As a new graduate physical therapist, venturing into the home health care setting, especially in New York City, may seem like a daunting experience.
During Superstorm Sandy last year, roommates Claire M. and Lindsay S., newly graduated PTs, had just moved from the Midwest to New York when they found themselves navigating a storm-ravaged city to help home health care patients in need.
Claire and Lindsay found that many post-storm visits were as much about emotional assurances as physical gains. Lindsay, who had never seen a hurricane before, pauses to reflect on the whole storm event. "This was definitely a curveball," she says.1
In 2011, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) launched a comprehensive mentorship program for newly and recently graduated PTs. This selective and challenging twelve-month program hires new graduate PTs directly into home health care. Under the guidance of experienced PTs called Rehab Clinical Advisors (RCA), new graduate PTs quickly evolve into "expert generalists" and critical thinkers.
Across the nation, few home health care clinical affiliation opportunities exist for physical therapy students. Traditionally new graduate PTs choose to start their careers in hospital-based settings. Rarely do new graduates consider starting their careers in home health care. Multiple myths surround home health care and a majority of experienced physical therapists still believe that this setting is not meant for new graduates. Professors from accredited rehabilitation programs, not knowing that this specialized mentorship program exists, encourage their students and new graduates to start their careers in hospitals.
The tides are shifting. VNSNY has shown that with mentorship, new graduate PTs can successfully thrive in home health care at the start of their careers. Home health care is one of the fastest growing industries in healthcare. The VNSNY New Graduate PT Mentorship Program helps transition new graduates into the home health care profession, providing entry-level physical therapists with targeted training, support, a competitive starting salary and benefits, continuing education courses in rehabilitation, and career advancement opportunities.
In 2011, VNSNY hired and recruited three talented new graduate PTs. Justin C., the first 2011 new graduate PT at VNSNY has been dubbed the "superstar" of his team and has recently been promoted to a PTA Coordinator. The retention rate of the new physical therapists at VNSNY is 93%.
In 2012, VNSNY expanded its New Graduate PT Mentorship program, hiring 17 new graduates from 11 accredited physical therapy schools around the nation.
When new graduate PTs were asked why they had decided to start their careers in home health care at VNSNY, here's what they had to say:
"The ability to treat and assess patients in their own environment. This allows you to see how they function and forces the therapist to use their problem solving skills to improve the patients' mobility. I also like that I get to meet a variety of patients from very different backgrounds." -Sherry A., DPT, 2012 VNSNY New Graduate PT.
"The ability to help patients be able to reenter the community with the knowledge and strength to live a happy, healthy, and rewarding life."-Nataliya K., DPT, 2011 VNSNY New Graduate PT.
"I love the change in scenery. Not knowing what you're going to get when you walk into someone's home is very exciting," -Katarina E., DPT, 2012 VNSNY New Graduate PT.
When asked where these new graduates see themselves in three years, they answered:
"My goal is to definitely work up to a higher responsibility position within VNSNY."-Kristin D., DPT, 2012 VNSNY New Graduate PT.
"I see myself at VNSNY either continuing to treat patients or in a managerial role."-William C., DPT, 2012 VNSNY New Graduate PT.
"Same position at VNSNY. Still want to gain experience from being in the field."-Andrew F., DPT, 2012 VNSNY New Graduate PT.
With a strong mentorship system in place like the one VNSNY has developed, new graduate therapists can succeed in home health care and weather any storm, just like Claire and Lindsay.
1. VNSNY Frontline, Superstorm Sandy Edition, 2012.
Kathleen Lieu, DPT, PT, CLT, is a college relations specialist at Visiting Nurse Service of New York.