A physical therapist I work with asked me what it was like to jump headfirst into this career change. We talked specifically about what it was like to go from a cushy, salaried business position to an hourly PT tech job.
I just kept repeating that it was “weird.”
I know, I know: it was a very verbose response. But it’s prudent not to air dirty laundry (unless, of course, you are blanketed by the anonymity of these internets).
However, for those considering a transition to physical therapy, by way of hourly work in a clinic…
Physical therapy technicians are the low men on the totem pole. They are really at the beck and call of almost everyone in the clinic. My erratic work schedule is a microcosm of how they can be treated within the clinic.
My coworker asked about my back to school experience, starting with how much my work schedule sucked. I’m limited to forty work hours per week which my company and, more specifically, my immediate supervisor nervously adhere to since paying time-and-a-half to a low wage worker would clearly splatter red ink all over this humongous company. Therefore, my work start times vary dramatically: sometimes I come in at 7:30 am and the next day I may come in at 4:00 pm. However, I can only leave when the clinic closes which is well into the evening. This effectively kills each weekday, even if I only work four hours.
This company, “Company A,” tends to mold tech schedules — and physical therapy assistant schedules to a lesser extent — around the patient volume. They are a large-scale orthopedic provider in my metropolitan area. Their customer pull strategy seems to lay primarily on appointment scheduling flexibility and market saturation. If a patient demands to come in at 8:00 am or 6:00 pm, and the ubiquitous Company A bends to their demands, will the patient look elsewhere? (Basically, “we’ll see you even if it alienates and overworks our employees.”)
Compare this to my two other firsthand experiences as a PT tech. The first is at another outpatient orthopedic clinic, “Company B,” where my weekly schedule was permanent. This clinic prides itself on true one-on-one care, where there is no overlap or double-booking of patient appointments. Company B would, conversely, steer patients toward appointment times that fit around the employees’ work schedules. (So, “if you want to be treated by us, get in the damn line.”)
My last PT tech experience was at a hospital. The techs working inpatient here would have set schedules from 7 am to 4 pm each day with an actual lunch break splitting the day in half. Talk about an awesome schedule. (In other words, “cool, man, let’s go to work and treat some patients. Then get out in time to have a life!”)
As with any appointment-based service industry, there are times when nothing is going on. I have experienced this in droves while at each of the three referenced companies. But, as a general rule, if a tech comes into work, it will most likely be busy.
There are advantages to being a tech at Company A, but in my experience, the erratic work schedule is definitely not one of them. All-in-all, being in the clinic is great. But try to establish a firm schedule from the onset.