Today’s non-clinical spotlight focuses on Alyssa Chico, who went from occupational therapist to Skilled Inpatient Care Coordinator (SICC) at naviHealth, and has since moved up the ranks to become a Learning and Development Specialist
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What is your full name and title at your current job?
Alyssa Chico, MOT, OTR/L, CCM
Learning And Development Specialist at naviHealth
Where did you go to OT school, and what year did you graduate?
I went to OT school at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and graduated in 2015.
How did you kick off your career in OT?
When I graduated, I started working in a SNF. I worked there for a little over a year, working with various patients such as patients status post joint replacement, stroke, brain injury, cardiac problems, respiratory diseases, etc.
What did you do after that, and for how long?
I then transitioned to an inpatient acute rehab where I worked for a little over two years with similar patients that were more medically complex (more TBI, SCI, GSW, trauma, etc).
When did you decide to pursue a non-clinical career?
After about a year and a half in the acute rehab, I started to realize how physically burned out I was getting extremely quickly. I had constant back pain and fatigue, to the point where I needed to see a doctor and go to outpatient PT for my back issues.
I realized that this was not something my body could take for the duration of my career. I had started dating my fiancee about two years prior and his mom is a nurse who has a non-clinical, remote position.
As I started to realize my body couldn’t handle the physical demands of this job, I started to wonder if an OT could find a similar non-clinical position to what she was doing.
What are you doing these days?
I am currently working for naviHealth as a Learning And Development Specialist II. NaviHealth partners with major Medicare Advantage Health Plans, and our care coordinators manage patients in the post acute setting for insurance authorization. We also assist in safe discharge planning with the goal of an appropriate length of stay and decreased readmission risk.
As a Learning and Development Specialist, I am part of a team that both trains the new care coordinators and provides additional training and support to existing naviHealth employees.
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
I am solely non-clinical. I did consider staying at my last clinical job per diem because I loved my co-workers so much, but I decided my body couldn’t handle it and I also would only have availability to work weekends and holidays, and one of the perks of a non-clinical OT job is no weekends or holidays. I wanted those back to spend with my friends and family ☺
How long have you been in your current role as a Learning and Development Specialist?
I was a Skilled Inpatient Care Coordinator (SICC) for a little more than a year before transitioning to Learning and Development. I have been in my current role for a year and a half.
How did you find your job?
I found my initial skilled inpatient care coordinator job on indeed.com. I applied and didn’t hear anything for about a month, then I was contacted by a recruiter (talent acquisition specialist) to complete the interview process. It did take me quite a few months of searching and coming up empty, so don’t give up!
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
I did not get any special certifications, to land my initial SICC role.
However, after working for naviHealth for some time, I decided to pursue my Case Manager Certification (CCM) to improve my skills and further my career. I recently found out that I passed the exam!
This certification will be invaluable as I train new colleagues with case management skills related to discharge planning and engagement.
How did people react to your unconventional career path at first? What about now?
Back when I first landed my SICC job, the most common question I got was, “Won’t you miss treating patients?” Once I explained, some people said “I could never do that, I would be bored,” or “I could never work from home, I would get too distracted,” and some said “That sounds really cool!”
Now that people I know in the therapy world understand better what I do, many of them are receptive and think it is an awesome job.
I have gotten A LOT of people asking if we are hiring because they would like this job. I have gotten quite a few resumes from fellow therapists to submit for hiring consideration.
Some people still say they couldn’t give up treating patients, but most people seem like they now want a job like mine.
In fact, since my original spotlight on The Non-Clinical PT (linked above), I have had even more people reaching out to me!
How do you think working as an OT prepared you for this type of work?
I couldn’t do what I do if I wasn’t a clinician ☺
When I was an SICC, I would say the biggest skills that transferred were my ability to engage with patients and talk to them in a way that they understand. I felt confident in my ability to explain to them why their therapy is so important, and I found patients responded well to someone with my background providing that education.
Speaking of education, being able to educate others has been most valuable in my current role. The time I spent educating patients and families in the clinical setting has enabled me to train other clinicians to make the transition to providing care coordination.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care (only answer if you feel comfortable!)?
At my clinical job, I worked 7:15-3:30 with a half hour for lunch. I now work 8-5 with an hour for lunch. This position provided a significant pay increase for me from my clinical salary.
You’re now a Learning and Development Specialist. What are your responsibilities, and how do they differ from the SICC role?
As a Learning and Development Specialist, my role and responsibilities vary greatly from the SICC role. I am now a member of the company’s education team.
We have many responsibilities; however, our primary duty is training new colleagues from weeks 1-8 of their onboarding. We start with them from their first day—and, we work with them until they are managing a full caseload in their market and engaging regularly with patients, families, and providers.
Since my experience prior to this position was that of an SICC, I am currently training primarily SICCs, but we do train other clinical and non-clinical roles as well.
Additionally, we develop and update clinical education content for the company, provide additional support to existing employees, and serve as subject matter experts for the company.
What is a day in the life like for you in this new role?
My day can vary a lot depending on my current assignment. If I am assigned a newer class (weeks 1-3), I spend my day on Zoom presenting training material in a classroom format, and coaching new colleagues through practice cases and activities.
If I am assigned a later class (weeks 4-8), I am communicating with them for support as they work live cases, reviewing, and approving their cases. In addition to training classes, I am typically working on 1-2 additional projects, such as developing and preparing presentations for company-wide education or documents for training.
How did you land the Learning And Development Specialist role?
When I started with naviHealth, I had no idea that there was this whole other world of opportunities for therapists. I started to realize that many of the various roles in the company were held by therapists. This led me to start looking at the opportunities for growth within the company.
From my start with naviHealth, I have been impressed by their educational department and their strong onboarding program, and I wanted to be a part of that. I began casually browsing the internal job postings and saw that there was an opening for a Clinical Coach, which has since been retitled “Learning and Development Specialist.”
I reached out to a few colleagues that I had worked with as an SICC and that had moved into this position, and got additional information about the role. After talking with them, I thought this would be a great fit for me and I applied.
I got an email not long after applying to schedule an interview. I interviewed with my now manager as well as another manager and our director, and they offered me the position not long after interviewing.
What types of career opportunities are ahead for a Learning and Development Specialist at naviHealth?
One of my favorite things about naviHealth is not only the opportunities for growth, but the company-wide support in encouraging colleagues to seize these opportunities and advance their careers. I am absolutely loving being in this role, and I do not have plans to make any changes any time soon.
However, down the road, I do see myself moving into some type of management or leadership position. I have discussed this with my manager in terms of goals and she is very supportive in helping me achieve both short-term and long-term goals.
One of the benefits of being a Learning and Development Specialist is that we are considered subject matter experts in many different areas, and I believe this provides us with many different growth opportunities within the company.
Do you have any special words of wisdom for the readers?
It can be a difficult transition going from clinical to non-clinical, but know that your clinical skills and judgment will provide you with the basis that you need to be successful. Trust your training and your skills and know that these non-clinical roles are just as important as the front-line clinical roles in ensuring successful outcomes for the patients.
Thanks for your insight, Alyssa!