Career Story: Vice President Of An Outpatient Rehabilitation Agency

Vice President Of An Outpatient Rehabilitation Agency

Job Title: Vice President/Principal

Type of Company: My company is an outpatient rehabilitation agency consisting of four outpatient clinics. We specialize in neurologic rehabilitation (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, case management) for people who have sustained acquired brain injury (i.e. traumatic brain injury, stroke, anoxic injury) or other neurologic disorders. We also treat people with orthopedic and/or musculoskeletal injuries/disorders.

Education: BS in Nursing, Boston College •• MBA, Bentley College

Previous Experience: Worked in medical/surgical nursing early in my career; taught nursing in a hospital diploma program for three years; worked in a rehabilitation hospital network for 17 years, as a liaison nurse for the first year then, as director of admissions/liaison for 14 years, then as vice president inpatient services.

Job Tasks: As a small business of approximately 52 employees, I share the day to day overall management responsibilities with my two business partners, and although we each have specific roles/tasks for which we are responsible, there are certainly areas that overlap.

My main role is marketing, public relations, community outreach, referrals, and contracting. I spend much of my time in the health care community, visiting and meeting with our regular referral sources in order to educate them about our services and systems, garner new referrals, obtain feedback from them, and sometimes, troubleshoot problems. I attend healthcare provider meetings in order to identify and cultivate new referral sources for referrals to our business, as well as new resources to which our own staff may refer patients. I exhibit at healthcare conferences/symposiums for our business approximately 8-10 times per year locally and regionally, occasionally nationally; I attend these conferences as well, and sometimes speak at them. I have mentored and engaged our clinical staff to speak and present at these conferences as well.

I have overall responsibility for every patient referral that is made to our business, and have a full-time referral coordinator with whom I am in daily contact. Our goal is to process the patient referrals as efficiently as possible which includes obtaining clinical information; communicating with patients/their families, physicians and case managers; going onsite at hospitals to meet patients and assess their appropriateness for our services; clarifying insurance coverage and working with payers; getting patients scheduled. I work with each clinic supervisor in this effort as well, to insure that we maintain our budgeted census goals, while still providing individualized and personalized treatment.

I am also the nurse for our clinics, and as such, am frequently called upon to assist in assessing and managing clinical issues that arise. I am also the Fire/Safety/Risk Management person for our company. This entails overseeing staff in monthly safety audits, safety compliance, coordinating safety agency inspections, and holding annual meetings which tie this all together. I handle any workers comp claims that might arise with our staff, as well as processing any unusual occurrences in the clinics, always looking for ways that we can continually keep our environments safe for patients and staff alike. I am also the supply ordering/purchasing "queen" of the company.

With my partners, we jointly run various levels of staff meetings as well as oversee staff performance reviews. We actually write the reviews for all of our management staff, front desk staff, and referral coordinators. The three of us work collaboratively to develop and implement our annual budget, as well as to insure that we are on track each month, or, to determine if adjustments need to be made.

No two days are quite the same in our small business venture, and there are numerous other tasks that simply come up, and must be dealt with. Last week,for instance, I negotiated with our plumber at one site relative to a problem. On another day, I was in constant communication with our computer systems guy as our email system crashed. There are always ongoing tasks relative to recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training that the three partners share. We have continuous timelines for our ongoing compliance with our certifications and accreditations that must always be met. And, the three of us always have our eyes and ears open for new opportunities, as well as new threats to our business.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Best parts: We honestly have a wonderful group of staff who help to make our business successful. My partners and I have known each other for almost 30 years, and although we are each different and often disagree, we can come back together and look at what is best for the business and still be friends at the end of the day. Being in control of one's business is obviously a big plus versus working for someone else. Being able to get things done quickly and make decisions without multiple endless levels of approval is a great plus.

Worst Parts: Having your own business makes it tough to separate and not feel it with you 24/7 - I have had to really learn to "let it go" at the end of the day and know that the issues will still be there tomorrow. When problems arise, the buck stops with "you" in a small business venture. Trying to do it all and not having ever enough time can be frustrating at times. Small businesses really do not get the credit or the amount of support and financial incentives provided to large corporations - this can be one of the more frustrating elements. Finally, although it has not happened too often, it is always disconcerting to have poor staff performers who, despite our best efforts, cannot or do not improve, and need to be terminated. Letting a staff person go is always a tough thing to do.

Job Tips:
1. If you are considering starting a small business, learn as much as you can from as many sources as possible first so you enter with your eyes wide open. Visit other small business owners in your field and talk to them (be sure you do the same later for others when your business has succeeded!).

2. Research and line up who you will use for such services as accounting, payroll, insurance, etc. Check them out carefully.

3. Have a vision as to what you want your business to look like in 1-3 years, then 5-10 years.

4. Take advantage of college/university programs that offer courses on small business development.

5. Even if starting out small, hire the very best people you can afford, and treat them well.....even if you cannot pay them a great deal initially, there are many other ways to reward and develop loyalty.

Additional Thoughts: I think that the most important qualities for succeeding in a small business are perseverance and tenacity, learning to be a creative problem solver, hard work (absolutely), making and keeping a wide range of business connections and contacts, always/always/always try to thank people who help you along the way and doing the same for those coming up behind you. Also, do not be afraid to learn things way outside you comfort level. Take some calculated risks. Do not forget to have fun along the way!

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