Getting Out of the Physical Therapy Whirlwind

Written by:
Ian Kornbluth
February 1, 2021

Over the years I have spoken with hundreds of physical therapists and practice owners across the nation. I’ve noticed a common theme among them. They’re stuck in some sort of whirlwind with minimal time to grow their practice beyond themselves. Most of them expressed feeling burnt out.

Even those working in a cash-based environment felt this way. But how is that even possible, when they’re only treating 5 to 8 patients per day?

It’s because we, as physical therapists, tend to juggle many balls regardless of the type of clinical environment we're in. That's just who we are as a profession. On a typical day, we handle a full caseload of patients, document our notes, and help oversee administrative functions of the practice. And, on top of it all, we’re expected to build relationships in the local community to get referrals and keep our schedules full.

The Whirlwind

This scenario is all too familiar to me. I felt trapped in my own whirlwind for five very long years. I thought everything would fall apart if I stepped away from the clinic or took any time off.

So I went "cash" in an effort to create more time for myself. But this actually had the opposite effect. I quickly learned that, when patients pay cash for your services, they expect your full undivided attention at all times. They want your eyes and hands to be on them. And, most importantly, they only want to see YOU and no one else. 

While treating patient after patient, I remember thinking that it would be nearly impossible for me to bring on other PTs who could do what I did. I would say, "It's easier just to do the work myself" than to teach others how to do it. So I kept adding more and more patients onto my schedule until I maxed out at 12 cash based appointments a day!

That's when I hit a wall. Everything caught up with me and things in my life began to suffer. I became less productive and less pleasant to be around. I stopped exercising and taking care of myself. Basically I stopped practicing what I preached to my patients.

At this point, the weight of the business was resting heavily on my shoulders. I felt exhausted, trapped and completely alone. Then I began experiencing health issues from the constant stress and lack of sleep. I remember saying to myself, “How could I possibly help anyone else when I couldn’t even help myself?” I knew that something had to give. I had to learn how to let go.

Learning to Let Go

As I was steadily approaching rock bottom, I came to the realization that I would never be able to grow the practice beyond myself if I wasn't willing to let go. So here are the steps I took…

Step 1: Asking for help

The first step was accepting the fact that I couldn’t do everything on my own. I had to ask my staff for help. I could oversee the practice from a high level, but I shouldn’t micromanage others. Essentially I had to start acting like a CEO.

Step 2: Creating a system

I documented everything I did on a daily basis and put it into a system with step-by-step processes that others could follow. I carefully dissected each part of the customer service experience to make sure that nothing was missed.

Step 3: Hiring, Training and Delegating

Most of my time was spent hiring and training teammates to do what I did. I had to make sure they could follow the system and execute the processes without me having to look over their shoulders.

Step 4: Trusting Others

As I got the system, processes, and people in place, it became far easier for me to let go. I didn’t feel the pressure to juggle as many balls because I trusted others to catch them.

The more I delegated, the smaller my whirlwind got. The more I let go, the more my practice grew.

Today, Activcore is no longer dependent on any one person. It's more about a brand, culture, mission and vision that we all feel connected to. It has become something much larger and more meaningful than I could have ever done on my own.

Getting Out of the Whirlwind

Is your practice more about YOU than about a system and team? Are you having to extinguish administrative “fires” on a daily basis? Are you up late at night documenting treatment notes? Are you not able to enjoy life outside of the office? Are you worried that the clinic will fall apart if you step away for a day or two? Are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed and/or burned out? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re probably stuck in a whirlwind.

Take a step back and focus on what really needs to be done to streamline and grow your practice. Rather than working harder with just your two hands, think about ways to work smarter by teaching and empowering the hands of others. Only then will you be able to let go and grow.

Check out my next blog post explaining why conventional PT doesn't work and how Activcore is different.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

Ian Kornbluth

Co-Founder & CEO | Physical Therapist
Ian's entrepreneurial spirit stems from growing up in Arizona around the family business, a small chain of pizzeria restaurants. Essentially they were among the first to bring New York style pizza to the Valley of the Sun. Early on in life, Ian learned how to treat the customer like a person rather than a number. He observed how the community came together to support an establishment that offered both quality food and an exceptional customer service experience. He also learned to appreciate the levels of commitment and perseverance that it took to pioneer something.


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