My first job as a new grad 20 years ago was working in a hospital acute care setting. Looking back, I believe this was the best training I could have received for laying the foundation that guided me through my PT career to this point. This was the setting that helped create the bigger picture for patient care and established my confidence with working in a multi-disciplinary collaboration for the good of our patients. It is in this acute setting where you must work side-by side with physicians, case managers, OTs, SLPs, nurses and all of the other disciplines that are working for the best outcomes for the patient.
What a great foundation was laid for me to then move to working in the outpatient orthopedic arena. Having that understanding of where some of our patients have come from (post-surgical, trauma, cardiac) and having those strong relationships with the referring physicians enhanced the care given to the patient in the post-acute outpatient setting.
Now working as the manager of Rehab Services at a large inner city hospital in San Diego, I have the privilege of interviewing new graduates when a position becomes available. The first step in the process of deciding who to bring in for an interview is reading through the applications and resumes. Primarily what I’m looking for with the new-grads is the clinical experiences/affiliations during PT school.
Preference is given to those new grads that have had exposure and experience in an acute care setting during one of the clinicals. Because our hospital is an accredited Trauma 1 and a Stroke 1 facility, it is much desired that a new grad have a basic understanding of what goes on inside a hospital.
Having a thoughtful cover letter also goes a long way. In writing a cover letter, make sure to give specifics about the position that you are applying to, expressing your passion and desire to work in that. I’ve interviewed candidates who made statements about maybe trying this particular branch of PT for a while with no commitment or excitement for that position – Red Flag! I can appreciate new grads coming out of PT school with so much debt and needing to get a job as soon as possible. But don’t let that desperation come across during an interview. Make sure if you are applying to a position and going as far as an interview that this is truly a position that you are interested in working in and are committed to giving your all. This will come across loud and clear!