When people think of rehab professionals (PTs, OTs, and SLPs), their minds almost immediately gravitate toward clinical work. This includes treating patients, writing goals, dealing with insurance, completing standardized assessments, and heaps of other tasks that most therapists fit into one day. Most people never even consider the non-clinical skills required to perform those tasks, much less the non-clinical tasks many therapy professionals complete in a given day!
In fact, for some therapists, the aforementioned job duties could not be farther removed from their daily work schedules. For quite a few therapists out there, a day in the life includes either partial-clinical or non-clinical roles.
Non-clinical roles tend to be misunderstood by most. They may be met with statements such as, “Wait, you don’t treat patients? So…what do you do?”.
Many therapists assume that the only thing we have to offer is clinical skills, and that means the only roles we can fill are clinical in nature.
As it turns out, quite a few of us are Googling things like “alternative jobs for physical therapists” or “what else can I do with an OT degree?”!
Well, there are plenty of options for us, but it’s all about identifying how you can spin your existing experience to match up with those non-clinical roles. You’ve probably heard people write about “identifying transferable skills” so that you can highlight them on your resume.
If you’re the type who excels at resume sorcery, you might have already worked some of these skills into your non-clinical resume. But if you want more concrete examples to buff that resume to a high sheen—and probably make some networking connections in the process—read on.
Here, I detail some of the ways to seek out opportunities to hone your non-clinical skills while you’re still working in a clinical role.
It is quite likely that some of these opportunities have already been presented to you, and you may not have even realized how helpful they can be if you’re planning on leaving patient care. For each setting, I aim to highlight ways for you to hone your non-clinical skills. That way, if you do decide to pursue a non-clinical PT, OT, or SLP role, you’ll have plenty of fodder for that non-clinical resume!
Honing non-clinical skills in your clinical job (per setting)
- Joining interdisciplinary committees.
Committee membership (e.g. pain and palliative care committee, discharge planning committee) shows that you’re a collaborator and team-player. And working on a discharge planning committee helps you land roles like rehab liaison and care coordinator!
- Starting research-based projects.
Initiating research projects helps lessen the research gaps in your field and improve services provided in your hospital. Once you’ve initiated research projects, you’ll be much better positioned to pursue research roles in the future, too!
- Assisting in policy development for the rehab department.
Policy development skills translate very well into leadership roles, compliance roles, and program manager roles.
- Serving as education manager.
By assisting in bringing valuable continuing education seminars to your facility, you’re demonstrating that you have skills that translate well to the academic world, as well as program manager roles and even product manager roles.
- Advocating for program development.
By advocating for more formalized programs and increased role responsibilities, you’re demonstrating initiative and leadership qualities. This type of work translates well into advocacy and program management roles.
- Providing in-services about the role of your profession in mental health settings and psychosocial functioning.
In-services and presentations prepare you well in roles like clinical trainer or clinical consultant! You’ll also make valuable connections within your facility and community, which could lead to more opportunities down the line.
- Serving as a ward administrator or therapy supervisor.
Any sort of supervisory role in a mental health unit will open tons of doors in non-clinical and admin work in the behavioral health world.
- Assisting with case management duties to increase accessibility to community resources.
When you’ve got formal case management experience on your resume, you’ll have a much easier time landing care coordinator, inpatient care manager, and rehab liaison roles, not to mention actual case manager roles!
- Writing group protocols to establish curriculum that will have a lasting and continuous impact on the department.
When you’ve written protocols, you can translate that experience into clinical trials roles, as well as educational program development roles.
Skilled nursing facility
- Serving as a rehab director.
Once you’ve been a director of rehab, you can go into other management/leadership roles within a facility, and you can also land other roles like product or program manager.
- Participating in administrative duties such as chart audits or assisting with CMS survey preparation.
When you’ve done auditing or CMS survey prep, you’ll be much more prepared for roles in utilization management and compliance.
- Providing in-services on effective communication or safe-handling techniques techniques to all floor staff.
In-service and presentation experience translates well to clinical trainer roles, as well as roles in safety leadership.
- Developing maintenance programs for long-term care patients.
Any sort of program development experience can translate well to program manager or director of rehab roles.
- Completing needs assessments to determine additional programming needs in clinic.
This type of data collection would translate well into a role in UX research. Engaging in marketing events within the community. By volunteering to speak or advertise at community service events, you’re honing outreach skills that transfer well to marketing and sales roles.
- Making visits to doctors’ offices.
By visiting MDs’ offices for educational presentations and marketing for referrals, you’re demonstrating your ability to liaise with medical professionals. This type of work can land you a role in sales, marketing, or community liaison.
- Serving as educational coordinator or fieldwork educator. Anyone who has enjoyed being a clinical instructor (CI) or fieldwork educator should consider volunteering for a larger role in this capacity. The more you offer to step up to mentor young clinicians, organize the clinical experience for students, and support educational opportunities in your clinic, the better prepared you’ll be for clinical coordinator, CCCE, and other academic roles.
Speaking of education, entering the academia world can be a stand-alone non-clinical opportunity. Depending on your degree, experience, and types of institutions near you, you might be able to land a full-time tenured role, adjunct role, or even part-time role assisting in labs. You can either choose to teach to supplement your full-time role, or you can make it into your sole role once you obtain a doctorate.
Teaching continuing education seminars and courses is a good way to establish yourself as an expert in your practice area. These are opportunities that you can initiate yourself, or they may arise independently once your name becomes more known!
Honing non-clinical skills in professional associations
AOTA, APTA, and ASHA have a wide range of volunteer opportunities as well, most requiring little to no experience outside of your degree. Opportunities include, but are not limited to:
- Leadership programs.
Both AOTA and APTA accept a cohort of practitioners into their yearly leadership programs. These programs nurture and foster growth in young leaders who wish to eventually hold higher leadership positions. Plenty of folks in the higher leadership positions have moved far away from direct patient care.
- Accreditation evaluators.
AOTA and APTA seek practitioners to assume the role of accreditation evaluator, who make site visits to OT/OTA and PT/PTA programs to ensure they meet the standards to remain or obtain accreditation. This type of volunteer role can eventually lead you to become poached by a school, as you’re a guaranteed expert on accreditation!
- AOTA CAP reviewer.
AOTA offers the ability to be a Critically Appraised Paper (CAP) reviewer. CAP reviewers edit scholarly research papers and articles that have been submitted to AOTA for potential publication.
- Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
AOTA, APTA, and ASHA accept applications for Special Interest Group (SIG) coordinators and editors for your area of specialty. These roles involve overseeing and participating in publication for Special Interest Sections in each practice area (Mental Health, Rehabilitation & Disability, Productive Aging, Developmental Disabilities, Children & Youth, Home & Community Health, Work & Industry, Academic Education, Sensory Integration & Processing — these will differ for PTs and SLPs!)
- Capitol Hill Representation.
AOTA offers the chance for practitioners to serve as Capitol Hill representatives. These representatives assists with OT’s advocacy for legislation within state and federal organizations.
These are just some of the opportunities available to those therapists who wish to get further involved in their field. Let me know in the comments if you know of non-clinical opportunities I missed!