TJ2: What Career Options Do We Have as Rehab Professionals? 041

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About Career Transitions as a Rehab Professional

This is the second solo episode of the Transition Journey (TJ) series. Are you considering a career transition but you don’t know what your options are as a rehab professional? Whether you’re feeling stuck in a stressful work environment or simply seeking a new challenge in your career, this episode serves as a comprehensive guide to navigating career transitions in the rehab profession.

Tanner shares his experience transitioning out of a poor work environment. He talks about the challenges he faced, including a tuition reimbursement program that made him feel trapped in an already stressful workplace. Despite these challenges, Tanner managed to successfully transition to a more fulfilling role.

Based on his experience and the experience of the guests he has interviewed over the years, he covers the 4 fundamental career categories and the top 25 careers that rehab rebels are transitioning into as well as other guests have done. You will learn the pros and cons of these career transitions that might have slipped under your radar.

Overall, Tanner provides a detailed discussion on the depth of career transitions, shedding light on his personal journey from a stressful work environment to a more fulfilling career path. This episode is valuable for anyone contemplating different career transitions in the rehab profession.



Intro 00:01

Welcome to the Rehab Rebels podcast. Are you a rehab professional ready to transition to an alternative career? Hear inspiring stories from others just like you and learn the best ways to bridge your career gap. This podcast has you covered. Now here’s your host, doctor of physical therapy and podcaster, Tanner Wells. 

Tanner 00:20

Hey, rehab Rebels, welcome back to another episode. In this episode, we’re going to talk about what career options we have when leaving a poor work environment, and I’m going to share my experience with my transition, transitioning out of a poor work environment into a better one. So this episode is for listeners who may be in a job or role that they can’t stand anymore, know that they have to get out of, and want to know what their career options are. I’ll share my transition story with you and we’ll break down what I learned, what I would do differently, and how the experience changed me. We’ll also cover what I consider the four fundamental career categories and talk briefly about a couple of different career settings that you may or may not have thought of, breaking down some of the pros and cons of those, and touch on the top 25 careers that rehab professionals are transitioning into, as well as what other rehab Rebel guests have done, and maybe a thing or two about what may be keeping you back or holding you back preventing from making this career lifestyle transition or change. I’m going to go ahead and just wrap the bat, answer the question of this episode, which is what career options we have as rehab professionals, and I’m going to say that you can go into nearly anything that you want and your heart desires, and it’s a better question is well, what can’t we transition into? Because there are so many different career options and transitions that many of the rehab Rebel guests have made and many previous rehab professionals have done. So a bigger question to this is honestly, what do you want to do? What do you want? A little nugget here is that I’ve learned it can be just as effective to ask yourself what you don’t want. 


For me, something that I fear for myself and for other rehab professionals is I don’t want to make a career or lifestyle change and transition and honestly end up being in the same place that I am now, or repeating myself. In other words, I don’t want to make a transition without really thinking it through, answering some very personal fundamental questions and just repeating myself being in the same position or resulting in being in the same position that I was prior in a work environment. That was just not healthy. It wasn’t good and I don’t want that to happen again, and so that’s something that I worry about for me and I am going to share in solo episodes to calm some things that I’ve learned and some experiences I’ve had experiences other people have had that I want to share, to keep you from making those same mistakes and see about getting you where you want to go with your life and your career. 


Without further ado, let’s jump into this personal transition story that I have. That I mentioned in the previous episode was in a very stressful work environment that was getting worse. My health was being sacrificed, we had a pay cut and I was doing more work because a PTA left. I just tried to talk to them about it that nothing was ever changed. It was just a bad situation and I knew that this is just how it was if I was going to stay here, so I came to the conclusion that I knew I had to get out. 


But what I realized and what the dilemma was with this particular company, which is my first PT company I worked for, they offered a tuition reimbursement program. So yay, great, more money to pay off tuition. Well, in the fine print, they give this to you a year in advance. What that means is, if you leave, you have to pay back at least up to a year’s worth of what they’ve already paid you in this tuition reimbursement program. So I just felt super trapped after realizing this. I did not want to have to pay back any money that they already gave me, and so the only solution I saw at the time was to just tell them that I no longer want to accept this tuition reimbursement and just to wait it out a year and then leave at that time. That way I wouldn’t have to owe any money back and we would be clear and good to go. But what actually happened was I did do that, I did tell them this and they stopped paying me the tuition reimbursement. 


I want to say about four months, five months in, there was another contract company that reached out to me directly and were inquiring about me coming to work for them. I was: could this really be the way out? Right off the bat, I told them that it was going to take a lot for me to leave this company, this very first contract company, with the poor work environment. I said that because I was at the higher pay range of my career. Working for a contract company tends to be in the higher pay and I was. I just told them it was going to take a lot for me to leave right off the bat. They wanted me to cover an area that was a couple hours away but I was familiar with. I actually did my undergrad there at Fort Hayes State University in Hayes, kansas. They also wanted me to work with some of the same home health companies and agencies that I was already working with at my first contract company at the first PT job I had. This actually put me in a really good place to negotiate because, a I already had experience working in home health and, b I was already working with the home health agencies that I would be working with in this new job or role from this second contract company. 


I had the experience. I already had some of this fundamental rapport and a relationship established with the players involved, the nurses and the agencies and things like that, I was able to negotiate a deal, and part of that actually was me bringing to their attention that if I left, I’d have to owe back some money for this tuition reimbursement, and so what they agreed to do was give me a sign-on bonus to help cover for this, which I didn’t even think about before and, due to COVID, when I was only working one day a week because of everything that was going on. I also negotiated to be in a salary position to keep that from happening, and what I did was I took this as a sign from the universe and just was: yes, let’s do this, and we agreed on everything. I was happy with it. They were, and I let my first PT contract company know about it. 


But what ended up surprising me was the rehab manager. The rehab director ended up talking with me. We had a discussion prior to leaving and it was actually about the tuition reimbursement and she ended up saying: hey, don’t worry about it, you don’t have to pay back the tuition reimbursement. And it was her call and she had the right to do that. I was shocked and blown away, because I based my career transition on this and it was all wrapped around money and come to find out it just got dropped. It totally vanished and disappeared and it was just a huge shock and surprise for me during this transition. So with that let’s break down what I learned. What I learned was that not everything is clear, cut or set in stone when it comes to leaving a company, necessarily, and starting a new company. 


There’s some wiggle room there, as was revealed with this story that I shared with you. Also, I had more options than I realized because of what happened. I didn’t even think about a company paying off my tuition reimbursement debt as a sign-on bonus, but I didn’t really consider before. So that was an eye-opener. And something also that I realized was, if you do your job well, take care of your patients, communicate well with the healthcare individuals professionals involved and get documentation done on time and really deliver on what your job is and you’re able to be self-sufficient and reliable, that over time Word on the Street’s going to get out there about you, especially if you are in a hard-to-staff market. And I was in the middle of nowhere Kansas. So that was an eye-opener. And to this day I don’t even know how the second contract company even got my personal email account and directly reached out to me. But I’m really grateful that they did and it just goes to show that if you put in the work and you do a good job, that it’ll get out there and it’ll pay off. What I would do differently, I think what I would have done honestly is after realizing that bonus situation and using that to pay off any of the tuition debt that I owed the tuition program debt I would have started looking at transitioning out sooner instead of waiting the year for that time to pass, setting it up basically that way: hey, if I leave, I’m going to have to pay this debt, can we set up a program or can we set up a bonus for me to help pay this off so I can come work for you for another company? 


And how the experience changed me was is it gave me more confidence to negotiate my income, because I was in this position with prior experience working for some of the same players that I would be working for this new company and I already knew some of the drawbacks and flaws of this first contract company and how they were set up and their systems and the players involved. So it really set me up for a good position to be in to negotiate this new deal for the new company. It also set me up to because of how bad it was the first company to establish some of my what I consider non-negotiable, what I’m willing and not willing to tolerate working for a healthcare company as a physical therapist and I have a reference that I will provide at the end of the episode for you If you want to learn more about non-negotiables. Also. This is a huge one from the experience, how it changed me. It really made me look at the kinds of companies that I work for differently because it really matters. Is the company that I work for going to listen to me? Are they going to work with me and try to solve issues together? Are they going to invest in me and are we going to work together? Something that I realized also is the management involved really matters too. Is your manager or somebody who has open communication you can come to and address issues? Are they willing to talk to you and work something out and listen to you? Do they come back on what they say they’re going to do? if they say they’re going to get back to you on something, do they do that? Or they just never get back to you and let it fall to the wayside? Some of these things are pretty big and fundamental. That I learned from my first company in the transition to this other contract company. It’s just been a pretty big eye-opener when it comes to working in the health field and deciding who you want to work with. 


Let’s go ahead and answer just briefly here what are some ways you can get out of this particular poor work environment and this situation we’re talking about in this episode. If you tried to address everything and nothing seems to get better and or it’s getting worse, some options are you can always look for a full-time job. If that’s not a quick and easy way, how it? If nothing comes together, you can also either work part-time or PRN just to help stay afloat and keep some of the income coming in to support yourself. I actually talked to health care professionals who only work PRN because they don’t want to be put in positions to be overworked and stressed out and they actually have a say and no, I can’t take anymore. And there’s really no pressure because they’re in a PRN position. Drawback of that can be there may not be a secure, steady stream of income, but that does depend on the setting and talking with that particular company and the manager and who’s hiring you to see what they can do for you. 


Another option is you can just quit. You don’t have to work there anymore. Ideally, at least for me. If I was going to quit, I’d want to make sure that I had a financial blanket, some safety net there to at least be able to hold me through, to be able to find a job or some other streams of income and keep me financially afloat there. 


Let’s go back up and talk about what I consider the four fundamental career categories. No matter what you do, it’s going to fall into one of these four categories and you only have to answer two very important questions to determine which category you are in or want to be in. The first one is do you want to work in patient care or not? Do you want to be in clinical care or nonclinical care? The second question do you want to work for yourself or do you want to work for somebody else? Depending on how you answer those two questions, you will be put in one of those four buckets. I will be releasing content in the future just a forecast here on business topics and, if you’re interested in creating a business, different topics around that in the future. But we’re just taking one step at a time on this transition, taking an episode by episode, and we’ll get there in the future. 


Some simple things to consider is if you’re wanting to stay in the health profession and use your experience and license. You just want to get out of where you are now in this poor work environment. You can try a different company. It was actually a night and day difference. I had a really just awesome manager, melody, and she was great. It was just way better than my experience with the first company. It made all the difference. We were able to talk through things. They were communicating with me, letting me know what was going on. They weren’t trying to keep me in the dark. It was great. I really really appreciate that, whereas the first company we were often left in the dark and it was this is what corporate says, this is how it is and there is no negotiation. There really was not a lot of back information to understand really what was going on. We were limited on what we were told, which I didn’t like at all. So working for a different company is an option. You can also try a different setting and, as I mentioned, we’ll talk about a couple of different settings here. 


Just go briefly into the pros and cons that may not be as common. The first one is home health, which I have experience working in and still work in home health. Some of the pros for working in home health is you get to make your own schedule, so you have a flexible schedule and you don’t have somebody looking over your shoulder, over your back all the time or micromanaging you. You are set out with a task and things to do and you’re your own person and manage your own days and get to create your own schedules. So some cons of home health are there is no personal co-worker interactions. Everything isn’t over the phone and it’s not working in a clinic where you, you know, have other colleagues to just chit chat with and or bounce ideas off of or get some feedback on. It’s all done over the phone. There is no interaction in person. Working in the home health setting. There’s also not a lot of direct support because of that, which may or may not be Something that you’re looking for, depending on what you’re, where you’re at and where you’re going. And also, I would say, a con is you have to make your own schedule as well, which means you have to call all these patients, set up your schedule, work with them, work around their schedules and their doctor’s appointments and Drive out and see them, and you’re also driving a lot, depending on the coverage area. I have calculated where I cover roughly a 16,000 square mile area. At times it’s quite a lot of coverage and drive time but you know, if you don’t mind driving in the car and All that, then you should be okay. 


So the second other Career settings, a different career setting, is travel therapy. So I’ve talked with guests about this and heard both pros and cons so we’ll go through some of the pros. You can take breaks between contracts, so say you only do two or three contracts the whole year, then you get the rest of the time off. Or you can take breaks in between contracts if you want to do some traveling. Also, if you don’t like where you’re at and the first contract company, you don’t have to renew your contract, you can just pack up and leave. So that’s a nice perk of some of the pros for travel therapy. It’s also often a higher pay and you get diverse options to work in if you choose. You can choose the same, the same settings or you can try a bunch of different settings through the different contracts for around three months. I believe this is how the contracts are set up so you can test and feel which ones you like, and you don’t have to stay if you don’t want to, and it forces you to be pretty independent and figure things out on your own. 


So this can be. I consider it a pro, because you’re learning, you’re growing, you’re challenging yourself and you’re figuring out what you like and you don’t like as a rehab professional. You know what work settings you like, patients you like to work with, etc. Some of the cons are is you’re not settled. You’re always, you know, looking for housing or jobs and it can be hard to specialize, say, if you want to specialize in hand therapy, for example and it can be lonely. You’ve been away from family always. Always happen to start a new social circle over every time you move or start a new contract or make friends every time you move, and there’s also the potential for you to run into to scammers when dealing with applying for new travel contracts or finding housing, things like that. And it’s often very glamorous on social media, but it’s not necessarily for everybody. So just some pros and cons on Travel therapy. 


All right, let’s get to the top 25 career transitions list. This is a list of careers that Many rehab professionals have transitioned into and we’ll just start at the top and I’m on a list down academia, slash education, clinical success and account management, administration. Slash management, slash operations, case management. Slash care coordination, clinical health, informatics, clinical rehab liaison, clinical trainer slash specialist compliance. Slash quality assurance, consulting, health coaching and wellness, home modification and universal design, marketing and communications, medical science liaison, and occupational health. On entrepreneurship, project product and program management, public health, recruiting, rehab technology, research, sales and business development, telehealth, user experience like a UX designer, utilization, review and content writing. So that’s the top 25 careers list. 


Next we’ll discuss some of the rehab professional guests and what they’ve done and again it’s really looking at well, what haven’t they done? Because they’ve gone in so many different directions. They transitioned to clinical settings, non-clinical settings, creating their own business in the clinical setting, creating their own business in the non-clinical setting. It’s great. I love talking to people about this and learning and sharing what I’ve learned. It’s really just about creating the lifestyle and the career that you want and ideally creating a more for me lifestyle of freedom and lifestyle about design. 


Some of the transitions that they have made, many have actually used their license and their experience to create their own practices treating patients. Several have done that and all the different rehab settings. For example, Mike, a physical therapist, in episode 11, he moved to Scotland to teach in a physical therapy setting. Angela, an OT, in episode 19. She works in kinship care and does research. Monica in episode 28, she’s a PT. She became an author and content writer, and there are just so many different things that you can do that are possible. The proof is in the pudding. These people have done it. The rehab rebel guests have done it, and you can do it too. So I encourage you, you can go on the website and filter these down by profession PT, OT and speech and the future will filter it down to those that have created businesses in the clinical setting and the non-clinical setting, to make a little bit easier to see options there too, based on those four fundamental categories we mentioned earlier. 


What is next? Some things that may be keeping us back and stuck where we are. Something that has come up, and more than once on the podcast, is the sunken cost fallacy, and what this is is a cognitive bias that makes us feel as if we should continue pouring money, time or effort into a situation since we’ve already sunk so much into it already. This perceived sunken cost makes it difficult to walk away from the situation, since we don’t want to see our resources wasted. So when falling prey to this sunken cost fallacy, the impact of loss feels worse than the prospect of gain. So we keep making decisions based on past cost instead of future costs and benefits. For me, how I would describe this and explain this is a mindset shift into focusing instead of on the past costs, focusing instead on the future costs and benefit, of making a change out of something instead of deciding to stay in it because we’ve already invested so much time and money and resources into it. That has come up several times with guests that I’ve talked to and individuals I’ve talked to in the past. So something to be aware of. 


Another thing I thought was interesting that may be beneficial is fundamental question is is it worth staying at a job you hate or a profession you don’t like? And I’m going to provide a visual resource of our mortality. It really puts it in perspective at the end of the episode where you can go and see the visual aspect of each of our mortalities. Also, something else that is important is the non-negotiables, because I think every healthcare position at least at some point will push you to your limits and even past your limits. So the non-negotiables is setting boundaries for yourself, and it’s okay to say no and stand up for yourself. I would say if the at least for me, if the company that you’re working for does not respect your boundaries and your non-negotiables, then long term I don’t see it working out. So I think it’s important to know where your boundaries are, so you know when enough is enough, and I’ll share a resource at the end there for that as well. 


Also, I think for me, change is very uncomfortable and it’s very scary, but it’s also a fundamental part of life and it’s how we grow. For me, it’s who I am. Anytime a change is coming or I need to make a decision, I try to look at it from all different kinds of angles and just analyze it, basically trying to set myself up to increase the opportunity for success and decrease the risk for failure. And sometimes, at least for me, what I can get into is analysis, is paralysis, so getting into a position where I actually don’t end up making a decision because I end up overanalyzing everything and it just delays everything and I don’t actually make a decision. And there are some situations in life where it really doesn’t matter how much information you have, enough, it’s not going to be enough to guarantee success on the other end of that change or that leap of faith, and the only way to know for sure is just to do it and do the best we can to reduce the risk of a poor outcome and increase the odds of a good outcome. So yeah, with that the closing here. I’ll go ahead and mention that those references, the non-negotiable is actually a book the story of Happy State Bank and the power of accountability by Sam Silverstein. You can go directly to the book if you just type slash non-negotiable takes you right there. And the question of is it worth staying at a job you don’t like or maybe even hate, or really not sure what you want to do with your life and trying to see maybe a little bit more clarity regarding immortality and how much time you have left. There’s a really good visual that is on this website. So provides weekly, monthly and yearly visuals of each of our mortalities, based on our date of birth, and I can help put some things into perspective. 


So, with the closing here today, I invite you to click that subscribe button so you don’t miss any of these solo episodes that are coming out, and I’m trying to talk with more listeners to better understand the depth of this community, and maybe yourself are looking to leave a clinical job or start your own business. How I can help you is by, you know, thinking through your next career move together, acting as a soundboard, discussing where you’re at, and what are your goals, and if I can provide any insights or tips, I’d be happy to help with that. So feel free to reach out. Would love to hop on a discovery call and talk about any and all that with you. You can connect with me either on Instagram, at rehabrebelspodcast, and send me a DM, a direct message there, or you can go to slash contact and send me a message there. There’s also on the homepage,, the far right there’s a tab to click contact and it’ll take you to that same place. 


So what is coming up next? The next episode’s topic is: What is your why? I’ll explain a little bit more behind that and what that actually means, and I will share how I ended up living in my parents’ basement one year after graduating PT School and still hadn’t taken the boards at that time, and what was actually one of the lowest points in my life. So I will share that with you and, as always, thank you so much for listening. The goal is that these episodes and content were helpful and I will see you in the next episode. Take care. 

Outro 26:07

Thank you for listening to the Rehab Rebels podcast. If this podcast was useful, make sure to hit that subscribe button and leave a review. For more information about transitioning to alternative careers, head to or follow us on Instagram at rehabrebelspodcast. We’ll see you next time. 

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