Rehabilitation Assistant Manager Jenny Gross

Rehabilitation Assistant Manager – Jenny Gross

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Today’s spotlight features a physical therapist who works as a Rehabilitation Assistant Manager.

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What is your full name and title at your current job?

Jenny Gross, MSPT, GCS
Rehabilitation Assistant Manager

Where are you located? 

New Jersey

Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?

I went to Boston University for both undergrad and graduate school. I graduated in 1999.

What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long? 

I had a difficult time finding work after graduation since it was the beginning of Medicare’s new Prospective Payment System (PPS) and there were many layoffs in the therapy industry—similar to what is going on with PDPM/PDGM. 

I started working in an outpatient chiropractor’s office (1.5 hour commute) but only lasted 6 months because I was looking for an inpatient setting closer to home.  I eventually started working in a skilled nursing facility at that time.   

In what settings did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?

Over the past 20+ years, I have worked in all adult settings: SNF, outpatient, acute care, acute rehab, assistive living, nursing home, and currently home health. 

I treated all types of patients with a plethora of diagnoses (ortho, neuro, TBI, med/surg, cancer, pediatrics). A few years after graduation, I transitioned from full time to PRN due to plans to start a family. 

While I was still full time in a SNF, I signed up for 2 PRN positions (acute rehab and hospital to gain more experience) then eventually 2 more PRN positions when I resigned from full time status.  I was able to maintain 40-60 hours/week of PRN work at that time. 

After about 12 years, I noticed that many inpatient facilities were hiring more new PT graduates and I was losing work. This is when I decided to go back to full-time status, this time venturing into home health.

At what point did you realize you wanted to do something non-clinical with your background, and why?

After 2 years of work, I was already starting to feel burned out in the SNF and looked into the idea of pursing a law degree to be able to work in malpractice, teaching therapists about malpractice or hospital law.

I took my LSATs and applied to 6 schools, and I was accepted to a few schools. However, I changed my mind after receiving acceptance letters. It just felt too scary to go back to school full time again, so I continued with clinical PT.

About 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent bilateral mastectomies. At that time, I was in the field as a home care clinician which I loved.

I prepared myself mentally, personally, and professionally so I would be ready to take a medical leave of absence. I stayed out for 6 weeks total. This was taking a toll on me since I was receiving a small income from short-term disability (STD), and I was bored.

Then, I had an infection resulting in another hospitalization and a few more weeks of infusion treatment. This caused me to stay home longer. The following year, I had a second planned surgery and was out for 2 months for that one.

During all this recovery time, I started to research other types of careers or positions that I could do non-clinically. I felt that my increasing age and the chance of other medical issues would impact me.

So, to answer your question, after 3 years (and then again after 19 years) is when I started to really contemplate non-clinical roles.

What are you doing these days?

While recovering from my surgery, I researched a relatively newer field called Health Informatics

After researching the field and career opportunities online, as well as schooling options, I made a sudden decision to go back to graduate school in the summer of 2018. Since I purposely picked schools that were 100% online with an approved degree that my employer would be able to provide tuition reimbursement for, I decided to apply to 3 schools and was accepted to all of them. 

After halfway through the curriculum, I took an elective in Health Analytics and loved it!!! It’s a much more technical field, and I really enjoyed the challenge of coding and learning how to use SAS (Statistical Analysis System). So, I applied for a change in majors and was accepted into the MSHI with Analytics Concentration.

As I am writing this, I am 2 classes away from completing my MSHI degree from USF (University of South Florida).

Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?  

I would consider my role is mostly “clinical” in terms of knowledge and guidance. However, my role is possibly <5% (hands on). 

I still like to go out and see patients on weekends to keep my skills up and to ensure that I can be proficient in using our EMR system in real time while seeing patients. This allows me to be proficient in helping other clinicians with their workflow and troubleshooting.

I also enjoy in seeing other breast cancer patients since I rehabilitated myself. Being an avid yogi, I can really help those who underwent mastectomies as well.

How long have you been in your current role? 

I have been in my current non-clinical role for 3 years.

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How did you find your job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?

It literally fell into my lap. I was already working as a field staff PT and my direct supervisor was retiring, so her position opened up. I decided to apply (which occurred a few months after I started grad school), which was a big decision for me.

Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?

The decision to apply and interview happened very quickly. I did not do anything special with my resume. I was open and honest with my experience and current skill set.

I have had 2 prior positions in similar roles which I believe helped me stand out amongst the other applicants. The other factor that may have influenced the decision is my pursuing the Health Informatics degree since the topic was brought up in my interview.

What was the interview like for the role?

My interview was with my current manager (PT) as well as the clinical director (RN). I was simultaneously anxious and comfortable. 

I knew it was worth it for me to at least try and if they offered the position to a more qualified candidate, I would be content with that. I already knew both interviewers; however, I’d never had to sit in their offices in a formal situation.

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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 with the intention of getting this role. 

I received my GCS (Geriatric Clinical Specialist) certification in 2005 and recertified in 2015. This has helped me in all my interviews, as I have been able to stand out and demonstrate additional knowledge and experience with geriatric patients. Like I stated earlier, being an active graduate student in Health Informatics also helped me get into my current role.

People have asked why I did not get my DPT.

I looked at the curriculum and most of the courses I had already taken in some form already in graduate school (radiology, pharmacology, management). At my current age and experience, getting a DPT would not help me in my career track in acquiring a non-clinical role (unless if it were for teaching or research). 

I was also a CI (clinical instructor) for graduate PT students. I loved this role and it was a good carryover from when I was a TA (teacher’s assistant) during graduate school (PT).

How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?

My family was very supportive. My parents come from computer/insurance background; in fact, my (retired) father made sure that he would help me with my mothering responsibilities if I took this role and schooling. 

My husband is a non-clinical OT rehabilitation consultant so he, too, was incredibly supportive. Many of my therapy friends/peers encouraged me to pursue this position and thought this was the perfect role for me.

What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?

I report to an office Monday through Friday 8 am – 4 pm. 

I utilize a computer for most of my work. I also answer phone calls from patients, caregivers, other healthcare entities, and the field staff (therapists and nurses) to provide support. I have to be on my toes to field problems as they roll in. 

I also do the following:

  • Monitor referrals for clinical impact that may impact the care for the patients
  • Help coordinate scheduling
  • Review clinical documentation on reflecting skilled services as well as factors that drive reimbursement
  • Manage payroll and productivity considerations
  • Attend multiple meetings per month on multiple different topics (hospitalization rates, infection control, outcome measures, etc.)

What are some of the challenges of your role? What are the rewards?

I do not have many challenges, except for the volume of work and occasionally needing to handle difficult clinical cases.

I am happy to say there are many rewards:

  • I love interacting with clinicians to help them troubleshoot issues and find solutions for their patients
  • I enjoy helping patients and steering them in the right direction to help them achieve the safest outcomes
  • I also enjoy using my computer skills and knowledge as applied to clinical information

Bonus with this non-clinical role: if I encounter any medical or physical problems, it should not impact my abilities to safely complete my job.

How do you think working as a PT prepared you for this role? Which skills transferred?  

My current role requires a PT license because I need the extensive clinical knowledge and experience to be able to execute my job to help other clinicians to do theirs. I would say that my experience in many different settings has certainly prepared me for this position.

Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care ?

I am in the office generally 40-45 hours per week and probably spend a few more hours at home to complete projects or reports that I could not complete in the office.

The pay is difficult to compare since I believe it is based on years of experience; however, it is higher than the average clinical (hands-on) position by roughly 10-20%.

What type of person do you think would do well in your role?

Some attributes would include:

  • Being detail-oriented
  • Showing consistent follow-through
  • Having great memory recall
  • Being an efficient typist
  • Having a calming nature to help de-escalate difficult situations with staff and patients
  • Maintaining professionalism and confidentiality

Do you work remotely or onsite?

I mostly work onsite. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, our office staff works remotely every other day to increase physical distancing. Since we are a busy call center for patients, people still need to answer the phones and faxes. I could do most of my other responsibilities remotely.

Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?

Some of the non-clinical roles in the home health agency are usually designated for nurses and a few PTs. Some of the jobs that are held by PTs include:

  • Managers
  • Educators
  • Clinical reimbursement coordinators
  • Informaticians

Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?

I believe getting my GCS and actively attending graduate school at USF have been extremely helpful to me professionally.

What is a typical career path for someone in your role?

I would recommend at least 8-10 years of clinical experience before attempting to take on a managerial/non-clinical role. Any therapy clinician would probably be able to apply for this role, but this specific position required a PT license.

What is next for you? What do you want to do with your career long-term?

I am incredibly happy at my current role and organization. I am not currently seeking the next step. My schooling in health informatics is more as a “backup” plan or possibly to help me in my current role since health informatics overlaps into my current responsibilities.

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?

I recommend clinicians to keep working in the field to gain more knowledge and experience but try to vary your experience. 

I have read about many people getting burned out after 1-2 years of clinical work. I would suggest they try a different setting. 

To be considered for a non-clinical role, I would recommend at least 8-10 years of clinical experience.  Organizations might not consider you for certain non-clinical roles if you just finished therapy school.

If possible, try to work PRN in other settings while you are working full time. If you have an interest in a specialty, then research into any formal certifications.

I recommend to not look too hard for non-clinical positions. Focus on spreading your professional wings and try different avenues. There are not many non-clinical roles, but you want to be sure you are confident and fit the role well when it arises.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain. 

I have always prepared myself for the future by planning now. Everything takes time and patience, so be proactive and look in areas that others have not.

Do not expect the perfect non-clinical role to just pop up. I honestly believe that it will happen when the time is right.

What would you like to change most in your profession, and why? How would you propose doing so?  

I would like to change the regulations of PTs requiring a DPT to practice.

I fear when I am elderly, there will not be many therapists out there. The cost of a DPT education is extremely high and I believe it is turning away young students to pursue since the income and education costs have a large discrepancy. 

After a therapist has passed licensure and gained some experience, he/she can go back to school to get a DPT and focus on research, education, or management.

If you could teach anything to today’s graduate students in your profession, what would it be?

Health informatics, of course! Also, possibly medical malpractice and negligence.  

Do you have any special advice for other PT/OT/SLP/assistants who want to follow in your footsteps?

Keep expanding your clinical knowledge through experience and keep learning from other experts and peers. 

Inquire about helping with non-clinical roles within your current company/organization, investigate helping the utilization management team, offer to become part of the education department, volunteer to become an EMR super user, and sit in on meetings that require clinicians’ input.

Be sure to network and put forth active participation to help your organization improve in outcomes and patient satisfaction.

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