The non-clinical spotlight series exists to shed light on all of the interesting paths that physical therapy professionals have taken. Today’s spotlight focuses on Katie Walker, PTA, who went from physical therapist’s assistant to marketing director at RET Physical Therapy Group.
What’s your full name and title?
Kathleen Teresa Walker, Physical Therapist’s Assistant and Marketing Director for RET Physical Therapy.
Where/when did you go to PT/PTA school and graduate?
I graduated as a physical therapist’s assistant in 1985 from Green River College in Auburn, Washington.
What type of practice did you do when you graduated? What was your favorite setting/patient population?
I worked outpatient PT for five years and then started to have some trouble with my hands – overuse syndrome.
At what point did you decide you wanted to try something unconventional?
I decided to go back to school and get my marketing degree after five years of practicing, due to my hand trouble. After I graduated, I sold PT equipment for a few years and then missed PT, so I went back to treating patients and worked in aquatic therapy.
Then, I slowly worked my way back into outpatient manual PT, but always had problems with my hands and tendonitis, so could only work part-time. I then worked in retirement communities with seniors and then moved into an industrial work program.
My hands, or lack thereof, somewhat, guided my career.
Did you know what you wanted to do? Or did you fall into marketing somehow?
I received a call from the company that I had worked for doing the aquatic/outpatient PT and they wanted to bring on a marketing director. They thought I would be perfect for the position.
It was a hard decision because I loved the therapists that I worked with and I really enjoyed working in industrial rehab, but I wound up taking the position because the pay was better and I had three kids in college.
Where do you now work? How long have you been there?
I have now been the marketing director for RET Physical Therapy Group in Washington State for four years, and it is going well. I have been able to network and help increase the number of clinics, and I have also helped increase the referral sources at their existing clinics.
How did you land your marketing job? Did you hear of the role through a friend/colleague/website?
I was called and offered the position.
How did you change your resume/cover letter to get your first marketing job?
Not needed in my case.
Did you have any curveballs during your interview?
I was lucky because I had already worked for the company for years, so they knew me.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
I have two employees who work with me now. I never saw myself as a boss and, frankly, never wanted to be one. I am a bit of an overachiever, as I am a hard worker with a strong work ethic. This probably means I am not the easiest person to work for, as my expectations are high.
What are the biggest rewards of your role as a marketing director?
Watching my hard work pay off. I am in charge of employee morale for our company and we have seen a huge increase in that since I have come on. More employees have been attending our company parties and have felt more of a connection with corporate since I have started our staff appreciation program.
It is also quite rewarding when the leads that I generate come to life. Our CEO is excellent at turning my leads into new clinics or new partnerships for our company.
At what point did you start exploring non-clinical roles?
When my hands started having problems.
How difficult was it to get out of patient care? Did it take awhile, or did you easily make the leap?
I wish I would have had more support after getting injured on the job to be pushed in this direction. It was in 1990 and I do not think there were a lot of non-clinical types of positions then like there are now.
Does anyone else work with/for you? How collaborative is your role?
I have a marketing coordinator and an event coordinator that work with me now.
Can you describe a day in the life?
My days vary dramatically. Some days I am at conferences doing PR, some days I am out doing physician marketing or attending local job fairs, and other days I am in my office creating print products, such as clinic brochures, banners, sidewalk signs, etc.
Where do you see yourself in another 5 years? 10? Do you wish to continue doing marketing?
I will, most likely, still be doing marketing in the next five years. I am not sure if I will continue being the marketing director for a large company because it can be very stressful. I may take a step back and let someone else be in charge while I cruise into retirement.
Did you ever experience any judgment for your decision to take a non-clinical career path?
Never, only positive support!
What would you tell someone who is considering a non-clinical role or career path?
Go for it!! I continue to keep my license up and can go back to patient care whenever my heart desires. I would never let that lapse; I need to keep my options open!
Thanks for your insight, Katie!