This week’s spotlight is on Tony Rost, PT, DPT, MBA, who is currently Sr. Director of Scheduling and Telehealth for AccentCare!
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What is your full name, title, and company name for your current, primary role?
Tony Rost, PT, DPT, MBA — Sr. Director of Scheduling and Telehealth for AccentCare, Inc.
What additional roles do you currently have?
I’m the owner of Catalyst Autosport, my side gig of owning and operating a motorsports team.
Where are you located?
Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
I worked as a home health PT for a little over a year. I treated homebound geriatric patients.
What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?
I really enjoyed the home health setting, and I think the home is a great place to provide care and solve practical and immediate problems for a patient. I also honestly didn’t mind the driving and enjoyed the ‘mental break’ between patients.
One of my least favorite things was scheduling patients at the end of the day and trying to manage a tight schedule for the next day.
What else have you done since then, prior to your current role?
After a little over a year in the field, I had the opportunity to become the administrator for our agency. This was my first step into a non-clinical role, and I spent about a year in this position.
Being an administrator was a great first managerial/leadership role. I learned a ton during my time there—not only about leading people but also all of the ins and outs of how a home health agency functions.
During my time as the administrator, our company was acquired by AccentCare. In late 2021, I had the opportunity to move over to the Clinical Shared Services department as Director of Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring. In this role, I oversaw all of the virtual care and telehealth initiatives for the organization.
I spent just over a year in this role before moving to my current position. During that time, my energy was focused on developing new virtual visit programming to support the in-home care that our clinicians provide.
When and why did you decide to do something non-clinical?
I came to the realization that clinical care may not be for me during my first year of PT school, and I remember a specific point in time when the switch flipped.
During that spring semester, our school did clinical shadowing days where we spent one day a week in different settings shadowing a PT. My classmates returned to campus the next day buzzing with energy about the patients they saw, the skills they got to practice, and just an overall excitement about finally getting to work with patients.
My experience was quite the opposite.
With every day in the clinic, I was less and less enthusiastic about pursuing PT as a career, which is a bit scary when you’re pretty committed at that point in your education.
Can you elaborate a bit more?
There was one particularly tough stretch that semester when I was on the verge of dropping out of PT school. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I started spending my evenings researching different options.
I spent a lot of time on Reddit exploring careers in consulting and finance, and I began looking at other certifications or degrees I could pursue. Since I had a strong affinity for numbers and solving problems, the idea of working on a trading desk or as a strategy consultant was pretty intriguing.
I ended up having some great conversations with my academic advisor and the dean of our college, and I decided to stick it out in PT school. The dean also encouraged me to explore the possibility of a DPT-MBA dual degree program.
So, at the end of my first year of PT school, I enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I’d go to PT school during the day and then do my MBA classes at night (this was pre-COVID when everything was in person). The MBA classes in finance, data, and strategy were a much-needed breath of fresh air, and I knew I was on the right track.
What are you doing these days?
My title now is Sr. Director of Scheduling and Telehealth. So, in addition to all of the telehealth duties, I oversee all of the home health scheduling operations for AccentCare.
Scheduling in-home health is a challenge, and we’re working on revamping processes to improve the scheduling experience for our clinicians and patients. I currently have five direct reports and around 110 indirect.
Struggling to start your own non-clinical career? You’re not alone, and we can help!
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
I’m fully non-clinical.
How long have you been in your current role?
How did you find your job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?
I advanced through the company, and this opportunity became available when we were acquired by a larger organization.
What are some of the things you did to stand out, take initiative, and advance in your career?
Two things were key for advancing my career:
- Taking initiative
- Consistent nudges to my bosses that I was looking for more
I took initiative by doing what my job description asked of me. Then, I made myself available to take on extra projects, and I put the effort in to demonstrate my value to our leadership.
For example, I started taking some of the things I learned in my MBA program and applied that to home health. I started building models to look at how revenue changed as patient risk fluctuated or how patient risk impacted hospitalization rates.
Another fun one was trying to build a model that could predict how many missed visits we’d have for every inch of snow on the ground in the winter and how that impacted our hospitalization rates. Projects like this demonstrate your value and keep you on the radar for when opportunities become available.
The other thing I learned was that my boss and their boss weren’t going to read my mind. If I didn’t put myself out there and tell them that I was looking to advance, how could I expect them to know?
I didn’t wait for an annual review to have those conversations with them. I had the mindset that I wanted to be the #1 draft pick when a new opportunity came up and did everything I could to position myself there. I’m very fortunate to have supportive bosses that opened doors for me and gave me opportunities to get exposure to senior leaders.
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
I don’t think my professors were thrilled when it became known that I was doing an MBA in addition to my DPT. Otherwise, my friends and classmates were very supportive. I don’t think it was really a big surprise to anybody.
I do think there is a stigma in this profession around leaving patient care, which is unfortunate because we need clinicians in positions of leadership.
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?
I primarily work from home and spend about a third of my time traveling to our different regions. I start my day at 8am and do my best to log off at 5pm. Although that doesn’t always happen, I do prioritize protecting my time outside of working hours.
A normal week will include many meetings with both my own team as well as leaders in other departments. This week, I have about 30 meetings (4-8 per day) on my calendar. I try to block a few uninterrupted hours each week to some get some work done.
What are some of the rewards of your role? What are the biggest challenges?
I have a lot of autonomy and flexibility in my role. I get to work on some exciting new projects and interact with several different departments in our organization. The problems that I’m working to solve directly impact our clinicians and patients, so that is definitely rewarding.
The biggest challenges are really just ones that come with being in a director-level position at a large organization. Driving cross-functional change management, getting financial approval for new initiatives from the executive team, and working on big projects that impact a lot of teams can be stressful.
How did your clinical background prepare you for this role? Which skills transferred?
Having experience as a field clinician and also as an administrator are invaluable when it comes to my role now. I can see how decisions and processes will affect the field clinicians, local branch operations, and ultimately, patient care.
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
Someone who is:
- Very flexible
- Comfortable with conflict
- Able to zoom in and out quickly (i.e., going from a meeting about high-level department strategy at 10am into a meeting pulling detailed task reports from the EMR)
- Able to see how different projects/initiatives can impact others and how that may influence their behavior
- Thick-skinned (This is important in most areas of life, but especially with a corporate position like this. There are a lot of competing priorities in a big organization, and not everyone will agree with decisions that are made.)
Do you work remotely or onsite?
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?
Yes! I know of a couple PTs who are now leaders within our organization. I don’t really see OT and SLP as much, but I’m relatively new to this organization and haven’t had exposure to every team. Home health is very much nursing-driven, and we have many experienced RNs that are in leadership positions now.
What is a typical career path for someone in your role?
A clinical background is a fairly common foundation. From there, typically a clinician would transition into a clinical supervisor/manager position.
I think having that foundational supervisor experience of leading people is critical for upward mobility. Beyond that, the career path is not as clear. It depends on what types of positions become available and how well they align with your strengths. There is some element of being in the right place at the right time as well.
What is next for you? What are your high-level career aspirations?
I just started this position a few months ago. Right now, I’m focused on the initiatives and projects that we’ll be working on for the rest of this year.
The next step in the corporate ladder from Sr. Director would be a Vice President role. At this time in my department and organization, it’s not super clear what that would be specifically. I’m always looking for opportunities to stretch and grow.