Startup jobs for physical therapists (and other rehab professionals) are “having a moment.” During the coronavirus pandemic, some of the most established healthcare companies are the ones struggling the most. We’re hearing stories of healthcare workers being furloughed in the middle of a pandemic, for crying out loud! At the same time, agile, young companies (a.k.a. startups) are thriving during this crisis because they’re structured to be able to adapt. Just think about the many telehealth physical therapy companies that are in hiring blitzes, staffing up to meet this new frontier of patient care.
Startups grow quickly, and they constantly change. They can adapt to meet a new crisis without layers upon layers of bureaucracy and red tape.
PT professionals working at startups can quickly acquire new skills and wear numerous hats. But, in order to thrive in a startup, you must be comfortable with constant change. Just a few of the roles you might fill at a PT startup include:
- Care coordination
- Clinical trainer
- Consulting on clinical solutions
- Content creation/coordination
- Field clinical manager
- Project management/program management
As you can see, there are tons of different ways you can apply your skills. Let’s talk a bit more about what a startup is.
What is a PT startup?
You might be feeling confused by what, exactly, a physical therapy startup even is. A startup is a company that is aiming to solve a new type of problem, and “scale up” (grow rapidly) to serve many, many people with this new solution. It’s different from a small business, which might be solving a new problem, but doesn’t intend to grow. Many startups need investment capital or venture capital to succeed in early stages.
Rehab tech startups usually have a lot of expenses and testing and FDA approval to navigate before they can ever earn money. Thus, this type of company typically relies on early investments to grow. A typical small business might take out a loan for initial startup costs (yes, the terms are confusing), but might never intend to grow, scale, build a team, etc. A good example of a rehab tech startup is NeuroLutions.
On the other hand, I do not consider The Non-Clinical PT to be a startup. I run the site largely on my own (with a few independent contractors for various things), and do not plan to “scale up” to a huge team or create tech solutions to solve any major problems. That said, I do consider my site to be solving a major problem in our industry: what do we do when we no longer treat patients? Every business should solve a problem; whether it is a startup depends on the structure and end goals of that company.
Why should rehab professionals consider working at startups?
Working in a startup environment is a great way to use your clinical skills in an entirely new way. You’ll learn tons of tech skills, hone new non-clinical skills, and be able to directly apply all sorts of rehab knowledge and experience in a new environment.
Think about it this way.
- If you consider yourself a great communicator and patient educator…you can work on the client success/client services team.
- If your differential diagnosis skills are on point…you can work in clinical research or development.
- If you love tech and devices…you can work as a clinical trainer.
- If you’re great with visual concepts…you can work in product design or as a user experience (UX) researcher or user experience (UX) designer.
- If you love negotiating and convincing patients, you might do well as a sales specialist.
The possibilities are endless, and it’s really up to you to decide what interests you, and carve a startup career around those interests and skills!
What are some pros of working at a PT startup?
There are good things and bad things about working for a startup. Let’s start with the good things.
- Never a dull day. Every day at a startup is exciting, and there’s an element of the unknown. If you’re the type who gets bored easily—think type 7 (we discuss personality types and ideal roles for them in Non-Clinical 101)—a startup is perfect for keeping you engaged, inspired, and anything but bored!
- Tons of growth opportunity. Many of us decide to leave patient care because we feel stifled. We don’t think there’s enough growth to give us the type of career satisfaction we crave.
- Recognition. In any small company, startup or not, you’ll likely get the recognition you crave. If you’re a type 3 (again, we discuss this in my flagship non-clinical career course), recognition and personal growth are crucial to feeling satisfied in your career…and there is precious little recognition available in today’s clinical PT jobs.
- Fulfillment. When you are working to grow and build something, and it is taking shape every day, there is really nothing more fulfilling in your career (OK, aside from, say, helping someone bathe, feed him/herself, or walk again). 🙂
What are some cons of working at a PT startup?
There are, of course, plenty of drawbacks to working at a young company. Let’s go through a few of them.
- Hard work. I actually view hard work as a pro, but if you’re ready for a break from grinding, startups are not the right environments for you! These companies thrive on employees being devoted and hard-working, and they ask that you pour your heart, soul, and time into your job.
- Long hours. Now, this is not always the case, especially for larger startups (those larger than about 30 people). However, if you’re an early employee, you’ll likely be working quite long hours. The nice thing is, though, you’ll often LOVE the work. If you’re concerned about work-life balance, be sure to ask about this in your interview.
- Questionable compensation. Some startups will offer low pay in exchange for equity or stocks. You’ll want to be very careful about this and run your contract by an attorney familiar with startups and/or business law so you don’t sign your soul away for pennies.
Where can I find startup jobs for physical therapists?
There are several places to look for startup jobs. One is on my job seekers’ page. I partner with companies to specifically help them source people just like you for their non-clinical roles! You can also check sites like Angel List.
Networking, as always, is key. Look on LinkedIn and follow companies whose missions reflect your own values. Connect with people. Network in a way where it’s organic and not cheesy (again, networking is something we discuss in Non-Clinical 101 at length!)
How can I build skills for non-clinical roles at startups?
While many of your clinical skills and soft skills will be applicable to startups, it’s super helpful to have additional tech skills on your resume. Again, you’ll want to understand the type of role you want to determine the type of skills you’ll want to build. That said, some skills you’ll want to consider are listed below, along with recommended courses to help you build those skills.
Skillshare is a one-stop shop for those looking to learn lots of tech skills. I recommend this site for those who want to learn as many skills as possible in a short time…because you can get two months for free with zero commitment. During that time, you can take as many courses as you want.
It’s best to use Skillshare to fill up the part on your non-clinical resume where you list your “hard skills” (tech skills). We discuss this in Non-Clinical 101.
Udemy is similar to Skillshare, except you buy the courses one at a time. These courses are fantastic, provided you go for the ones with top ratings. You can also take certifications through this platform.
Coursera is like the more mature, big-sister version of Udemy. You can take courses and certifications, and many of them are run through reputable institutions. We’re talking places like Harvard and Yale, baby! (Hair toss!) The drawback is that, while you can enroll in some of these for free, if you want the certification and proof of completion, you do need to pay, and it’s the priciest of the three per course.
It’s best to use Coursera if you KNOW you want to focus on something specific. For example, you might want to list a User Experience Certification Course if you are going into product design.
OK, I’m overwhelmed by options…now what?
Not sure what the heck you want to do with your non-clinical career? You’re not alone…but you DO have support. Enroll in Non-Clinical 101 today, and join a community of nearly 400 PT, OT, and SLP professionals committed to helping you succeed!