The Nonclinical Career Guide Blog And Utilization Reviewer Course

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Phillip Magee, a physical therapist who started out performing direct patient care full time but successfully transitioned into a nonclinical physical therapy job as a utilization reviewer full time!

He shares how his how he made this career transition and how he developed his Nonclinical Utilization Review Course and Nonclinical Career Guide blog to help other physical therapists and occupational therapists make the same transition.

Be sure to give this interview a read!

Hi Phillip! Thanks for agreeing to share your story with the Money Mobilizer community! Can you tell our readers what drew you to the profession of physical therapy?

Phillip Magee Nonclinical Career Guide Utilization Review Course

During my senior year of high school, there was an English project where we had to research a career. I saw the words “Physical Therapy” among the list of careers and thought the name was intriguing. When I told my mom, a med-surg acute care RN, that I was going to look into Physical Therapy she said, “You wouldn’t like that! All they do is walk people!”

Part of my research involved interviewing a Physical Therapist at an outpatient clinic in our town. I began volunteering at that clinic to see if that was the direction I wanted to go. I was fascinated with the Physical Therapist’s ability to improve their clients’ quality of life by the interventions they chose using their knowledge and skills. From that point on I knew I wanted to be a Physical Therapist!

What motivated you to get your GCS?

The main reason was that I believed the board certification was the pinnacle accomplishment of clinical excellence in a given field of Physical Therapy. From the start of my career, I had significant respect for those who had achieved board certification because they typically were confident in their clinical skills and had great outcomes. I chose Geriatrics because of my clinical experiences being primarily in acute care and home health. 

I kept putting it off for many years but finally decided to pursue it soon after my 2nd child was born. While working full-time in home health, I brought it up to my manager to see if they would pay for it. There wasn’t much interest expressed on their part, so before the deadline to apply I gave my 1st really successful big sales pitch! I felt extremely accomplished when they came back and let me know they would pay 100% of it! That was my gateway to seeing I had the ability to sell because I previously had negative associations with sales people.

I am glad I accomplished it, and fortunately I completed the exam a few days before the pandemic hit the US in 2020. I honestly believe it was one of the most difficult tests I have taken.

When did you realize you wanted to explore a non-clinical career option?

Prior to 2020, I genuinely believed I would be a clinician all of my career because I enjoyed helping people get better. I had considered being a professor at various times in my career, but that was the only option I knew of that seemed appealing. 

All that I really knew outside of being a clinician was to become either a manager/director, professor, or researcher. The combination of the pandemic in 2020 and the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) caused major changes in the census of many home health agencies. I saw many posts about how multiple PTs were getting furloughed. Some larger companies were decreasing salaries by 20%. I was very fortunate that I was never furloughed, but I started to see that a “secure” job was not truly secure. 

Later in October of 2020, the home health company I worked for said they weren’t going to cut our pay, but they instead were changing the way productivity would be calculated. It didn’t sound sustainable long term. I have written 3 blogs that go into more detail called “Why I Left Clinical Physical Therapy.” I later made those into my 1st 3 YouTube videos.

Part 1 Blog and Part 1 Video

Part 2 Blog and Part 2 Video

Part 3 Blog and Part 3 Video

What are some of the different types of non-clinical jobs you considered?

The main 2 I considered were Utilization Review and Clinical Rehab Liaison. Utilization Review was intriguing because I enjoyed reviewing charts and many jobs were remote. Since a lot of the preparation for my GCS was trying to find out the best decisions to make on a given case presentation, it appeared to be a great fit. I didn’t realize how competitive it was and after a month of submitting hours of applications, I started to look into Clinical Liaison positions.

I have written a blog on the role of a Clinical Rehab Liaison, but essentially it involves getting people to choose the inpatient rehab one works for to complete their rehab stay. I was interested in that because I had a family member who needed to go to inpatient rehab after a stroke, and I knew what it was like to have to advocate for them to get into rehab.

What is a utilization reviewer?

Someone who helps decide medical necessity to reduce overspending in healthcare. Utilization Review is relatively broad, much like saying “Physical Therapy,” so there are nuances to different roles. For roles performed by therapists, some may include:

  • Inpatient Rehab pre-authorization
  • Skilled Nursing Facility pre-authorization
  • Skilled Nursing Facility concurrent reviews (while the member is at the facility)
  • Home Health authorizations
  • Appeals and Denials
  • Medicaid member authorizations
  • Outpatient therapy authorizations
  • Durable Medical Equipment authorizations

My current title is Pre-Service Coordinator. I review the notes from medical charts of members who have Medicare Advantage plans and synthesize the information for the Medical Director to decide whether they meet criteria for Inpatient Rehab under Medicare Chapter 1 Guidelines.

What do you like most about being a utilization reviewer?

As a husband and father of 2 young children, I like the work-life balance. My job is only while I am paid to work. Once I am off the clock, I don’t:

  • have additional notes to write, 
  • need to call patients to schedule visits, 
  • create home exercise program handouts, 
  • or other tasks I would need to do as a clinician.

Along with the work-life balance, I am 100% remote and able to work anywhere in the United States as long as I maintain HIPAA. That came in handy being able to see out-of-state family members during the holidays! It was the 1st time to not use PTO while staying away from home.

I made a YouTube video covering the Top 4 Pros to Working in Utilization Review

What advice do you have for other PTs and OTs interested in becoming utilization reviewers?

In 2021, I started providing resources under the name Nonclinical Career Guide to help those interested in nonclinical careers since the information available seems quite limited, especially for Utilization Review. 

Phillip Magee Nonclinical Career Guide Utilization Review Course

I recently created a course called Nonclinical Utilization Review, which is meant to be a step-by-step way to successfully apply, interview, get hired and thrive in Utilization Review. It is the only course created exclusively by a Physical Therapist working full-time in Utilization Review.

I do have various blogs that can help provide more details about Utilization Review:

If I were to go back in time, I would have learned how to write a good nonclinical resume from the start. Although getting experience in reviewing charts can be helpful, the most important thing in my opinion is to write a good resume. I have a free e-book Nonclinical Resumes That Get Interviews! I created it because I saw many of the same errors when people would ask me to help them with their resumes.

For those who need more individualized guidance on writing a resume or preparing for an interview, I do offer paid 1-on-1 services that can be booked at https://tidycal.com/nonclinicalcareerguide

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