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Learning Objectives


  • Compare and contrast the qualifications of healthcare managers with prior clinical experience with those having academic degrees in some branch of management and no clinical experience.

  • Discuss the pros and cons of career ladders that include formal managerial responsibilities.

  • Determine the role of mentoring physical therapists (PTs) as they transition from clinical to managerial roles.

  • Discuss the relationship of direct patient care skills and management skills of physical therapists, regardless of their job titles.

  • Determine the typical responsibilities of mid-level and executive managers in healthcare settings.

  • Determine the types of managerial opportunities across different types of healthcare organizations.

  • Discuss the need for new managers to possess communication skills, a sense of perspective, and industriousness.

  • Determine the need for and appropriateness of delegation.

  • Distinguish between a manager's horizontal and vertical communication skills.

  • Discuss contemporary issues presented to healthcare mid-level managers that affect patient care outcomes including the nature of work, a diverse workforce, planning, and financial reporting.

  • Discuss the challenges to the physical therapy profession in defining and promoting the managerial role of physical therapists in healthcare organizations.

Management Opportunities

All healthcare organizations provide physical therapists with many opportunities to pursue a range of management roles. For example, physical therapists may:

  • assume all managerial roles in businesses they own

  • become frontline supervisors of a single practice within a large, national rehabilitation corporation

  • manage several practices as area or regional managers in a large rehabilitation corporation

  • manage units of large healthcare organizations

  • manage rehabilitation field operations of staff who are not physically in the same locations in home-care organizations and school systems

As part of their professional development, physical therapists may rise through the levels of management in healthcare organizations. In all types of healthcare settings, even new graduates often take on the duties of a unit supervisor or a team leader soon after graduation. Often, success in these positions quickly leads to promotions to mid-level management (positions that are typically defined as one level above the line workers and professionals and two levels below the CEO1).

Physical therapists may move from their professional roles in patient care to their first managerial positions without much preparation for their new duties. It is certainly common for many organizations to identify "rising stars" from among their ranks for direct, front-line supervisory roles. These new supervisors are often expected to automatically transfer their strong patient care skills to practice management. They are typically successful because even novice physical therapists are prepared to solve unique problems, implement plans, and communicate effectively.

With this experience and additional managerial training or education, many supervisory physical therapists seek to move up to mid-level management. Healthcare organizations typically require that some mid-level managers, and their upper-level managers, have degrees in management rather than clinical experience In fact, many of them offer in-house training or tuition deferment ...

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