I don’t know about you, but I love the power of a meaningful quote: it can be interpreted in many ways, and it offers new insights every time you read it. That’s why, when I was at Ascend, I couldn’t help but think of some of my favorite quotes. And it’s these three in particular that perfectly frame my experience and represent my hopes for the future of our profession:

Suppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients High-Deductible Health Plans - Regular BannerSuppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients High-Deductible Health Plans - Small Banner

1. “ Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

In the physical therapy space, value seems to be the buzzword of choice. In fact, I’m almost certain I heard it at every single session I went to at Ascend—and for good reason. Right now, the physical therapy industry is in a state of transition. We’re fighting to prove our value and ascend to a higher place in the healthcare continuum. But to get there, we have to change. And changing effectively means:

Doing the Math

Daphne Scott, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, OCS, of DS Leadership Life, spoke on cultivating positivity at work. And during her presentation, she gave the perfect formula that encompasses what’s involved in effecting change:

(Vision x Dissatisfaction) + (First Steps) > Resistance = Change.

In other words, for change to happen, your vision for the future, multiplied by your dissatisfaction with your present state, and then added to the first steps toward change, must be greater than the resistance you encounter. If we, as physical therapists and DPT students, can get on the right side of this equation and thus, change, we can ascend to greater value.

Putting Change into Perspective

Now, I want to give an example of how students (like myself) view change. During a conversation I had while networking with a private practice owner, I was asked, “Cruz, where can I find other students like you? I don’t know of any other students who would come out to an event like this.” My reply was simple: “We are everywhere! We are on Twitter and Facebook. We are looking for mentorship! We are looking for you—you just need to make yourself visible, and we will find you.”

Now, I want to make something perfectly clear: newly minted DPTs and DPT students do not have time to waste. We are hungry! For years, people told us to go to college so we could get good jobs—only to graduate and have hiring managers turn us away. Why? Because we didn’t have enough experience. We want to effect change; that’s why we decided to go to school in the first place—why we worked so hard to stand out among thousands of applicants and earn a spot in a DPT program. It’s why we scratched and clawed our way through didactic courses, clinical rotations, and the NPTE. Now, most students have upwards of $100,000 in student loan debt and sky-high interest rates. And yet, we’re still hungry for change.

Please, just let that soak in for a second.

Let’s apply the previously cited change formula to this situation. We (students and fresh PTs):

  1. Have a vision of becoming professionals of value.
  2. Are very dissatisfied with our present state as described above.
  3. Take the first steps in our careers and pursue residencies, join online mentorship groups, attend continuing education courses, and relentlessly network.
  4. Encounter massive resistance in the form of debt, fear, and inexperience.

That said, we’re still determined to change, and we will change. We will ascend, because we have no other choice if we want to succeed in this new healthcare paradigm.

2. “Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, molded by it. I didn't see the light until I was already a man; by then it was nothing to me but blinding!” – Bane (“The Dark Knight Rises”)

If you don’t remember this scene from the movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” let me remind you: Bane and Batman are fighting in Bane’s hideout, when all of sudden, Batman clicks a button on his famous utility belt and all the lights go out. Then, Bane mocks Batman in the darkness, because Bane was born in the darkness and Batman merely adopted it.

Okay, now that you’re familiar with the scene, let’s circle back to the healthcare landscape. Today, health care at large is a consumer’s playground. And for the most part, the days of limiting consumers with very few healthcare choices is long gone. On top of that, providers are feeling the push to provide better care at a lower cost. With all of that in mind, how will physical therapists (and the industry itself) survive—and even thrive—in this new paradigm?

Believing in a Solution

Ben Fung, PT, DPT, MBA, and Gene Shirokobrod, PT, of UpDoc Media—as well as Scott Hebert and Ryan Klepps from Strive Labs—touched on a topic that will be a game-changer for physical therapists, as it’ll help them do more than just survive in the future. And that topic is branding. Most of us would agree that the physical therapy industry has an obvious problem: we don’t have a brand. That’s evident in the fact that even our own patients don’t understand what we do. That’s where marketing comes in. Marketing can save physical therapy!

That’s especially true when it comes to marketing to patients directly—rather than relying on referrals from other healthcare providers. I actually discussed this very concept while networking with another private practice owner. During our conversation, he told me that he had started using social media to market his business—and that it was changing everything for him. That’s when our conversation led us to Batman. I brought up the “Dark Knight Rises” to illustrate my own experience in the PT industry.

Being Born and Molded by Technology

I told him that I’ve been using social media since I was a teenager—for more than 10 years, easily. You could say that I was both born in it and molded by it. We then talked about how people are consuming information in a radically different way now. Everything is mobile, and a large majority of the world is on social media. That’s why, for our profession to ascend, we must start marketing directly to the public.

But, I won’t stop with the Internet; the current healthcare landscape is molding me, too. And that’s because I don’t know any different. Yes, I know what struggles our industry has been fighting for the past 30 years—but I also know about the solutions that are on the table. I am coming into this industry with the knowledge of what we, as a profession, need to do to change and ascend.

3. “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

Ascend changed everything for me. I have no shame in admitting that many of the topics were over my head. A couple of times, I even questioned my decision to attend in the first place. Everywhere I looked, I saw the best names in rehabilitation equipment, highly experienced clinicians, and extremely successful private practice owners. I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb.

That said, every single time I felt out of place or doubted myself, someone was there—someone who wanted to get to know me better, shed light on my ignorance, and give me advice. Pretty soon, I was confident enough to humbly approach people and initiate conversations. This is exactly what I needed at this stage of my professional development. I needed someone to see potential in me and take the time to help me out. I needed leaders who were further along in their journeys than I am in mine to get on stage, put me on their shoulders, and showing me the way. In my experience, most physical therapists have this outlook regarding nascent DPTs. They’re willing to serve someone in need. And it’s this willingness to serve that makes physical therapists such phenomenal healthcare providers.

Taking the Next Steps

One of the most enlightening sessions during Ascend was the Payment Reform Panel. During this session, a group of panelists discussed complex issues and possible solutions that we can explore as a profession. There’s no doubt that we have many challenges ahead as reimbursements continue to decline and legislative issues continue to stifle our growth. However, I learned that it’s in our best interest to focus on the things that we can change. We have to start:

  • Ascending beyond the antiquated ancillary role by leveraging direct access and our diagnostic skill sets to their full potential.
  • Marketing directly to the public and sending a clear message about the true value of physical therapy.
  • Gathering objective data in the form of outcome measures to demonstrate our value.
  • Declining one-sided insurance contracts that don’t accurately reflect the value of our skillset.
  • Supporting the APTA to make our voices heard.

The path to the future has many challenges, and yet, I see massive opportunity. As long as we are willing to stand on the shoulders of giants, we will change and ascend our value as a profession.

Being Open to Networking

As Ascend drew to a close, I didn’t think my experience could get any better. But, the highlight of my trip was yet to come. Ben Fung of UpDoc Media (the speaker I mentioned previously), caught me before I left. He started a conversation with me about my experience. And what I thought would be a five-minute interaction turned into five hours of one-on-one mentorship! Ben is genuine, humble, and ridiculously talented, and he took the time to teach me everything I wanted to know about social media, marketing, and clinical excellence. I highly recommend seeking him out if you need to know anything about physical therapy marketing and business. I can’t thank him enough. And I can’t encourage you enough to be open to networking. You never know what kind of mentorship you’ll gain from the experience.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience at Ascend. I’m looking forward to next year’s event in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona!

Cruz Romero is a DPT student at Northern Arizona University.

  • Top Takeaways From #AscendEvent 2018 Image

    articleOct 2, 2018 | 9 min. read

    Top Takeaways From #AscendEvent 2018

    This was my first year attending WebPT’s Ascend conference , and I wasn’t sure what to expect. A business conference? For PTs? It was exciting and intriguing. I also received carte blanche to write an entire blog post around my own experiences at the conference, which is an absolute dream come true! And, as a non-traditional, non-practicing physical therapist, I knew my experience would be very different from others’. So, I packed my bags and braced myself …

  • 8 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2017 Image

    articleJun 15, 2017 | 5 min. read

    8 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2017

      Great news! Ascend— the ultimate business summit for rehab therapists —is back. Last year, the third-annual event hit Fort Worth, Texas, for two incredibly educational (and incredibly fun) days. This year—September 29 and 30, to be exact—Ascend is heading to our nation’s capital. As we all know, DC is full of movers, shakers, and changemakers, and Ascend will keep that tradition alive—minus the political drama. This two-day conference is a can’t-miss affair. Here’s why: 1.) You’ll …

  • Best Physical Therapy Business Conferences for 2016 Image

    articleJul 12, 2016 | 3 min. read

    Best Physical Therapy Business Conferences for 2016

    I can’t believe it’s already July. Seriously, as fast as this year’s moving, it won’t be long before I don a pair of cozy candy-cane socks and start bustin’ out my best cookie recipes . And what’s more exciting than the thought of eating holiday cookies? Nothing, really. But, a close second is the thought of attending some of the physical therapy industry’s best conferences. Now, several of our favorite events are already behind us ( CSM …

  • How to Get the Most Out of Ascend 2018 Image

    articleAug 16, 2018 | 4 min. read

    How to Get the Most Out of Ascend 2018

    Ascend is only a few weeks away, which means it’s almost time for our favorite event of the year! And this year, we’re hosting it in our favorite place: our hometown of Phoenix. What makes it even more special is that (1) we just moved into our brand-new headquarters, and (2) we’re celebrating WebPT’s 10th birthday. So obviously, we’re super-pumped to share our new space, our community, and our 10-year festivities with all of our Ascend peeps. …

  • 8 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2019 Image

    articleJun 26, 2019 | 4 min. read

    8 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2019

    Great news! Ascend— the ultimate business summit for rehab therapists —is back. Last year, the fifth-annual event hit our hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, for two incredibly educational (and incredibly fun) days. This year—September 19–21, to be exact—Ascend is heading to the Land of 10,000 Lakes (that’s Minnesota, don’tcha know!) for another round of rehab therapy’s can’t-miss business conference. Seriously—you’ve gotta be there. Here’s why: 1.) You’ll earn CEUs. In addition to upping their business acumen, physical and …

  • Better Together: 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Attend Conferences Alone Image

    articleJun 24, 2016 | 4 min. read

    Better Together: 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Attend Conferences Alone

    Typically, businesses—especially small businesses—pick one lucky employee to attend a relevant conference. In health care, the plot thickens a bit, because practitioners need to complete continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain their licenses. Thus, clinic directors and owners jump through all kinds of logistical hoops to ensure that: their therapists fulfill the requirements necessary to continue practicing, their practices aren’t short-staffed, and their appointment schedules are conducive to patient needs. It’s inevitable in private practice that, at …

  • Ascend 2018: Our Biggest Speaker Lineup Yet Image

    articleJun 20, 2018 | 3 min. read

    Ascend 2018: Our Biggest Speaker Lineup Yet

    This year marks WebPT’s 10th anniversary of education, dedication, and innovation in the rehab therapy space—and what better way to celebrate than to put together our biggest Ascend agenda and speaker lineup yet? Rehab therapy’s best and brightest will come together this fall at Ascend—but this conference isn’t just about gleaning tons of actionable business wisdom from our superstar speakers. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to take the floor yourself as you participate in meaningful discussions …

  • 5 Reasons to Attend Ascend in 2018 Image

    articleJul 20, 2018 | 3 min. read

    5 Reasons to Attend Ascend in 2018

    The ultimate rehab therapy business summit is only two months away, so we here at WebPT have kicked it into high gear adding finishing touches to the event. Case in point: We just rounded out our biggest speaker lineup yet with two heavy-hitting keynotes: Stephania Bell (PT and Injury Analyst for ESPN) and David Elton (Senior Vice President for Clinical Programs at Optum). While those keynotes are impressive, they’re merely cherries on top of a one-of-a-kind experience …

  • 5 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2015 Image

    articleApr 28, 2015 | 4 min. read

    5 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2015

    Have you heard? Ascend— the ultimate business summit for rehab therapists —is back. Last year, the inaugural event took Dallas—or at least, Dallas physical therapists and private practice owners—by storm for one jam-packed day . This year, Ascend is upping the ante—big time. For starters, our 2015 event will run for two days instead of one—and trust us, you don’t want to miss it. Here are five reasons you should attend Ascend 2015: 1. You’ll earn CEUs. …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.