The Future of Private Practice Physical Therapy

By Stacy M. Menz, PT, DPT, PCS

As I write this, I am just home from the 2nd Annual Women in Physical Therapy Summit. I was struck by the words of several of the speakers as I felt that they spoke to the future of physical therapy in an inspiring and all-encompassing way.

Afterwards I asked if I could share some of their thoughts in Impact and received their gracious assent. American Physical Therapy Association President, Dr. Sharon Dunn, spoke first on “Lessons Learned.” During the course of her talk, one statement that stood out was aimed at owners and leaders: “Create an environment conducive to exploring and innovation, which is also safe for failing—your people will excel and ultimately make you look good.” I think this statement also speaks to the future of our profession. We must continue to support each other and other physical therapy businesses in exploration and innovation to advance our profession and private practice.

Michelle Collie also spoke and shared some of her thoughts. She sees the future of physical therapy in the following areas (to name a few):

  • Information, research, networking: Future physical therapists will have the knowledge, competencies, and confidence to better articulate, message, and advocate for the value of the services we provide, not just describe “the things we do.”
  • Diversity: The next generation of private practices will be more diverse; traditionally, private practices have been owned by men and orthopedics based. Knowledge, access to information, and the changing health care environment will bring more practices that are owned by women, focused on pelvic health, home health, overall wellness and fitness, and various other niche services.
  • Work-life integration: The work-life balance concept will evolve into work-life integration, inspiring people to do what they love, rather than separating work and living.
  • Education in business and leadership: Physical therapy schools need to incorporate a more diverse range of leadership and business skills into their curriculum, so new clinicians will have the tools to make smart decisions earlier on about their careers and are equipped with the skills to advocate for our profession. This new vision of PT education includes classes on advocacy, communication and messaging, leadership and management skills. This will lead to a generation of physical therapists who are not only excellent clinicians but are also able to truly advocate for the value of our services.
  • Women: Finally, we will see a generation of women who develop their confidence, their courage, and their voice early on. If both men and women will support and respect these women, then we will have many, many more physical therapists who have the confidence to speak to the value of what physical therapists do for our communities.

Dr. Sharon Dunn had these closing words to share:

  • Our profession and its potential inspire me.
  • Consumer recognition is growing, with about a 10% per year increase in the public’s access to PT and utilization in this country.
  • We are the sixth largest health care profession and growing more rapidly than the health care industry overall.
  • This growth reflects our potential to impact
  • The disrupted health delivery system,
  • And right now, our current societal crisis of opioid addiction.
  • Who our profession serves inspires me
  • Our patients overcome obstacles and challenges, and we are often amazed by the patients’ determination and effort—those we serve and those needing our service inspire me most.
  • It is certainly a life-changing career—we think we are “transforming lives” when all along we are the ones being transformed for having the privilege.

How are you supporting the future of physical therapy? What are you inspired by?


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