Be okay with what you don’t know. If you spend the majority of time working with orthopedic patients, and a person who has had a stroke comes to you with shoulder pain, it is okay to step back and admit that you may not know the best way to treat this shoulder pain. Reach out to a local neurological PT for consultation, or possibly to refer the patient over to the other clinic. I know it sounds ridiculous to refer away business, but admitting you are not the best therapist for the problem will earn respect of the client and more referrals to your clinic because you were honest. The situation could be reversed for the neurological PT who cannot figure out the patient’s shoulder pain; reach out to a local orthopedic PT. We should help each other out, and not try to practice like we know everything. Treat with the bigger picture in mind, not the short term bottom line.
That being said – know your local physical therapists. Don’t view each other as competition, but as a network of resources. There are plenty of patients to go around, and by having a good understanding of who the clinics around you focus on, it can also help you to market your skill set. You may have contracts with different payer sources, so know who you can refer to if you get a call from a patient who has an insurance you do not accept. You can always inform that person how you can accommodate him with your out-of-network procedures, or any cash pay services, but let that be up to the customer. Clients will appreciate this transparency and customer service, and again this can build a good reputation for your clinic.
With this network of local physical therapists, consider community outreach projects that you can all participate in that promote the profession. This will drum up business for everyone, and help stop schmucks from thinking all physical therapists do is massage, and all we treat are sport injuries.
Cory Booker regularly quotes the African Proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And I think together we can help physical therapy be more understood, more respected and be who everyone seeks out when they are not moving as optimally as they could be.