, Cert MDT, CMP, CFE, FABS

From top, clockwise: strength training scapular stabilizers; positioning during one of the tests in functional movement screen (FMS); assessing pain in the acromioclavicular (AC) joint.

From top, clockwise: strength training scapular stabilizers; positioning during one of the tests in functional movement screen (FMS); assessing pain in the acromioclavicular (AC) joint.

Judy Cirullo is the owner of Oregon Spine Physical Therapy in Eugene, Oregon. She can be reached at jcirullo@oregonspinept.com.

Practice, Location:
Oregon Spine Physical Therapy, Oregon. Practice specifics (1 location, 9 employees, 38 years in practice).

What is the most influential book/person/event that enhanced your professional career?
During physical therapy school in the late 1970s, there was minimal emphasis on diagnosing by physical therapists. Much of the emphasis in training was treatment and evaluation based on what was dictated by the referral source. After three years of practice, I was introduced to Robin McKenzie and mechanical diagnosis and therapy. The diagnostic component to this approach not only fit the direction I wanted to grow in, it changed my whole approach to patient evaluation and assessment. This became the foundation, but not the only tool, for my practice style throughout the rest of my career. I continued connecting and working with experienced colleagues, and training in diagnostic techniques that were research based and outcome driven.

How would you describe the flow of your average day?
I have reduced patient care time to focus more on staff mentoring, coaching, and development, as well as strategic planning for the business.

How would you describe your essential business philosophy?
We provide a unique, value-driven, outcome-based model of care where patients experience consistent, exceptional care from competent caring clinicians. Our goal is to help patients achieve optimum health and full function in their daily lives—not only for treatment but also with a diversification of multiple services offerings.

What have been the best/worst/toughest decisions?
The best decision was to remain unique, specialized, laser focused on what we do well, and build the business on that. The worst decision is not vetting potential employees well enough. The toughest decision was letting go of staff that were not working out, going through the hiring process again, and starting over with new staff members.

How do you motivate your employees?
Motivation is accomplished through positive reinforcement, individually and in a group setting, and by continually creating and fostering a culture of independence that develops both individual and group talents. In addition to promoting “having fun at work,” we all try to encourage humor and positive energy throughout the day. Lastly, an effort to maintain consistent communication with staff regarding operations, impending changes, performance expectations, growth, and development are emphasized to keep employees aware of what impacts the clinic and their success.

How do you stay ahead of the competition?
We continue to diversify by offering more value to patients by creating multiple service offerings. We are continually improving ways of identifying, attracting, hiring, and retaining staff members while developing and implementing new programs, increasing referrals from existing patients, and reducing dependence on referral sources.

What are your best learning experiences or mistakes since inception of your practice?
One of the best learning experiences comes from realizing the importance of establishing and maintaining consistent, solid communication with all staff. Never assume that staff members have the same perception about the business—educate them about expectations and development opportunities. Understand that any staff member needs recognition, unconditionally, and unplanned. Never take your regular patients and “raving fans” for granted; always keep them linked to your practice with both clinical and nonclinical services.

What are the benefits of Private Practice Section (PPS) membership to your practice?
HPPS offers valuable resources for various aspects of a private practice.

What is your life motto?
Always take the challenges that face you and turn them into opportunities. The sky is the limit for what you are capable of doing. Also, never stop learning and growing, treat staff like family, and make sure you empower and motivate them to grow and develop.

What worries you about the future of private practice and what are you optimistic about?
I worry about reimbursement cuts, encroachment from other professions, consumer confusion, and lack of awareness about the benefits of physical therapy, especially in light of all of the mergers, consolidations, and dramatic increases in out-of-pocket costs for many patients.

What new opportunities do you plan to pursue in the next year?
We plan to build and expand cash-based programs and develop staff both clinically and nonclinically. I will continue to coach and mentor staff, encouraging them to explore their interests that are symbiotic with the business direction and goals.