Back in August of 2016, I was walking across the stage of University of St. Augustine in Austin receiving my DPT after two and a half years of grueling coursework and clinical rotations. I had accepted an outpatient job in Houston 5 days earlier. I would take 3 weeks off after graduation to go to Mexico, New York City, and see family. I was meeting goal after goal and seemed to have it all figured out.
Now that I look back at it, I was so anxious and unwilling to make myself happy back on that day. I had so many thoughts swirling in my head. They were about money, about my new job and the unknown struggles, and about moving to a big new city like Houston. I thought about student loans and how long I would have them. I wanted what everybody in this country longs for, Financial security, a house, the ability to travel, and to retire someday. I was hoping that my new job would help start the road to that with ease. I had put in the work at school, so I should now simply reap the benefits, right?
Back in PT school, everything was structured for me, and I almost always knew what came next. The syllabus had everything planned out for 14 weeks for me the first day of a new class. I was hoping that my new outpatient job would be the same. This is pretty much the reason why I loved outpatient. Out patient is structured and relatively relaxed. I had seen this type of environment before while interning during school. I felt ready to go.
Wrong. My new outpatient job was overwhelming. Double booked patients every hour. 12 hour days. No life at home after work. Constant documentation during lunch that sometimes I forgot to eat. Bringing documentation home. No technicians to help with miscellaneous tasks around the clinic. I would see the older therapists in the clinic sacrifice good care in order to have time to document. It seems they had succumbed to the system. Also, the new grad PT salary wasn’t what you could call comfortable when you have six-figure student loan debt. It just was not a good mixture, and I felt a change was needed quickly into working there. My whole life I have not been the one to quit, so I kept at it, worked hard, and tried to learn as much as I could.
My second month on the job had me working half days 2 days a week, so this left two entire afternoons for me to pick up a PRN job to make extra money towards loan payoff. I didn’t think I would be working two jobs as a PT because the prior idea of being a PT came with the idea of having one good-paying position. The more I dove deeper into the PT world, the more I saw have two jobs was not uncommon.
I signed with Foreman Therapy Services in November of 2016 after repeated communications following a job fair while still in school. I started with 6-8 visits a week that took place on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, just when the Houston branch was getting its wings. I did have my reservations about the Home Health setting like most new therapists. Would the lack of structure and increased flexibility stress me out? Would I have mentorship at all? Going into patient homes?! I believe we’ve all had these thoughts about this setting, I know I did.
Home Health flowed with me. It met me halfway. My easygoing personality seemed to blend and gel into the laid back nature of the company. I loved the conversations and the people. Forty five minutes and one on one time with a patient was something I was not used to. I soon fell in love with going into patients home and treating them on their turf. Patients seemed more comfortable with therapy in this setting compared to a clinic. I also got better results with my treatments than I had in outpatient. When things did get hairy, my supervisors and team were a quick phone call/text/ email away to help. The office staff was always on point and the more I worked part time, the more I realized FTS did things differently. I soon understood how they were trying to change the HH game by being innovative, team centered, and patient quality focused. I was hooked.
As paychecks started to come in I started comparing my paychecks with my outpatient job and was really astonished. I realized that working full time with FTS could help me gain more financial security by helping me meet my goals sooner. I put in my two weeks in December of 2016 and started full time with FTS on January 1, 2017. It was slow at first but having 20-25 visits a week for the first 2-3 weeks was equivalent to my outpatient salary. I wasn’t worried, so I took it as a time to learn and adjust. Additionally being able to finish work by 1pm every day wasn’t that bad either.
It was around early February 2017 that things got busier and I was able to hit full time number on a weekly basis. Our Houston branch manager, Lucas, was on speed dial and helped frequently. I then mastered FTS’s Home Health app and it’s evolution since 2017 has been so amazing to witness. My time management and scheduling skills got put to the test the more visits I took on. I branched out to new cities around my neighborhood because FTS emphasized a “growth” and “hustle” mentality that I loved. My first six months were filled with a lot of highs and a lot of failures. These failures are something that FTS embraces, helping me learn from my mistakes and ultimately helped me become a better therapist.
Towards the second half of 2017, the Houston branch was growing well and we were able to hire more therapists. I was asked to step up and help train and educate the next wave of new therapists on the in’s and out’s of Home Health. The buddy system was created at FTS and I began to help with “ride alongs” where a new employee shadowed another therapist for a day or two. I soon felt a sense of urgency to get out and spread the word to my friends and colleagues in the PT world how FTS was changing the game.
Also in 2017 a bunch of personal highlights happened, that I don’t think would have occurred if I stayed in outpatient. One major event took place in that I got engaged in June and started planning a wedding. Also in November, my fiancé and I were able to buy a lovely home just outside of Houston. It was all so crazy to me, but I knew it didn’t come by chance. Home health provides you the ability to be a certain type of therapist that is wholesome, empathetic, charismatic, and practice at the top of your license. A good personal work ethic and selflessness is rewarded within our company . With FTS pushing the industry in a new direction, it’s hard to imagine myself anywhere else. So if you have just started with FTS, my advice is keep going, embrace everything, and always keep learning. If you do this you might just might find how FTS will help you more than you know along your journey in Home Health and career.
-James Winget PT, DPT
Twitter - @JamesWingetDPT
Instagram - @jwinget91
Foreman Therapy Services