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Finding a Physical Therapy Job During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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With many physical therapy clinics closed due to the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic, physical therapy students and new graduations are struggling to find a job. Here are some things you can do to land that job after graduation. To view more episodes, subscribe, and ask your questions, go to

#AskMikeReinold Episode 206: Finding a Physical Therapy Job During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Show Notes


Mike Reinold: The question for today comes from Joe from New York, so good example from Joe being from New York too is definitely one of the hardest hit, if not the hardest hit place in the United States. I’m sure Joe’s kind of feeling it here, but Joe from New York says, “Considering that the COVD pandemic may make it hard for a third-year PT student and new grads to obtain a job due to the increased applicant pool from the amount of lost jobs, what are some suggestions you have to try and stand out during this time? I have a strong interest in sports physical therapy.”

Mike Reinold: Man, oh, Joe, you are not the only one in this boat right now, right? Man, all our students that just kind of graduated or are getting close, I think they’re all struggling to find jobs. I think one found a job, right? Did Trey get a job? I feel like somebody just recently-

Mike Scaduto: Yeah, I think he did.

Mike Reinold: Which is great. So I guess it’s going to depend a lot on your state and stuff and how shut down you are, but I see Joe from New York really struggling here. This is going to be an interesting time, so what advice do we have, guys? Late PT school students, new grads that are entering the field, what do you do right now to try to get a job when jobs are going down? Who wants to start? One at a time.

Mike Scaduto: That’s a tough question. That’s a really tough question.

Lisa Russell: Yeah, it’s very hard.

Lenny Macrina: Yeah, I would say you’re pushing your connections, you’re getting in touch with your CIs that you … Even if you’re not going to work with them and let them keep their ears open if there’s any jobs that open. I would also use the time to better yourself, so whether or not you get some kind of … you take some more con-ed courses. Unfortunately, I think because you weren’t working and you were in school you’re not eligible for unemployment, so you can’t really file to try to create some revenue for yourself, but I think it’s making yourself better somehow and taking the concepts that you learned in PT school and some of the concepts you used to study and you’re using it on friends, family, trying to practice your assessments and get used to that comfort level of interacting with people again. I think just trying to take classes, online stuff, and like I said, just using your connections.

Lenny Macrina: I think that we always say that, right, is, “Use your connections and get to know people.” If not, you’re going to have to start volunteering and shadowing, and hopefully, PTs are going to allow that, but they’re probably not going to want too many bodies in their facility, so I do not envy you guys right now. Because we’ve had people reach out to us asking if we were hiring and we’re not, so you do not have to send me your resume because we are not hiring right now.

Mike Reinold: Yeah. That was good, Len. What do you got, Mike?

Mike Scaduto: Yeah, I think overall, I mean, obviously, the unemployment numbers in the entire nation are pretty bleak right now. Right? We just hit a high since the Great Depression in unemployment, so everyone’s kind of struggling to find a job in all different industries. A lot of people are out of work right now. I actually was looking at some statistics just before this episode, prepped a little bit for the question, but PT was projected to grow by 22%, PT jobs, from 2018 to 2028. So I would be hopeful that we are going to make a return and we are going to get back towards that projection of growing by that amount, but it may take a couple years after this. This could’ve set us back like, I don’t know, a couple years. I won’t put a number on it.

Mike Scaduto: So I would be hopeful that you will find a job in the type of clinic that you want to work in, but you got to set yourself up for success when that opportunity arises so that you are a good candidate. That kind of goes back to what Lenny was saying. I think maybe being a little patient and just preparing yourself for the future, but I would be hopeful and I wouldn’t lose all hope in the entire profession.

Lenny Macrina: It’s very scary, right? Because, I mean, in theory, your loans are going to kick in, what, six months after you graduate. I know the government will probably … Well, hopefully. Not probably, hopefully, do the right thing and give you a little bit more leeway. Right? I think they already have with current loans, so people that are graduating that weren’t in a loan situation have loans kicking in, I think it’s, what? Six months right after you graduate you’ve got to start paying them. I mean, everybody’s in the same situation. Mike and I, we’ve had a gazillion conversations about our businesses.

Lenny Macrina: Everybody is in the same situation, right? It’s not just you, so it’s not like they’re going to put 30 million people that are not working plus all the new grads and just kick them out in the street and say, “You owe us money even though you don’t have money.” There’s no way they can do that, right? The government is doing what they think they can do by giving stipends to people, and helping with loans, and even rent. You don’t have to pay. Some states you don’t have to pay your rent and there’s no penalty right now. You have to pay it eventually, but you can delay things, so I think they’re going to keep delaying stuff because this is an unprecedented time.

Lenny Macrina: Like Mike said, this is comparable to the Great Depression in the 19, whatever, ’30s, so don’t freak-

Mike Scaduto: In terms of job loss, yeah.

Lenny Macrina: Yeah, don’t freak out somehow. Even though we still freak out because our businesses, we’re a fraction of what we normally do, and just try to separate yourself. Try to be different than all the grads that are coming out somehow by practicing and learning your skills and just be ready for that time because it’s going to come. Right? The economy’s going to come back at some point, so be ready.

Mike Reinold: Nice. Dan, Lisa, you guys got anything to add?

Lisa Russell: Yeah, I mean-

Dan Pope: Lisa, you want to go?

Lisa Russell: Yeah, I feel like it’s a matter of what you’re looking for. Right? If you’re just anxious to start on the job market and you just want to get out there and use parts of what you learned I feel like you just can’t be picky. You might end up in a setting that you aren’t looking to go to. You might not get into that sports clinic right away. You might have to start in a hospital, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t gaining really important skills that you can then use later in whatever sports clinic and whatever.

Lisa Russell: I feel like no matter what the first few years out of school it’s like learning how to interact with people, and how to listen to people, and how to just be a PT. It doesn’t super matter what setting you’re in because there’s a lot to learn in just doing it, so I think it’s a matter of what your priority is. If you’re just stubborn and you want to be like, “Yes, I’m a sports PT and that’s all I’m ever going to do,” you’re probably going to be stuck home for a while.

Mike Reinold: Right because there’s no sports.

Lisa Russell: Or make a lot of …

Lisa Russell: There’s no sports happening anyway.

Lenny Macrina: Yeah. I always-

Lisa Russell: Maybe take a telehealth continuing ed. I don’t know. But …

Lenny Macrina: My first job was acute care. I was an acute care PT in Durham, North Carolina for like a year before I got a sports job or outpatient job, so, I mean, you do what you do, right?

Lisa Russell: Yeah.

Lenny Macrina: This was in 2003, so-

Mike Reinold: I saved Lenny. I remember calling him and being like, “Hey, we have some openings in [inaudible 00:08:02] and you were like, “Man, I like North Carolina.” I’m like, “Do you? Do you? I mean, you like acute care that much?”

Lenny Macrina: No.

Mike Reinold: Pope, what do you think? Anything? I mean, honestly, so this is … I’m kind of liking the Zoom thing. I’m taking notes. This is a great answer. This is really good. Dan, you got anything to add to that? I mean, that was wisdom right there.

Dan Pope: Well, I do think there’s some weird opportunities in a time like this. I think it’s very obvious just to say, “Man, this stinks. I’m not going to be able to get a job. No one’s going to be able to get a job,” and a lot of that’s very true. But what I will say is that I know some people in some industries that are similar to us … I mean, I’m big time in the fitness industry, but a lot of personal trainers that were full-time personal trainers obviously can’t train anymore. Some of them started their own online businesses now and they’re doing well and they’re thinking about not going back. You know?

Dan Pope: So what I will say is that, I mean, if you’re in any sort of position as I am that really enjoys fitness and if you can maybe embrace the telehealth, I don’t know how that works from an insurance perspective, what’s going to happen in the future, you may find the opportunity to do some part-time work, kind of start up your own business, that type of thing. If nothing else, it’s a really good time to start branding yourself. If you want to be a niche practitioner, if you like the out-of-network cash-based thing, it might be a good idea to maybe start your own website, kind of figure out what you’re looking for from a professional perspective, and continue networking. Maybe not just networking with physical therapists but maybe with coaches, trainers, whatever other specific niche or sport you want to get involved in. Just keeping those open and then being open-minded because you may find a funky opportunity presents itself and you like it and you go for it. It takes you in a better place than maybe you would be otherwise.

Mike Reinold: Awesome. Again, awesome. This is turning out to be a fantastic episode because I think there’s a lot of good wisdom here that probably applies to new grads in general, right? But, obviously, in this situation, I think it’s the need to really stand out because of the competition has really escalated. That has really kind of risen to the top, so, heck, I literally have nothing to add, which is fantastic. But I’m going to summarize a little bit here because, like I said, I took notes and I think this was fantastic. I think if you kind of put it all together it’s amazing.

Mike Reinold: So if you’re looking for a job it sounds like we recommend you do this. Connections. Connections first. Lenny started with that. I thought that was awesome. We call it shaking the tree sometimes. Just shake the tree a little bit, see what falls down, send a text out to everybody you know. Emails, Facebook posts. Now is not the time to be worried about your ego. Just say like, “Hey, looking for a job.” Shake that tree. Get as many connections as you can.

Mike Reinold: But as Lisa kind of said, probably now not the time to be picky. Right? You probably need to be willing to go and do something else and make the best out of it. Lisa said that really well. Make the best out of it because there’s tons of learning you can do from all the different fields that you can apply to sports. You know what I call it? I always say this, and I think as a physical therapy student you guys are in a very unique situation right now, I call it your plan A, your plan B, and your plan Z. We talk about this all the time.

Mike Reinold: Your plan A is to work in a sports PT place, right? But you got to plan for everything. Plan B, okay, acute care, home health, I don’t know what it is. Plan Z is probably home health we’ll say, especially in the COVID situation, right? But your Plan B, working in a hospital system, is not bad. That’s not a bad plan, right? There’s really not a terrible situation if your plan Z is just doing some home health. It’s health. It’s really not that bad of a situation, so you’ve got plenty of things you can do.

Mike Reinold: I think Lenny said this here. Volunteer if you can. Right? Go to the clinic that you want that doesn’t have an opening just in your spare time, if you have it, go clean tables. Go put on a mask and gloves and clean tables and be a resource for them so that way they know it’s a no-brainer to hire you afterwards. But, again, probably more than anything else is take this time to better yourself, right? Because a lot of your co-students and your co-graduates are probably just sitting around with their hands, right? They’re sitting around on their hands not doing much, right? But if you can just get as much con-ed in and you can stay in touch with the local clinics around you and say, “I’m dying to get in. Let me know. In the meantime, here’s my plan to be ready for you. I’m going to go through this, this, and this, and it’s going to be amazing.”

Mike Reinold: I think that’ll put yourself in a great position to succeed, right? You’re setting yourself up for success and focusing on bettering yourself. The worst thing you can do is come out of this neutral. Somehow come out of this ahead and I think that’s the only thing you can focus on right now. Right? Make sense?

Mike Reinold: Awesome episode. Great input from everybody in a really timely topic that I think hits home to all of us here because we feel for you. Trust us, we’re all employed here, right? But we’re employed with no patients. Right? Remember this, this is healthcare. Right? There’s going to be a need for healthcare when things open up. It’s not going to go away. Right? Just like Mike said with the statistics, this will open back up and you will get opportunities because it’s healthcare. Right? It’s not like you’re a student for a cruise management system or a cruise management company, right? It’s not like you’re trying to work for Carnival or Norwegian right now, right? There will be PT jobs in a couple of months when things open, so hang in there. Right?

Mike Reinold: Does that make sense? How’s that for a good ending, which is good? I wonder what are attrition rates are over the episode are too? How many people actually catch my last sentence, but keep that in mind we are not-

Mike Scaduto: Hopefully, not the CEO of Norwegian.

Mike Reinold: Right, exactly, but I think when things open up and elective surgeries start coming back this I going to kind of filter itself out a little bit for PT. Great question. Thank you so much, Joe. Good luck to you and the rest of your class and fellow new grads out there. This is a tough time. If you have a question like that, head to, click on the podcast link, and fill out the form to ask us something. Hopefully, we’ll get to it in a future episode. Thanks again. We’ll see you on the next episode.

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