This week’s spotlight features Jennifer Stoskus, a physical therapist who works as Director of Clinical Education and Training at Virtualis, a VR rehabilitation technology company.
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What is your full name and title at your current job?
Jennifer Stoskus, PT, DPT, NCS
Director of Clinical Education and Training at Virtualis
Where are you located?
I live in Hoboken, NJ
Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?
Springfield College in Massachusetts – undergrad 2008 (minor in dance) and MSPT 2009
Transitional DPT through Temple University, completed in 2012 (while working full-time)
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
My last clinical rotation was only four weeks at a medium-sized hospital with an incredible outpatient neurorehab program, and it inspired me to search for a job in this setting right out of school.
As students at Springfield College, we were involved with a community-based stroke exercise group throughout the curriculum which was very rewarding. and I like to say that stroke rehab was my first “true love” as a new PT.
I started in the outpatient division at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in Chester, NJ (2009). Throughout my career, I have always seen a mix of ortho and neuro…but early on, my caseload was primarily stroke, TBI, MS, PD and other neurologic disorders.
My earliest mentor at Kessler treated vestibular patients and I found this population fascinating! When she moved out of state, I took over her patients and grew our vestibular, concussion, and balance programs, which eventually made up ~ 80-90% of my caseload.
My entire life, I was active in sports and dance—and, because I never take the typical path, I decided it would be “fun” to minor in dance during my entry-level five-year MSPT program. In order to do this, I took a lot of pre-reqs over summers and extra credits of the years, including a self-study course.
My thesis to complete my minor in dance was a paper that focused on the importance of conditioning programs for dancers to prevent injury vs rehabilitation after injury. Within my first month or so at Kessler, I had the support of my supervisor to create a Dancer Rehabilitation program while I was simultaneously in the neuro world.
My program eventually became relatively standardized and turned into a Kessler-wide special interest group (SIG) and now expanded to a Performing Arts SIG.
Wow, that’s quite a start to your career! What did you do after that?
While working full-time as a PT, I continued to dance all over NJ and NY, and I also taught in the theater and dance department of a local college (modern dance, anatomy for dancers). Then, in late 2013, I decided to move to Hoboken, where I am now, to be closer to NYC for dance rehearsals and performances.
Since I moved across the state, I transferred within the Kessler system to a more traditional outpatient orthopedic clinic where I again grew the vestibular, concussion, and balance programs and continued to see dancers (among my now very heavy ortho caseload). My hours were much different in this clinic; I worked with far fewer people than I had in my other department (only 1.5 FTE in addition to me). The commute was also very unpredictable—and, while I got to see *some* of the patients I was passionate about, I saw a far larger population of patients with acute/chronic pain and most of my patients spoke Spanish.
The upside of this was I learned a LOT of rehab Spanish! The downside was that it was very mentally taxing to speak/translate and work 10+ hour days. Long story short, I was getting burned-out and feeling the “7-year itch,” and started re-evaluating what I wanted to do with my career.
During this time, I was going through the APTA HPA’s LAMP Leadership program, working with a mentor through that process (hey Lindsay!). I was also working with an incredible mentor and friend at Kessler (THANK YOU, Michele!!), who helped me frame the parts of physical therapy that I was good at doing and the parts that I was truly passionate about.
I was at my tipping point of deciding my next career step when I got an email from a sales-vendor (now friend and colleague) about a teaching opportunity with NeuroCom systems, a product that I had used my entire career.
I had been sent to Oregon to be trained in the product early in my career and always loved using it to better assess and treat my vestibular, concussion, and balance patients, and the timing was PERFECT.
Editor’s Note: Jen and I realized recently that we were at the SAME TRAINING in Oregon! Small world in PT, huh??
When and why did you realize you wanted to do something non-clinical?
In the fall of 2016, I left Kessler (I left my full-time role, but remained per diem until 2020) to work as a full-time clinical educator at Natus Medical, supporting the NeuroCom (Balance Master) and also part of the Otometrics product lines (ICS Impulse with vHIT).
This job brought my passion for teaching, traveling (and outcome measurement!) together with continuing to work with patients with balance and mobility disorders through educating the therapists treating my favorite patient populations.
It was not an easy decision, but I am someone who is not afraid of change. It was definitely an adjustment from having my schedule super structured with patient care to working from home and traveling. I got my rhythm quickly, though, and now I know that I can’t go back (trust me, I even tried!).
What are you doing these days?
I wear a lot of hats. Here are my roles:
- Director of Clinical Education and Training (Virtualis)
- Adjunct Faculty (Seton Hall University, previously Touro College Bay Shore, LI but too busy this summer!)
- Co-Chair Vestibular SIG of APTANJ
- Vestibular Rehabilitation Clinical Education Courses with colleagues
- (Vestibular EDGE Task Force through APTA Neuro/ANPT)
- My own clinical practice (consulting and education business)
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
Yes, but I see very few patients—JUST enough to maintain my NCS.
I keep 1-2 patients on my caseload (MAXIMUM/when I have time). I usually don’t do more than 1 or 2 patient sessions per week, so I spend a VERY small percentage of time actually treating patients.
How long have you been Director of Clinical Education and Training with Virtualis?
I’ve been in the Director of Clinical Education and Training role about 10 months, but I consulted for this company for about a year before that. It was a startup, and I pushed my way to stay because I love the product, the company, and my role!
How did you find your job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?
My current supervisor was originally the salesperson who I let shadow me using (NeuroCom) technology in my last clinical role. He encouraged me to apply for my first non-clinical role and we worked very closely together at Natus.
He and I built the US business for Virtualis (he was full-time and brought me on as a consultant very early on).
After I was laid off from Natus (2019 when NeuroCom was discontinued), I was very thankful for the non-clinical and industry connections I had made over the years. Ultimately, I had a good rhythm and partnership with Patrick, so it was a no-brainer for him to ask me to join him in building up the US business.
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?
I have updated my resume over the years, but not for this specific role (I don’t even think they have my resume on file lol)
For my first non-clinical role (at Natus), however, the job description really fit my resume already, so it was very easy to write my cover letter. I think my passion for the job duties (teaching, traveling, collaborating, etc) and having a strong professional network through the APTA made me a good candidate.
What was the interview like for the role?
I didn’t interview for Virtualis, but my previous role with Natus was really interesting! I had worked at Kessler for about 7 years, and didn’t have much contemporary experience with interviewing.
I think after I submitted my CV and resume, I had an initial interview (with the woman who would be my direct supervisor), then a second interview with a larger team of clinical, sales, marketing. The final interview for that job was in-person, and they flew me to Chicago.
We basically went to breakfast and just spoke casually; I think they just wanted to see and hear me to see if I came across as good in person as I did behind a phone.
It was also a good way for me to experience this type of work travel that would ultimately be required for my job. I woke up, got ready, hopped on a plane, then flew home the same day.
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
No, but having a background in vestibular (concussion, and balance) rehab was a huge plus for my original position.
My NCS has also opened a lot of doors for me. One of my adjunct faculty roles was specifically looking for someone with an NCS who already had teaching experience. I also think this board certification give me an advantage in my current position.
What itypes of products or services does Virtualis offer?
Virtualis makes and sells therapeutic virtual reality and force plate technology solutions for rehabilitation settings.
Where did you get the idea for your small clinical business?
I originally started my business in 2018 to have a place to treat patients (and get my NCS hours). Even though I don’t spend a lot of time ON my business, I think this experience also gave me an edge for my current position (small start-up growing fast)
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
I have always felt supported with my choice. I did continue per diem work after I first left, and I wish I had already set up my business to see patients.
I think that having contemporary clinical examples when teaching (students and rehabilitation technology) is important to stay relevant and understand the needs of the market.
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you?
Completely different every day (which I love!)
When I travel, I am either installing the customer’s equipment or checking on the installation. My training days run ~ 10 hours (set-up, teach/train, pack-up and make notes on the day). I also stay in close contact with my team about any technical issue or sales leads. I try not to do too much “work” on my travel days (sometimes I will take a meeting, host a webinar, give a short virtual training session, or edit sales/marketing materials from a hotel room, but I prefer to stick to email if I can on these busy days).
My favorite work trips are visiting customers or potential customers and demonstrating products on actual patients. It’s also very inspiring to travel with my team; we all work remotely, so it feels like a family reunion when we get to travel together.
On home office days, I typically have my team meetings and schedule the more important meetings with our customers or new researchers. I also use this time to do my focused work (education documents, presentations, recordings, etc).
What are some of the challenges of your role? What are the rewards?
Traveling! Most of the time I just surrender to the whims of traffic and flight delays, but sometimes this can really interfere with the flow of the trip (most recently, it was a 5-hour delay due to weather, arriving to hotel at midnight and leaving at 8 am to get to the customer on time). Travel has also provided me the necessary “down time” to just sit back and listen to a podcast, watch tv/movies, or read books/research articles.
I am grateful each day to be doing work that uses the best combination of my clinical and personal skill set. It’s fun to be in such an “new” industry right now with virtual reality. As much as I teach customers how to incorporate this technology into their clinical practice, they give me insight on how to continue to improve my educational offerings product updates, research ideas, etc. It’s also very rewarding for me to continue using my expertise to help not only clinicians, but knowing that this technology will also help them treat their patients more effectively and especially getting our products connected with researchers who are advancing rehabilitation professions.
How do you think working as a PT prepared you for this role? Which skills transferred?
I am a firm believer that rehab professionals are excellent critical thinkers and creatives. Listening to patients, coming up with a problem list, being creative with treatment planning, and evaluating outcomes in a systematic way can be translatable to any type of job or business.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care?
Honestly, I did get a small increase in wages moving into the medical device industry, but not nearly as much as the business industry that my husband works in.
My hours may sometimes be more than what I did in the clinic (and there is no leaving work at work since I work from home!). However, the flexibility of my hours and some of the travel perks (hotel and airline points, excitement of traveling to places I’d never plan on my own, meal stipend, etc) are much better for my personality and lifestyle.
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
My role is all about creativity and adaptability. I also think that someone who is comfortable being uncomfortable would do very well in this type of position.
Of course, there is an expectation of being knowledge about certain diagnoses and general types of treatments as well as staying up to date with standard of practice and clinical practice guidelines.
My position requires the ability to teach and also a lot of writing and creating presentations, as well as having interpersonal skills to coordinate work with non-clinicians (sales, marketing, tech).
It’s also critical that you’re able to work remotely without a structured day. This was maybe the biggest adjustment from my outpatient clinical schedule. I had to establish what each work day/week would look like, be able to prioritize projects, and manage my own time and travel arrangements.
Do you work remotely or on-site?
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?
YES! I am currently building my clinical team out. I am also hoping to add educators (clinicians, researchers, etc.) who have unique skill sets that can contribute to and complement our marketing and sales teams.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
No, but I do have my NCS, which has helped me a lot in building my non-clinical PT career.
What is a typical career path for someone in your role?
Interesting question…I’m not sure there is a typical path. I guess most typically the title of “Director of Clinical Education and Training” is usually someone with a nursing degree (in hospital settings and medical device companies), but I feel like I am also trying to navigate my own career path forward in a role that hasn’t necessarily been “established” (at least in the rehab tech field).
I would like to stay with Virtualis for the long-haul. There is a tremendous opportunity for growth as the organization grows.
What is next for you? What do you want to do with your career long-term?
Alternatively, I would eventually like to get into a terminal degree program (PhD, DSci, etc) in motor learning or some type of neuroscience (or maybe even more closely related to postural control or specific virtual reality rehabilitation!) and possibly get much more into research…I am definitely not closed off to any possibilities!
What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours?
I have always been interested in my personal development and loved learning new things, developing my current skills or add new ones. I am also curious and passionate by nature, by knowing myself, I can feed my curiosities and passions, feed into my strengths.
Words of wisdom? Seek out mentorship and/or coaches. Invest in yourself. Know your “why” and follow your passion.
What would you like to change most in your profession, and why?
There’s not enough time to dive into this. I guess, in short, encourage people to think outside the box about what a “physical therapist” is and what we have potential to be (read: primary care PT, healthcare pioneers, consultants, etc.).
There are so many great groups to connect and network with (like the Non-Clinical PT’s free networking group and private Non-Clinical 101 alumni group).
Find people interested in the same things as you, grow your network, think outside the box—let’s inspire each other to dream bigger and take action!
If you could teach anything to today’s graduate students in your profession, what would it be?
I teach a professional development and leadership seminar now, and I try to impart on students the importance of “knowing yourself,” “knowing your why,” understanding your personal mission, and having a personal vision statement.
Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and NEVER be ashamed to brag about yourself, your skills, accomplishments, and passions.
Curious how your own skills can translate into the non-clinical world? Explore your options in Non-Clinical 101, the comprehensive, fun, and inspiring course everyone is talking about!