The phrase “love what you do” gets tossed around quite these days. One physical therapist, however, has taken that mantra to a whole other level. Morgan Brosnihan, PT, DPT the founder of Blaze Physio, combined her expertise in rehab therapy with her love of hiking to create a niche practice experience in the heart of hiking territory out west.
In this episode of The Practice Experience Podcast, WebPT Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC and WebPT Product Marketing Manager Liz Heckmuller, PT, DPT, laced up their hiking boots to join Dr. Brosnihan “where the signposts end, and the trail begins.”
The trio’s trailhead starts at Dr. Brosnihan’s journey from PT school to a career that was influenced by thru-hiking, and covers considerable ground, including how her passion to help others morphed into a mobile practice on the Pacific Coast Trail.
In addition to their trail names, Heidi, Liz, and Morgan discuss:
- creating a niche practice experience on the trail,
- leveraging telehealth for a healthy business, and
- managing the many intricacies found in a rehab therapy niche.
On Getting Started and Finding Your Niche
Morgan: My background was one of those stories where every next step kept pointing me in a very specific direction. I finished school and worked seven days a week at all these PRN jobs because I was gearing up to thru-hike and move into my van. While I was hiking I was able to help a few hikers with their injuries, and I realized that I had everything I needed to be able to offer that as a service.
On Blending a Love of the Trail with a Niche Therapy Practice Experience
Morgan: During the pandemic, I worked in a full-time position thinking about how I could combine the things I'm passionate about. Eventually, I landed on this idea of creating a mobile therapy clinic on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT). Once the pandemic calmed down enough that people were actually getting back on the trail in 2022, things took off from there.
On Bringing a Therapy Practice Experience to the Trail
Morgan: It took some time to shake out the systems I wanted to use, and when I first came to the trail, I actually didn't even set prices. I operated on a donation-based system just to see if people even needed it and what they were willing to pay because I was in such uncharted waters.
On the Importance of Telehealth
Morgan: Telehealth has been a really big part of my practice’s success. Last year it was a little less—I'd say about 45%—but this year it feels a little more like 60%. Some of the patients I see are not on the PCT—they're people who hiked last year and are now preparing for a new excursion on a trail where I have a state license, or they're just working on training.
On Cultivating Diverse Revenue Streams
Morgan: For me, finances mustn't be the reason for people to miss out on this kind of experience. I don’t want to be the thing that stands between them and continuing on the trail. So having some flexibility in payments allows the business to work out at the end of the day for me. Some people pay what they can, while others overpay, and some even sponsor hikers with Help a Hiker.
On Seasonality and the Utility of Travel Physical Therapy
Morgan: As a physical therapist, I can always get a job. Travel therapy is my biggest safety net because I look to my off-season to be more lucrative if needed. This year, I'm thankful for every day that I'm busy because it's a high snow year, and there is potential that the later season could plummet and I only see two patients a day. But, with travel therapy as my personal safety net, I just carve out 13 weeks and take an assignment where I know that's going to be worth it.
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