My mind is always blown away when we speak to healthcare professionals about their private practices and how they manage them. In a recent episode of our Moulding Health Show, we spoke to Samantha Harding, a physiotherapist based in Empangeni, South Africa. Managing a private practice is no small feat, but Samantha explains her approach to getting to grips with this complex topic.
Samantha mentioned that she originally wanted to be a cook as she loves to cook and bake. It was her mother that guided her toward a career as a physiotherapist after her brother had fallen ill with pneumonia and needed therapy. Samatha admitted that her mom used to take her to a physiotherapist that worked from home and believed that it was a lovely job for a lady as she got to work from home and could have her kids around her.
Samatha did confess that getting her qualification as a physiotherapist was not easy, and in fact, she was not accepted to the program the first time she applied. She went on to do BSC and used those marks to reapply for the physiotherapy program, again she was not accepted. But fate intervened shortly after that when one of the students quit the program and Samantha was given their slot. Despite being accepted a year later Samatha said it was a blessing in disguise as she was a year older and slightly more mature so she could handle the intense course better.
This again reminded me that becoming a healthcare provider is a blessing and a true calling. You won’t always get in the first or even the second time that you apply, but as its your calling when you are given the opportunity to study what you are passionate about, you appreciate the opportunity so much more.
Once you have completed your degree, there is still work to do before you can practice independently and set up a private practice. Most allied healthcare practitioners have to do a year of community service before they are allowed to practice. For Samantha that year was served in rural Empangeni at the Ngwelezana State Hospital. She told us that it was one of the toughest but most fulfilling years of her career so far. The comradery between the interns was amazing and working in a hospital environment gave her a holistic view of what physiotherapy is. Treating patients in a hospital is very different to in private practice but in that community service year, you learn so much and are able to give back to the community.
Unlike many physiotherapists that have completed their community service, Samantha went straight into private practice. She admitted that although she had loved working in a hospital environment that her passion was directed more towards working with outpatients. For about four years she worked for another physiotherapist where she could gain experience before finally opening her own practice.
Advice for someone thinking of opening a private practice.
We asked Samatha if there was something she wished she had been told before opening a private practice and her answer was something that we have heard so many times before.
She said she wished that there had been more courses or access to talks on how ICD-10 coding works or billing works. Because these things were never covered in a single module while she was studying. She also advised that when starting a private practice it would be a good idea to take a short course on business management and labour law because after all running a private practice is essentially running a business.
One of the best decisions Samantha says she made was that when she started out she immediately hired a receptionist. She is more of a clinician and was glad she chose to have someone to assist her rather than having to man the phone, do the admin and treat patients. By having a receptionist she is able to maintain a therapeutic relationship with her patients while her receptionist is able to handle the admin work as well as have conversations with late payers etc. This keeps the healthcare side and the business side of her practice running smoothly and allows her to concentrate on what she does best which is treating patients.
The other big thing that Samantha recommended when going into private practice was to invest in billing software. Her reasoning was that it saved both herself and her receptionist time when it comes to the day-to-day running of the practice.
Advice for someone thinking of becoming a physiotherapist?
Samantha had this tidbit of information for students getting physiotherapy. It can sometimes be hard because you have to do everything. She admitted that she struggled with paediatrics as it was so far from her special interest. But that she loved neuro physiotherapy because she sees it as a gift to see a patient’s recovery. While studying you’ve got to be able to do everything. All areas of physiotherapy are in your final exam so you need to have a good understanding of each in order to pass.
Once you’ve got the qualification you can choose, to specialise further and create a practice that caters to your specific area of interest.
In closing, Samantha left us with this lovely piece of advice. If you are going to be in private practice or just practice as a healthcare provider or physio just to not stop learning. I think the scariest or most dangerous type of practitioner, is someone who thinks that they know it all. The more that you learn, the more you realise you don’t know. And I think, there’s a lot of value in that continued learning and with the virtual world being what it is, it’s actually so much easier than it was before as well. So there’s really no excuse not to continue learning and to be the best that you can be for your patients.
It was an enlightening experience discussing private practice management with a physiotherapist such as Samantha Harding, and understanding how her career has evolved to the current level.
If you would like to hear more about medical private practice management and uncover other stories like Samantha’s, you can go to https://kitrin.com/medical-practice-management. Many of our clients also prefer to concentrate solely on the medical billing solutions rather than the more comprehensive practice management aspects. In this case, we created a useful resource to guide them through this process – which can be found here https://kitrin.com/medical-billing-solutions.
If you’re a healthcare practitioner or you know of a colleague or loved one that would like to share their knowledge and experiences of being a healthcare practitioner and a special area of interest of theirs, we would love to give them the opportunity to be on our Moulding Health and Moulding Private Practice podcasts. This will not only help the healthcare practitioner with additional referrals to their private practice, but it also helps us as a society learn more from amazing healthcare practitioners. You can contact us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org