Hi Newgrads! I'm Melinda Koblosh and I will be writing a guest post for NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com. I'm extremely glad I chose to start my physical therapy career in outpatient. I urge new grads with any interest in outpatient to get started in that setting right out of school, for the reasons below.
1. Immediate results
With the right patient, you could increase somebody's range of motion 20% in one treatment. This means that your patient will be able to back their car out of the driveway or take off a coat by themselves after just one visit. This is instant gratification for you and an immediate increase in quality of life for your patient.
In outpatient, you are in charge. You have the responsibility of diagnosing and leading the treatment of your patient. With direct access, this is the only setting where we have the ability to see anyone without a doctor's referral or prescription — go ahead and use that extra year and a half of education that our DPT afforded us.
3. Helping people live meaningfully
Just because your patient can make it into their house, up some stairs and make it to the bathroom, they may not feel that they are participating in their lives in a way that makes them feel happy and fulfilled. For many folks, movement is meaning — this can mean participating in triathlons or simply picking up grandkids. In an outpatient setting, you are the final point of care; you have a huge influence on how fully and joyously your patient lives on a daily basis.
4. Stable patients
Need I say more? While it is important to be certified in CPR and basic life support for emergency situations, you will be less worried about a patient falling or coding and more concerned about what fun progressions or new manual techniques you'll get to try with them that visit.
5. Don't lose your skills!
You spent a good chunk of your education learning those cool special tests, manual techniques and corrective exercises that are unique to an outpatient setting. Go ahead and use those skills while they're fresh in your mind. Outpatient can be one of the hardest settings in which to practice, because you need to provide the diagnosis in a fast paced environment, with multitudes of diverse injuries and movement problems to solve. If you start in outpatient, those skills will be reinforced, refined and easily translatable to other settings.
I started off in outpatient and I would not have it any other way. If you're considering where to go as a new grad, and you have any interest in outpatient, go for it!