I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Hunter, a physical therapist who started and successfully runs her own pelvic physical therapy practice!
She shares how her path to becoming a physical therapist specializing in pelvic rehab, how she started her own private pelvic physical therapy practice, and what having her own practice is like.
Be sure to give this interview a read!
Hi Katie! Thanks for agreeing to share your story with the Money Mobilizer community! Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I am a physical therapist specializing in pelvic health. I was born and raised in Southern California and moved back to my hometown to start my family in 2018.
I have one amazing little girl who is my pride and joy and an extremely supportive husband (who is a PT to boot!). Almost every decision I make in my professional life revolves around my family and I am proud to share my journey with you all!
When did you know that you wanted to be a physical therapist?
I decided to apply to PT schools in my last year of college. My undergraduate major was Natural Sciences with an emphasis on pre-physical therapy; basically all of my classes were prerequisites for physical therapy school.
I loved learning about human anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, and all of the course material covered in my athletic training/human sciences classes. Realizing there was a career out there where I could help people recover from injuries without medicine or surgery became my passion. My other passion was dance. By the time I graduated, my goal was to specialize in dance rehabilitation – obviously that changed over the next three years.
When did you know that you wanted to be a PT specializing in pelvic rehab?
My passions were dance and physical therapy. Everything I studied in PT school was with that in mind. When it came time to choose clinical rotations, I spoke with a friend and mentor who recommended that I seek education in pelvic health PT. Research shows that dancers are prone to pelvic floor dysfunction and this could be an asset to my learning and future career. This is what initially led me down the road of specializing in pelvic health.
Did you do any clinical rotations in PT school to gain exposure to pelvic PT?
Yes I did! I actively sought a clinical rotation in pelvic health. I ended up being placed at Womanology + Restore HIM, a private practice in Irvine, California, which was later acquired by Hoag Hospital. I gained invaluable experience treating a broad spectrum of pelvic floor dysfunctions. I was given the rare opportunity to receive hands-on training and learn from real patients. With pelvic health requiring internal exams it is very difficult to find a place that will allow students to work hands-on.
What are some tips you have for PTs looking to specialize in pelvic PT?
I took a pelvic floor course before my clinical rotation at Womanology + Restore HIM. The best advice I received in that course was to do as many pelvic exams on as many different people as possible (with proper consent of course). A big part of what we do is assessing the pelvic floor muscles internally – transvaginally or transrectally. There are standardized tests to assess pelvic floor muscle strength, endurance, and coordination but there really is no standard for assessing the resting tone of the pelvic floor muscles. The best way to understand pelvic floor muscle tone is to know the range that exists and the only way to do this is to get as much experience as possible.
My second piece of advice is to get proper training and mentorship. Continuing education courses and clinical rotations are a great place to start, but receiving ongoing training and mentorship is essential. Pelvic health is always evolving and having a mentor allows you to discuss difficult cases and continue to recognize where further education is needed.
How did you go about looking for your first pelvic PT job?
I was lucky enough to be offered a position with Womanology + Restore HIM after my clinical rotation was completed. I went straight into exclusively treating pelvic health and pelvic floor dysfunctions, which ultimately worked well for me but was very intimidating in the moment.
When did you realize you wanted to start your own private pelvic PT practice?
I started my career in Orange County but knew ultimately I wanted to settle down in Ventura County near my family. Ventura County had very very few options for a pelvic health PT. Most of the clinics out here have one (maybe two) pelvic health PTs working out of an orthopedic clinic. I knew I wanted to work in a place that exclusively treated pelvic health. It ended up being a few years into working that I knew my best option would be to start my own practice.
With such a specialized patient population, how do you make yourself known to your patients?
I make myself/my practice visible on every possible online platform. My website and branding were the biggest expense when I started my business. I knew that I wanted to appear professional and trustworthy to a person searching for pelvic floor treatment.
My website content is very specific to pelvic health which improves my search engine optimization (SEOs) when people are searching related terms. I have learned through my experience in the field that most patients are seeking pelvic health PT on their own because in the U.S. very few providers recommend pelvic PT. So I have put myself in their shoes. I frequently ask patients how they have found me and what they searched online to get to my website. I also educate about pelvic PT on Instagram and can thank my colleagues for doing the same. We are all on the same mission to spread awareness that pelvic PT is a treatment option and encourage patients to seek treatment on their own.
What equipment did you find essential for starting your own private PT practice?
A treatment table, gloves, lubricant, and lotion. I guess a sink, soap, and hand sanitizer are important too (ha!). Putting together my business during a pandemic was a little more challenging since PPE was in high demand. But overall, it takes very little to start a pelvic PT practice. Offering quality patient care is the most important thing. Followed by a space to provide your care in an environment that is inviting and comfortable for your patients.
How would you compare the lifestyle of being an employee versus running your own practice?
Running my own practice has definitely changed the way I view my work. As an employee I cared about patients and took pride in my work, but often was distracted by the elements of my job I could not control. Having autonomy to treat how I want to and when I want to is very important to me. This is how I determined that being self-employed would be a good fit for me.
Now I take a different type of pride in what I do. My main goal is to treat in the most honest and authentic way. Guiding my patients without the distractions of insurance requirements and productivity pressures. This is what quality patient care looks like to me. And I see the benefits of treating this way through patient satisfaction and successful treatment outcomes, which in turn leads to more traffic to my business.
What are some tips you have for PTs looking to start their own private pelvic PT practice?
As I stated previously, have a mentor and community that you trust. You will have many questions and need someone to lean on who you can trust to give you honest feedback. Also make sure you can make yourself visible and searchable. Patients need a way to find you. Lastly, make sure you know your values as a person, a practitioner, and a business owner. A lot of running your own business is making decisions and oftentimes that requires good intuition.
If other pelvic PTs want to reach out to you, where can they find you?
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you’d like to connect! Email is the best method of communication – [email protected]. I am currently active on Instagram @katiehunter_dpt so feel free to send me a message! You can also check out my website and blog by clicking here.