Plenty of physical therapists have fantasized about working from home—especially after an especially hectic day with back-to-back patients. But, now that the coronavirus has rendered many in-person physical therapy models inappropriate (at least for now), quite a few PTs are taking the idea of remote work much more seriously.
The good news is that it’s very possible to work remotely as a PT. In order to be successful, though, you’ll need to keep these four considerations in mind:
1. Deciding what kind of remote PT work you want to do is key.
For many people, the hardest part of transitioning to remote physical therapy work is deciding what type of remote PT job they’d most enjoy. And if you don’t have some sort of end goal for your job search efforts, you’ll wind up blindly pursuing anything and everything you stumble upon—which makes landing a role much more difficult. Here are some ideas to consider before you start scrolling through job boards or blasting out connection requests on LinkedIn:
Types of Remote PT Jobs
Thanks to temporary relaxations on CMS and HIPAA regulations—and expanded private payer coverage of remote care—telehealth physical therapy companies are actively hiring PTs. If you’re committed to remaining with your brick-and-mortar employer, consider stepping up to be the telehealth lead, and start exploring all the latest and greatest platforms out there. If you’re looking to join a company with an existing telehealth program, look into getting your resume and cover letter spiffed up accordingly.
If you’re a talented writer—and you have valuable niche industry knowledge—many companies would jump at the chance to hire you as a content writer. From rehab tech companies to established medical systems, there’s no shortage of organizations looking for good writing talent. And many of those companies would prefer to enlist a health writer with a PT background as opposed to one with no clinical experience at all.
Those who enjoy writing—and also have the entrepreneurial bug—can take their writer ambitions a step further. Blogging involves writing, but it’s so much more than that. When you run a blog, you’re in charge of everything from the content strategy to the marketing efforts—not to mention setting up all the tech and creating all the products and/or services you would like to offer. It’s exciting work, but you need a real strategy if you want to create and monetize a therapy blog.
Utilization reviewers work for insurance companies or their partners to review charts, pre-approve visits, and (sorry) deny authorizations or payments when appropriate. Utilization review (UR) careers provide PTs with one of the most well-known ways to work from home, but keep in mind that not every company offers this perk (at least not during normal, non-pandemic times). Plus, UR is an extremely competitive field at the moment. You’ll need to really focus on creating a great utilization review resume to showcase your skills.
For those with deep niche knowledge on a specific type of patient population or technology, consulting can be an ideal way to work remotely. As with blogging, you really need to have an entrepreneurial spirit—and you’ll also need to understand the nuances of finding clients and charging appropriately for your time. Some consulting roles do require you to be onsite, but many startup jobs for PTs are consulting-based, and they often allow you to work remotely.
Remote health coaching is a rapidly growing industry. While you might not make as much as you would in a physical therapy role, health coaches do get to work from home in most cases. Plus, there is ample room for growth in many companies—not to mention, the opportunity to learn the skills you’d need to eventually open your own health coaching business.
Many physical therapy schools have had no choice but to move their operations online, so this is a great time to look into teaching remotely at schools that might have been geographically untenable in the past.
Again, the hardest part of finding a remote PT role often is deciding which role is right for you—so, don’t rush the process of discovering your path. Be sure to look at lots of different roles other therapists have successfully performed, and do some introspection to discover how your strengths and weaknesses align with the duties of each.
2. Preparing your application materials is an art form.
Many people find the idea of creating a non-clinical resume or setting up a LinkedIn profile to be downright terrifying. But, if you know how to frame your accomplishments and experience properly, you have all the tools you need to shine in these remote roles. You can find a complete walkthrough of this entire process in Non-Clinical 101.
Tips for Standing Out
Quantify your skills as much as possible.
You can do this by using the CAR (challenge, action, result) method for each accomplishment on your resume.
Use an ATS-compliant resume.
Many resumes contain fancy graphics or fonts that cause them to be automatically screened out by resume software.
Match each resume you submit to the job description for the role you’re pursuing.
Be sure to focus on your non-clinical skills, demphasize unrelated con-ed, and go easy on the clinical jargon—depending on who will be reading your resume, of course.
Write a compelling cover letter.
Flatter the organization, express excitement for the specific role, and avoid repeating the same information you have in your resume.
Create a complete and robust LinkedIn profile.
Use a professional picture, and include keywords related to the job you’re pursuing.
Keep in mind that if you’re going to pursue consulting or therapy blogging, you might not go through a formal application process—but you still need to actively work on your public-facing persona to land clients and build a readership.
3. Additional education and up-skilling may be required.
We PTs are many wonderful things, but most of us aren’t exactly tech wizards. Many remote jobs require knowledge of basic tech—including Microsoft Office and the Google suite, as well as project management software like Trello, Basecamp, or Asana. If these names strike fear into your heart, you’ll be relieved to discover that you can learn much of what you need to know through free help videos. Or, you can check out the low-cost online learning platforms below to speed up the educational process.
Platforms for Learning New Skills
This low-cost online learning platform teaches skills in programs like Microsoft Office and certain graphic design software. You can also access materials on topics like freelance writing and becoming a consultant. Unlike Skillshare (covered below), Udemy allows you to pay for each course individually.
This is a great option if you don’t know what you want to learn quite yet—or if you’re a variety-seeking type who wants to learn it all! Skillshare is a low-priced, unlimited platform that you join for a flat rate (you can also get two months free with no commitment). You can learn all sorts of tech skills—from building a website to using various graphic design programs.
Even though you’ll have to learn some new skills, don’t assume you have no non-clinical skills to begin with. PTs and PTAs are natural negotiators, salespeople, and time managers—and we have excellent customer service chops—just by virtue of what we do every day in the clinic. Your resume should reflect both hard (tech and/or quantifiable) and soft (communication, empathy, and time management) skills.
4. Putting yourself out there is non-negotiable.
Many of us are not used to promoting ourselves. We humble rehab professionals often like to pass the glory on to patients or other healthcare professionals. Time to change that! Landing a remote job typically requires you to network and really stick your neck out to make an impression. There are many other PTs competing for these jobs, so you’re not going to see them falling in your lap very often.
Network, network, network.
Whether you join the non-clinical networking Facebook group, a Toastmasters club (yes, they have online versions), or a virtual tech meetup, there are plenty of networking opportunities for ambitious PTs—even during a pandemic! Be sure to reach out to any LinkedIn connections you have in companies that interest you so you can find out more about available roles.
Hone your remote interview skills.
Remote roles require a whole new host of interview skills. Along with adhering to standards like sending a thank-you note after each interview, you’ll also want to consider lighting, sound quality, and attire. Film yourself with your phone or computer before the interview so you can see what needs to be improved.
Working remotely as a PT doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. It’s entirely possible for us to use our existing skills and education in a completely new way—one that allows us to sit in our pajamas and stay blissfully far from the risk of contracting coronavirus. We’re watching our entire society adapt to remote work across many industries we never imagined, and this is the perfect time to dive in head-first to this new way of working—provided we’re willing to stretch just a bit outside our comfort zones!
Meredith Castin, PT, DPT, is the founder of The Non-Clinical PT, a career development resource designed to help physical, occupational, and speech therapy professionals leverage their degrees in non-clinical ways.