What Happens in Vegas


How the Private Practice Section conference stayed with me.

By Elliot Cleveland, SPT

The Private Practice Section (PPS) 2016 Annual Conference was my first exposure to a national physical therapy conference and it did not disappoint. From the vibrant Las Vegas atmosphere to the world-class educational courses, I felt like I’d been given a weeklong pass to a physical therapist’s version of Disney World. Since getting back home, I have reflected on what I learned from my time at the conference.

Here are the two points that have resonated with me the most:

#1: Mentoring millennials matters.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb

There were only a handful of physical therapy students at the conference, and there was a common theme among us all—we had mentors who helped us get there. When I began developing my business concept, Musicians’ Health, I had a raw idea but no clue as to how to develop it into a profitable concept. Fortunately, I was surrounded by physical therapists who could guide me along the way.

It took the help of three experienced physical therapy businesspeople to see my idea become a reality. Robbie Leonard, a billing and insurance expert, was instrumental in helping me develop the budget for my concept. I added testimonials and a brochure to my project after PPS member and business owner Adam Smith gave me tips to take the presentation to the next level. Finally, Dr. Holly Wise, my academic advisor, offered editing suggestions for the final piece—adding polish and professionalism. Not only did they each encourage me to enter the contest, they all emphasized how much value I would receive from being a part of PPS. Had it not been for each one of them and their influence, I’m not sure I could have seen myself becoming an active member of PPS at this time.

It truly takes a village of professionals to develop and engage one student. That does not mean we, as students, are not interested. Our generation of physical therapists is simply overloaded with information and distractions. We need the advice of mentors who can help us funnel all of that information in a way that gives us direction. In fact, I believe most of us value your mentorship more than we value higher salaries.

#2: Business skills are just as important as clinical skills.

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” – The Golden Rule

I realize that physical therapy schools have so much to put into the curriculum that it is difficult to dedicate an entire course to marketing our profession and developing business skills. After all, the primary job of a university is to teach clinical skills so that we may become great practitioners. However, without a basic understanding of how patients make health care decisions, there will be no patients to treat. As students, we know what to do with a patient once they arrive in therapy, but we don’t know the steps they took to get there. How can students expand their thinking and learn to be both clinicians and businesspeople?

I believe the first step for all students is in understanding components of “the ideal patient experience” and how to foster this in each practice environment. The Jerry Durham talk at PPS was my first exposure to this phrase, and simply hearing physical therapy summed up in those words changed how I interact with patients.

Yes, my school did a fantastic job of emphasizing how to care for my patients. Yes, they inspired me to make a difference in my patients’ lives. Now, having those skills as a baseline, I’ve had to take the next step and think of what it would look like to create an unforgettable experience for every potential patient with whom I speak. This may not change the treatments that I use with patients, but it does change how I communicate with them and hopefully will positively affect their perception of physical therapy.

There are students interested in private practice who want to acquire business skills. Find a student or young professional who desires to learn about private practice and take them under your wing. What we learn from you, the business leaders, will be what shapes the future of this profession.


Elliot Cleveland, PT, DPT, is a former world class musician and now Owner of Marching Health, a health consulting business for marching musicians. He is a physical therapist at Progressive PT in Charleston, South Carolina, and teaches the drumline for the Wando High School Marching Band. He can be reached at elliot@marchinghealth.com.

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