This week’s spotlight is on Natalie Perez, OTR/L, CLT, a Non-Clinical 101 graduate who is now Rehab Liaison for MUSC Rehabilitation Hospital!
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What is your full name, title, and company name for your current, primary role?
Where are you located?
Where did you go to OT school, and what year did you graduate?
James Madison University, 2016.
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
My first job out of OT school was in outpatient pediatrics. I was there a little over a year. I transitioned to acute care, then outpatient adults, before landing my current role.
In what setting(s) did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?
I worked in acute care, outpatient peds and adults. Of the three settings, I was in acute care for the longest amount of time.
What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?
I loved learning about different diagnoses and being creative with my treatment plans. Some of the families were great to work with and see every week. I really enjoyed my coworkers in most of my clinical work settings.
I didn’t enjoy the burnout I felt, no matter which setting I was in. The combination of low salary, high stress, and then COVID unfortunately burned me out to a point that I wished to gracefully transition out of patient care.
The spark was gone, and I grieved in my own way when I came to that realization. Seeing a mental health therapist and being surrounded by my supportive family and friends led me to pursue a non-clinical career.
What else have you done since then, prior to your current role?
I became lymphedema certified, thinking this would help “reignite” the spark for patient care. I enjoyed it; however, I am much happier in a non-clinical role.
When and why did you decide to do something non-clinical?
I worked in the COVID acute floor and the ICU from May 2020 to March 2022. It was truly awful. I won’t get into specifics—plenty of stories and articles accurately portray the horrors all patient-facing clinicians endured.
It was during this time I was officially burned out and needed to pivot to another role and career. This decision wasn’t made lightly. However, I knew I wanted to protect my mental health and sense of peace—and treating patients did not help achieve this goal. I did a TON of research and found The Non-Clinical PT during my journey 🙂
What are you doing these days?
Right now, I work as a rehab liaison for an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. I work full-time in this role, and I really enjoy it!
It’s a great role for someone who wants proximity to healthcare but not direct patient care. I’m learning a plethora of skills and feel empowered in this job!
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
I am solely non-clinical.
How long have you been in your current rehab liaison role?
What do you wish you would’ve known before going into this role?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Know that it takes time to transition out of patient care. For me, it took about one year.
The market is competitive, so I’d remember to give myself grace and to be thankful for the progress I’ve made.
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
I took The Non-Clinical PT’s Non-Clinical 101 course in January 2023 and the Aspireship sales course. I learned so much from both courses, and I don’t regret either one. In fact, I accepted my current role only a few months after taking the Non-Clinical 101 course 🙂
How did you find your job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?
I applied directly on the job poster’s website. I had no connection or internal referrals. However, I did have the tools and the skills to present myself in the best way possible, thanks to the courses.
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?
I used The Non-Clinical PT’s resume template. I also networked and signed up for healthcare events to bolster my non-clinical resume.
What was the interview like for the rehab liaison role?
The first round was a phone interview with the Business Development Director (BDD), followed by an in-person interview with the BDD. Then, I had a phone interview with the Senior Business Development Director. The final interview was with the BDD and CEO of the inpatient rehabilitation hospital. The entire process took about 5-6 weeks.
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
Mostly very positively. My family and friends saw how burned out I was, and they were very encouraging when I was on my journey to a non-clinical role. One of my best friends also transitioned out of clinical work, and she is very happy herself 🙂
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?
Every day is a little variation from the next. Right now, my schedule is Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. However, I’ll be transitioning to four 10-hour days soon.
I typically start the day by prioritizing and completing a to-do list of items to accomplish. Part of the day is dedicated to marketing efforts and planning in-services for healthcare professionals who are part of the referral process for admitting patients to our rehab hospital. Some days, I’m sitting on the computer for hours straight. Others days may be more marketing-focused, like planning a lunch in-service for case managers or cold-calling a physician’s office. It just depends on the day!
What are some of the rewards of your role? What are the biggest challenges?
The rewards include still being a part of a patient’s continuity of care, building relationships with other professionals in the healthcare community, and the variation day-to-day.
The biggest challenge is the obstacles that get in the way of admitting patients into inpatient rehabilitation—insurance denials being a big culprit. Since it is a sales and marketing role, there can be pressure to meet certain goals, but I’m lucky to be part of a great team, and we work great together to meet goals!
How did your clinical background prepare you for this role? Which skills transferred?
My clinical background helped IMMENSELY, especially having acute care experience. Our largest referral sources are typically acute care hospitals, so it was really advantageous to have work experience in a level one trauma hospital.
I felt that my learning curve wasn’t as steep, thanks to my background in acute care. Being able to read and understand medical and functional progress notes, having a general understanding of medical diagnoses, and knowing who would typically do well in inpatient rehab helped me greatly in this role.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care?
The hours are similar to my outpatient schedule. The compensation is greater than my previous clinical jobs.
What type of person do you think would do well in your rehab liaison role?
Someone who would do well in my role is:
- Able to think quickly on their feet
Things can get stressful quickly, so staying focused and being ready to think fast and problem-solve is also extremely important.
Do you work remotely or onsite?
I work in the field, so I am typically at the referral hospitals that are part of my territory.
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?
Yes, including OTAs and PTAs! Most of my colleagues are PTA and OTA by background.
The company I work for employs therapists by former trade in other non-clinical roles as well, including leadership roles.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
What is a typical career path for someone in your rehab liaison role?
A typical career path would be: Senior Rehab Liaison, Business Development Director, or even Territory Manager. Some folks work as a rehab liaison long-term; it depends on the individual’s goals.
What is next for you? What are your high-level career aspirations?
Since I am still fairly new in this role, I would like to stay and increase my skills as a rehab liaison.
In the far future, it would be awesome to work up to being a BDD or take on a managerial role. Being a manager is a whole other career, so I would need to be thoughtful about that transition in the future.
What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours? Do you have any special words of wisdom for the readers?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Be painfully honest with yourself, and don’t take things personally. Be engaging, and make meaningful connections with people. Empathy, empathy, empathy goes a long way! And have empathy for yourself, too.
What career advice would you give yourself that you wish you had during school?
I wish I could go back and tell myself that just because you went to school for a specific career, doesn’t mean you have to stay in that career forever. I felt trapped for a long time but, fortunately, found groups on social media of people in the same position as me. It was a relief to know I wasn’t alone.