It might be the most commonly asked home care question that we hear from students:
Should I begin my career in home care as a new grad?
As with all questions in the PT world, the answer is a little less defined.
When deciding if home care is the right setting to begin practice, one needs to evaluate their professional goals, desires, and expectations for their career. HERE you will find some tips that I think should help a PT thrive in home care. But, what if you aren’t at that point yet?
There are a few additional questions to ask yourself that should help determine if home care after graduation is right for you.
Am I intrinsically motivated?
Yes, you really are alone – at least in the physical sense – for a large majority of your time working in home care. For some, like myself, I actually enjoy the “me” time. It gives me a chance to reflect on patient visits, reassess my examination and evaluation methods, and mentally prepare for upcoming patients on my caseload, all while driving from house to house.
To be effective in home care, you must be able to stay intrinsically motivated towards learning and staying current with best practice interventions and patient management. You don’t have a physical desk that you can stash issues of PT Journal during a sometimes-much-needed patient cancellation. You also don’t have the same access as in a clinic environment to call over an OCS colleague to help explain something you had been pondering while with a previous patient.
You need to feel comfortable quickly searching for, and integrating, additional clinical knowledge into your practice. You should feel confident in your current skills but always be eager to advance them for your own future professional growth. And, you should make it a point of emphasis to set aside time for yourself each month to both review clinical information specific to your current caseload, in addition to seeking out new information you may not yet have been exposed to.
How much physical mentorship do I need…or want?
I emphasize physical mentorship, as opposed to general mentorship, because these are two quite different things. As mentioned above, the ability to have frequent, hands-on mentorship within home care is difficult. It’s just the nature of the business. It is much more challenging to seek out a colleague to assist with reminding you of a specific transfer technique, joint mobilization/manipulation, or correct implementation of a test&measure.
For some people, this is okay. A lot depends on your previous clinical experiences and educational opportunities within your specific PT program. Some students receive more lab training and psychomotor practice than others.
General mentorship is an entirely different issue, and one that I think every student should seek, regardless of setting. I have found it much easier to call or even e-mail a colleague to discuss patient management, presentation, or intervention ideas. The ease of this for you will primarily depend on the home care agency you work for, and dictated by the questions you ask at the interview (future post).
For the the purpose of this discussion, you simply need to self-reflect and determine not only how much physical mentorship you need, but also how much you are expecting to receive with your first position. You may be very unhappy 6 months into your home care position if what you expected to receive and what you are actually receiving do not equate.
Am I chasing the money?
One of the reasons you are even thinking about a career in home care is because of the financial advantage you will receive in comparison to many other settings within Physical Therapy.
I don’t think anyone should ever feel ashamed of exploring their options in a niche such as home care simply because it pays more. This is human nature and a part of the game we call Life, as everyone’s personal circumstances are different. Some are the sole provider for their family. Others have lifestyles which require increased take-home pay. And, even more have an unheard of amount of student loan debt. The fact that you are contemplating a career in home care for financial reasons is a good thing. It means that you care about not only your current state but also your future aspirations. With that said, there is one important point to consider that should guide your weighing of this additional income:
- Do not sacrifice professional growth solely for increased income
Your first few years as a Physical Therapist are some of the most important of your career. During this time you will refine and enhance your psychomotor and clinical reasoning skills. You will develop your preferred methods of evaluation and treatment philosophies.
Whatever you do, don’t let a mere 10-20% increase in income cause a 50% decline in the professional growth you worked – and paid so much – for.
“Boy, this party really died”
After reading the above you are probably thinking, “Wow. Why was I ever debating on a home care position as a new grad?”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, I just feel it necessary to point out a few of these very important issues that students need to evaluate before deciding that home care is right for them. You cannot make a bad decision, as long as you make an informed one.
Feel free to leave any questions or comments.
Stay tuned for the next post: Why you SHOULD consider a PT career in home care.
– Preston Collins, PT, DPT