No matter where you are in your career—from bright-eyed new grad to experienced clinical leader—it’s natural to want to shine in your job. There are many ways to make a positive impact at work, from spreading good cheer to going above and beyond outside of your normal clinical duties. We realize that everyone is different, though, and each therapist has his or her own way of standing out. That’s why we’ve created a handy guide with all sorts of ideas on how to become your clinic’s MVP (most valuable PT).

Maintain a good attitude.

There’s nothing like a perpetual smile to keep the mood nice and light in the clinic. Attitudes are contagious, and all it takes is one fun-loving, optimistic therapist to breathe new life into a stagnant facility.

A good attitude is more important than ever these days. It’s no secret that rehab therapists are experiencing challenging times. With frequent reimbursement cuts and tons of new grads entering the workforce with staggering student loans, it can be tough for therapists to maintain a positive attitude at work every day. And that’s totally understandable. That said, when you’re the therapist who can come in with a smile, a “good morning!”, and even a few corny jokes up your sleeve, you will definitely be the clinic MVP.

Pro tips:

  • Practice morning meditations: Before you “hit the floor” each day, spend five minutes in silence, thinking about what makes you grateful to work where you do and visualizing what type of day you’d like to have.
  • Read the room: If one of your coworkers is having a particularly rough day—or maybe a patient just had a fall—it might not be the best time to bust out the dad jokes. A good attitude is always helpful, but knowing when to dial back the Pollyanna-esque cheer is also key.

Stay on top of your documentation.

Documentation is becoming increasingly burdensome with each passing year. There are plenty of hacks to make things go more smoothly, and companies like WebPT are continually adding features like case-specific content (e.g., subjective and objective measures and even billing profiles based on codes you bill most often) and customized initial exams to speed things up—but, let’s face it: more and more of your day is spent making utilization reviewers happy.

At the same time, it’s important to remember why documentation is so important in the first place. Not only is it your best opportunity to communicate your care plan to outside practitioners—including referring physicians—in an unbiased way, but it’s also a means of defending your treatment rationale and protecting your license. That’s why staying on top of your documentation is so important: you’re protecting your patients and yourself, and you’re helping your coworkers understand what the heck you’ve been doing with your care plan, should you ever need someone else to cover for you.

Pro tips: 

  • Explore documentation shortcuts: Check out things like auto-fill technology, which can help streamline the documentation process.
  • Set a timer: End-of-day workplace chatter can be a huge distraction when you’re trying to finish your notes. Consider setting a timer and putting in ear plugs, so people can see that you’re focusing (and that you’re not trying to personally offend them by not engaging in the conversation). Then, you can use chit-chat as a reward to end the day.
  • Document at the point of service whenever possible: Yes, it’s not always possible to document when you’ve got both hands on a total assist patient with hemiplegia. However, if you have an independent patient doing burpees in the corner, use that time to document whenever possible.

Stay committed to learning.

As convenient and economical as it is to satisfy the bare minimum continuing education requirements to renew your license, it won’t earn you many points on the job. Even if you’re strapped for cash and working at a, um, parsimonious clinic, you can still read journal articles, take online con-ed courses, and generally stay up-to-date with the latest evidence.

When you commit to elevating your clinical practice whenever possible, you’ll inspire your coworkers and show your managers that you’re not just there to collect a paycheck.

Pro tips:

  • Consider unlimited CEU platforms: That way, you can learn during downtime, and you can explore new topics without committing to involved trips that require airfare and pricey hotel rooms. (If you’re a WebPT Member, WebPT CEU is a fantastic option.) 
  • Provide in-services when you take interesting new courses: This also allows you to list “presentation” as a skill on your resume!

Arrive to work on time.

Tardiness is annoying in a normal office setting, but it’s downright rude in a clinical environment. When you’re late, it often means that another therapist has to start his or her day by frantically trying to read your notes and figure out what to do with your first patient.

When you’re habitually late to work, it’s an instant reputation-killer, and your tardiness will likely show up on your performance review. On the other hand, if you’re even five or ten minutes early each day (bonus points if you start a pot of coffee!), your supervisor and coworkers will notice—and they will appreciate that you’re a reliable force in the often-unreliable world of direct patient care.

Pro tips:

  • Map out alternate routes: Traffic should never be an excuse for consistent tardiness. If it is, use GPS to your advantage and explore alternate routes to work. Or, simply leave earlier each day.
  • Give yourself a reward: Waking up early can be the worst, especially if you’re not a morning person. But if you can reward yourself for waking up five or ten minutes earlier each week, you’ll be more successful. Consider treating yourself to a fancy coffee drink, $10 impulse buy, or mini-massage for each week that you’re consistently on time.

Contain your germs.

One of the least popular employees is the one who continually brings an unwanted gift to the clinic: germs. Working while sick can range from inconsiderate to straight-up dangerous (depending on how sick you are and the types of patients you treat). 

While it’s sometimes impossible to avoid working when you’re slightly under the weather (hello, cold season), you can certainly resolve to stay home when you’re feverish, suffering GI symptoms, or in the throes of an especially bad cold.

Pro tips:

  • Wash your hands fastidiously: Washing your hands between patients should be considered the absolute bare minimum when you’re sick. You should be washing those dirty paws after each sneeze, nose-blow, and cough. Yes, sanitizer is a nice touch—but it’s not as effective as good old-fashioned hand-washing.
  • Avoid coughing into your elbow: What happens when you cough into the crook of your elbow? Your poor, immunocompromised patient will get a faceful of your germs during the next transfer. Try to cough into a paper towel or tissue; then, immediately wash your hands.
  • Wear a mask: If you can’t control your cough—or you have a nose that’s running like a faucet—contain those germs. Yes, you’ll look a bit like a bioterrorist, but that’s kind of what you are when you remove that mask in a place like a SNF or hospital.
  • Skip manual therapy if possible: At the very least, let your patients know you’re not feeling well so they can decide whether to let you lacquer their shoulders, necks, or torsos with your germs.

Get involved with marketing.

Gone are the days of dropping off bagels at a few physicians’ offices and calling it a day. These days, marketing involves everything from community outreach to social media. There are enough ways to get creative that you can volunteer to help with the type of marketing that aligns most with your strengths and passions.

If you’re the type to fill your downtime surfing the web, it might not get you fired, but it certainly won’t make you the MVP of your clinic! Instead, consider starting a clinic blog, social media account, or even a log of your existing old-school marketing efforts. Using your time to help generate patient referrals is a surefire way to land MVP status.

Pro tips:

  • Check in with the marketing department: While smaller clinics tend to be more lax with their policies on blogging and social media, larger facilities often have strict rules about marketing—especially online. It might make more sense for you to market internally if you work for a large facility.
  • Identify your organization’s end goal and work backward: Do you need more pelvic health patients? More elderly patients? Fewer overall patients, but more motivated ones who show up for appointments? If you identify the problem that needs to be solved, you can then target your marketing efforts to make more of a meaningful impact.

Take on administrative tasks.

Many people in supervisor and manager roles were in your shoes just a few short years (or even months) ago. That means they’re clinicians who have found themselves in charge of decidedly non-clinical tasks, and they might be struggling to handle things like staying on top of compliance, hiring the right staff members, setting the schedule, and developing community programs.

This presents a golden opportunity for you to shine as the clinic MVP and build your non-clinical resume in the process. By taking non-clinical courses, and then volunteering to help out with all sorts of admin and business tasks, you’re demonstrating that you’re not only a team player, but also someone who might make a good manager or supervisor in the future.

Pro tips:

  • Approach things as a helper, not a savior: Nobody likes to be told that you’re sweeping in to save the day from their crummy scheduling skills!
  • Be open to learning: Maybe you love the idea of hiring and onboarding, but your boss’s first priority is ensuring everyone’s licenses and CPR certifications are up to date. Who knows—you might enjoy rehab compliance once you get your feet wet in that type of work! By keeping an open mind and pitching in with whatever admin tasks pop up, you’ll win MVP status in no time.

What are some other ways that you’ve gone above and beyond in your workplace? Please let us know in the comments!

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.