Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are advanced healthcare practitioners with similar responsibilities, such as diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications. However, their training and paths toward certification differ in significant ways. This blog post unpacks the key differences between NPs and PAs to help you determine which career path best aligns with your goals. What Is a Nurse Practitioner? A nurse practitioner (NP) is a licensed clinician who provides comprehensive healthcare to patients of all ages. An NP can work in virtually any healthcare setting, diagnosing patient conditions and prescribing medications. As of October 2022, nurse practitioners have full practice authority in 27 states, meaning that they can practice Read more
Most physical therapists enter the field because we’re passionate about movement. We love to help others become as active and independent as possible. But what happens when we develop issues with mobility? What happens when we are no longer able to—or simply no longer wish to—provide direct patient care?
Luckily, there are all sorts of non-clinical jobs for PTs. Here are just a few ways that you can use your physical therapist education and experience to work in the healthcare world—without directly treating patients.
Clinical informatics is a new alternative career. The hasty rollout of electronic medical records (EMRs), has left clinicians wanting improved systems. Unfortunately, when many EMRs were initially developed, therapists were not consulted on how to create effective workflows. This resulted in clunky, cumbersome software that often required a therapist to enter redundant data in multiple spots.
Not only are EMR inefficiencies inconvenient for therapists, but they can also create information gaps that compromise patient safety. While the field of clinical informatics seems to be largely dominated by nurses and IT professionals, it could also be considered a great non clinical PT career. After all, we’re natural problem-solvers and effective communicators, which are two of the main skills required in the role. Stephanie Glick, PT, DPT works as a clinical informatics specialist for SCL Health in Denver, CO. Her role involves improving documentation efficiencies for all sorts of healthcare practitioners, from surgeons to physical therapists!
If you’re eager to give your body a break from the physical demands of patient care, but you still enjoy evaluating and treating, telehealth physical therapy can be an excellent option for you. Telehealth is a growing career opportunity within the PT world, especially as the number of states belonging to the PT Compact continues to grow.
At this point, the main limitation that telehealth PTs face is that many insurance companies, including good old trend-setting Medicare, do not reimburse for the most common PT interventions. There are indications that this could change soon, though, and when that happens, you can expect that telehealth delivery will skyrocket in non clinical physical therapy.
Another non clinical PT opportunity is education. There are several types of education you can pursue. In terms of traditional educational roles, a physical therapist can teach at the PTA level or the DPT level. In each case, there are specific educational requirements. Ed Kane, PT, PhD, ATC is a physical therapy professor at USA, San Marcos. He strongly urges those who wish to teach at the DPT level to obtain a PhD, stating that once you do so, “doors just continually open.”
For those who don’t have the necessary educational background (or desire) to teach in an academic setting, there are still options! For example, one can become a clinical trainer (sometimes called a clinical educator or clinical specialist). These professionals typically represent a product or device, and their non clinical therapy jobs revolve around teaching patients, therapists, and family members how to safely and effectively use that product. There are PTs working in the exoskeleton space, the neuro–rehab device space, and all sorts of other niches. One USA grad, Matt Fuller, PT, DPT, works as a clinical training manager at ReWalk. He loves the fact that his role enables him to work with patients, travel the country, use his skills in a creative way—and earn a great living in the process. If you love educating, but still crave patient interaction, this can be a great option for you!
Additional Non-Clinical Roles
We’ve really just scratched the surface. There are tons of other non clinical career opportunities that make use of our education and experience. From case management-oriented roles like rehab liaison and skilled inpatient care coordinator (SICC) to insurance-based positions like utilization review, there is no shortage of options for you if you’re looking for a change from patient care.
How to Get Started
If you’re excited about the opportunities out there, the most important next step is to determine which of these roles is the best fit for your personality. Some of these roles require travel, and some require extended periods of time behind a computer. By doing some introspection, informational interviewing, and job shadowing, you’ll get a much better grasp on the characteristics of a physical therapist and an idea of which roles will suit your unique needs. Networking is always key for landing non-clinical roles, as is a healthy understanding of how to create a non-clinical resume and cover letter that reflects your understanding of the position at hand.
Whether you opt to stay in patient care or explore non-traditional roles, the wonderful thing about physical therapy is that you always have options!
Article written by Meredith Castin, PT, DPT, DPT alumna ’10