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For many physical therapy new grads, the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is the last hurdle standing between them and a long, fulfilling career as a licensed physical therapist. And it’s a relatively tall hurdle—one that typically requires months of dedicated preparation to clear. On that note, how you prepare can make all the difference. Here are my suggestions: 

1. Make a plan.

My biggest piece of advice is to have a study plan. I find that when I don’t have a plan, I will start studying the shoulder, then something will spark me to look at the brachial plexus, then I’ll move over to the hand of benediction—and before I know it, my shoulder day is wasted! Sound familiar?

Having a daily plan is crucial to staying organized. And once you have a plan, stick to it. At the end of each week, review your plan and see how well you adhered to it. Did you miss anything? This makes it easier to ensure you’ve checked all the boxes and covered all the content you needed to cover. Back when I was studying for the NPTE, I had anxiety about missing things, and it caused me to lose sleep. Once I introduced some structure and knew exactly what I needed to study each day, that anxiety went away—and I was able to get a good night’s rest. This was a game changer for me.

2. Set achievable goals.

PTs set goals for their patients all the time. Setting study goals is no different. Whether you’re treating a patient or preparing for a test, goals—specifically, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed) goals—are crucial to making and measuring progress. For instance, if I am lining up to take a practice exam this week, and my previous practice exam score was 60%, then I am not going to set a goal of 90% for my next practice test—that’s just not realistic. Instead, my goal for the next exam is simply to improve.

After all, if I set a goal of 90% and I do not hit it, then I am going to react negatively—even if I increased my practice test score by, say, 15%. The same goes for setting study goals. It is unrealistic to give yourself a goal of studying the whole musculoskeletal system in a week. Instead, break your study goals down into more realistic pieces.

3. Vary your content.

At PT Final Exam, we strongly encourage people to study from the core text books—not just the review guides. The NPTE is written based on the same core physical therapy textbooks you are thinking about burning! So, put away that lighter, and instead use these books to prep for the exam. But, don’t merely stare at pages of text for hours at a time—especially if you’re a visual learner like me. If you can break up the monotony and vary your approach, you will see content in different ways, and you’ll have a better chance of finding something that sticks. To help, we’ve created free video and audio resources for you on our YouTube channel and our podcast, the NPTE podcast.

4. Use your time wisely.

We are all terribly busy, and sometimes, life gets in the way of the best laid plans. Making the most of your time using a power session can be helpful. You might say, “What the heck is a power session?” I’m glad you asked! A power session is when you pick a topic and read out loud or into your phone for 20 minutes. You can read from your notes, from your textbook, or both. Once your 20 minutes is up, get outside! Do you like to run or walk? Put in your headphones and listen to what you just recorded while being active. When you get back, spend 20 minutes teaching someone what you just learned! We remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, and 90% of what we teach. Now that is a productive 60 minutes!

5. Practice and learn.

Research shows that one of the absolute best ways to get information to stick in your head for test day is to take practice examinations. Practice exams are meant to mimic the style and format of the actual test.

We get asked all the time what the best practice exam schedule is. Honestly, it depends a lot on the number of practice exams that are available to you. We’ve seen people who have used most of the available practice exams fail the real exam. If you only have a few practice options available, be sure to space them out so you can access them at even intervals.

Because taking a practice exam is time-consuming, I’d recommend scheduling only one per week—at most. That’s because, to get the full value of the practice exam, you must not only finish and score it, but also spend a reasonable amount of time reviewing the exam content. I’ve seen too many students neglect to review their practice exams—only to get the exact same score on the next one. This is simply because they did not learn anything from their prior attempt.

6. Get the help you need.

We tend to isolate ourselves as we prepare for a large exam like the NPTE. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental, because it prevents you from encountering new ways of thinking about the content—and you miss out on the accountability that comes with being part of a study group. One of the most popular things we’ve done at PT Final Exam is implement our Crash Course series. This is a series of six mini courses on the main systems that are tested on the NPTE. Applicable to PTs and PTAs alike, these crash-courses deliver the exact content you need when you need it. In fact, we’ve nicknamed them the “Crush Courses” because they’ll help you crush the NPTE!

The NPTE might seem scary, but at the end of the day, it’s just a test—and a little planning goes a long way toward helping you get the most out of your study efforts. If you’re currently prepping for the NPTE, what questions do you have? If you’ve already passed it, what advice do you have for those who haven’t taken it yet? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

Will Crane, PT, DPT, OCS, is an NPTE expert and respected speaker and educator in the field of physical therapy. Dr. Crane started PT Final Exam in 2012 with the goal of providing excellent NPTE preparation courses in a compassionate and professional environment. Since then, Will has been involved in numerous university programs and has trained more than 10,000 PTs and PTAs on the way. To learn more about the test prep resources PT Final Exam offers—as well as group and cohort discounts—email him at


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2020 has heralded wave upon wave of change for rehab therapy practice owners, but one thing remains a constant: the need to keep existing patients actively engaged and bring new patients through the door. Whether you’re in the early stages of reopening your clinic or looking to ramp up business, putting together a marketing plan that’ll get you to the next step is absolutely essential. Here’s the good news: accomplishing this isn’t nearly as difficult—or expensive—as you might think. To prove it, I present you with seven budget-friendly ways to promote your clinic’s brand and boost patient volume. Let’s get started!

1. Website

Having a website is critical in this day and age for a number of reasons, perhaps the most important being that it helps you show up on search engine results pages (SERPs)—which means patients are more likely to find you. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, nearly eight in 10—or 77%—of online health seekers say they began their search using online search engines (e.g., Google, Bing, or Yahoo).

One thing to note: Your clinic’s Facebook page should not take the place of a website. Although it’s ideal to have social media accounts in addition to your website (more on that in a bit), they do not offer the same credibility, control over your brand, or ability to own and track your patient leads as websites do. It’s also worth noting that with more than 60 million active business pages on Facebook, it can be hard for yours to cut through the noise—especially considering that the typical Facebook user has liked 50% more pages since 2016. With a website, you’re more likely to have someone’s undivided attention, and on a platform that you control.

If you don’t have a website yet, fear not!, Squarespace, and Wix all have novice-friendly templates and various pricing options to satisfy any budget. To suss out each platform’s pros and cons, check out our complete guide to building a clinic website.

2. Google My Business

Google My Business is a free tool companies can use to reach local customers via Google search and Google Maps. When you create a profile, you can manage how your clinic appears to prospective patients searching on Google. You can add photos, respond to reviews, and post your hours and services. It’s an easy way to make your clinic stand out from the rest—and in this day and age, it’s pretty much essential.  

It’s also incredibly easy to set up. All you have to do is create a Google account using your business’s email address. Then, go to Google My Business and click “Manage Now.” From there, locate your practice by name or address to start managing your clinic’s digital presence and increase its visibility.

Check out this helpful blog post to learn how to fully reap the benefits of your Google My Business profile.

3. Social Media

Social media has become an important tool for getting your name out there. According to Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group, 41% of healthcare consumers said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility. In short, if you’re not on social media, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with prospective patients.

Instead of scrambling to ramp up your social media presence on four or five different platforms, we suggest starting with one or two. Facebook and Instagram tend to be better platforms for small to midsize practices. Facebook has the largest audience of any social site, and more than 1.6 billion of its users are connected to a small business on the platform. It also offers a bevy of built-in tools that help business owners:

  • better understand their audience, 
  • track engagement, and 
  • boost visibility to reach more people.

Much like your website, Facebook is also where many prospective patients turn for more information about your practice. As for Instagram, this image-based platform is great for showcasing your clinic’s culture, new equipment, and even patient stories—with their consent, of course. 

Boost posts to increase visibility.

While posting regularly is important for establishing your social presence, social media has evolved into more of a pay-to-play environment for business pages. If you’re really looking to make a splash, consider setting aside some money—even if it’s a small amount—to give your posts a little boost. If you’re reluctant to spend your limited budget on social, consider this: boosting posts on Facebook and Instagram is often cheaper than traditional advertising, and it offers a high return on investment

If you’re ready to dabble in paid social media—or you’re simply interested in learning more—check out this blog post.

4. Email Marketing

Email marketing is an excellent way to keep patients engaged between appointments—or even reactivate those who’ve fallen off the schedule completely. 

Before you begin, outline your email goals and determine what type of value your emails can offer. The last thing you want is to send another spammy, salesy email that ends up in the trash folder. So, put yourself in your patients’ shoes. What might they want to read? Align your messaging with topics that relate to their care plans, and pay close attention to the questions your patients continuously ask, as these are great fodder for email content.

Additionally, consider including a call-to-action in each email that aligns with your overall marketing strategy and drives people to take you up on your offer. Examples include: “Book an appointment,” or “Learn more about this service.”

Choose the right email platform.

When selecting a platform, first make sure it’s HIPAA compliant and offers safe email hosting. Luckily, there are quite a few to choose from. And while each has its own unique features, the key is to choose one that works for your clinic’s current needs. You can always switch it up as your business evolves.

Some of our favorite HIPAA-compliant email providers include:

  • Mailchimp: This free platform is a terrific choice for smaller clinics that don’t require robust audience segmentation.
  • ConvertKit: For a small monthly fee, ConvertKit’s savvy tagging feature prevents providers from sending patients content that doesn’t interest them.
  • Paubox: This is an easy-to-use platform that seamlessly integrates with G Suite, Office 365, and other email providers. 
  • Virtu: Offering a wide range of data protection products, Virtu keeps messages and attachments protected throughout their full life cycle.  

For more information, check out our complete email marketing guide

5. Blogging

One of the most cost-effective forms of content marketing, blogging can help majorly amplify your clinic’s visibility. In fact, healthcare businesses with a blog on their website see 55% more traffic and are approximately 13 times more likely to experience a positive return on investment (ROI) each year compared to their non-blogging counterparts. Why is this? Because blogging helps your site show up in search results—and that’s especially beneficial if you’re writing about topics that align with the information prospective patients are searching for. It also gives you original content to share on your social media pages. Some good examples may be:

  • how to cope with chronic pain,
  • ways to stay healthy while working a desk job, or
  • tips for improving recovery post-surgery.

Plus, if you produce valuable content, other websites might link to it—and those external links will further boost your website’s ranking on search engines. 

Pick blog topics based on patient interests.

Similar to finding ideas for great email content, picking worthy topics for your blog posts requires taking a walk in your patients’ shoes. Consider the following questions:

  • What information would your patients find valuable?
  • What do they want to know more about? 
  • What common questions do they have about your clinic or rehab therapy in general?

A great place to start is simply asking your current patients what they’d like to know more about. And don’t get trapped into thinking every blog post needs to be a lengthy essay. Instead, opt for easy-to-scan, digestible content like:

  • listicles (which actually get twice as many shares as any other blog format), 
  • FAQs, 
  • myth-versus-fact articles, and 
  • step-by-step tutorials.

Check out this post for more great blogging ideas.

6. Video Marketing

Video continues to be one of the most effective ways for business owners to engage potential customers and increase visibility. In a 2018 study, Animoto found that consumers prefer video to other types of content produced by brands they follow on social media. And according to HubSpot’s State of Video Marketing in 2020 survey, 88% of organizations that use video marketing reported a positive ROI.

From a healthcare perspective, videos can help humanize practices and providers, thus forging an emotional connection with prospective—and existing—patients. They’re also easy to share on your existing marketing channels (i.e., website, emails, and social media pages). Here are some healthcare-specific video ideas to get you started:

  • Product or equipment demonstrations
  • Patient testimonials
  • Explainer or educational videos
  • Therapist profiles
  • Behind-the-scenes videos

Also, don’t stress about the cost associated with hiring a videographer. We detail how to create high-quality videos all on your own in this blog post.

7. Public Relations

Regardless of the size of your practice, publicizing your services remains a reliable strategy to bring awareness to your practice. The best part of this strategy is that it doesn’t have to cost a cent. Here are some ways you can do your own PR to boost your practice’s visibility and get more patients on the schedule.

Respond to timely rehab therapy topics in the news.

Not only is this a great way to establish relationships with reporters, but it’s also an effective strategy for building your reputation as a thought leader within your community—and in the rehab therapy industry. You can find most reporters’ contact information on their news publication’s website.

Create your own press announcements.

Have momentous news to share? Planning an event to engage your community? Announcing a new partnership? Garner more attention for your announcement by crafting a press release to share with your local media outlets. Unsure how to write one? Check out this Hubspot guide on writing press releases.

Submit contributed content.

There are plenty of healthcare publications that accept contributed content (e.g., op-eds, thought leadership articles, letters to the editor, etc.). So, if you have a point to make—and you feel like it will resonate with prospective patients—share it! Incorporating patient stories, metrics, or other types of data can go a long way toward supporting the article and increasing its chances of publication.

I know this is a lot of information to digest, so I’ll leave you with one final thought: no two clinics are identical. So, instead of worrying about what your competitors are doing, find the marketing strategies that work best for you and your practice. This will depend on your audience, location, service offerings, and—of course—your budget. Once you’re clear on those, there’s nothing holding you back from taking one of these affordable marketing tactics for a spin and watching your patient volume skyrocket.

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Treating patients and helping them heal can be tremendously rewarding, but providing hands-on therapy—as a generalist PT, at least—might not float everyone’s boat. I mean, consider my job. I’m a professional writer (and I kind of like it), but the idea of churning out listicles and research articles probably sounds nauseating to a lot of people. Even if you’re satisfied with your chosen field, sometimes you can just tell it’s time to change the scenery and grow your career in a slightly different direction. When you know, you know—you know? 

So, if you’re a PT and you’re ready to grow (or change) your career, then keep on readin’.

1. Determine your trajectory.

It’s hard (read: impossible) to build a house without a blueprint. You need to be clear about—and familiar with—your ultimate goal in order to work toward it. And if you want to successfully grow your career, then you need to decide what kind of work you want to do. Would you like to step into a managerial role? Own your own clinic? Are you interested in specializing in a certain type of rehab therapy or working with a specific patient population?

Find the name (and title) of your ideal role.  

Once you have a better idea of your desired direction, brainstorm some titles that apply to that type of work. Then, research those job titles and note the different skills and responsibilities that each position requires. For example, clinic directors and clinic managers both oversee staff, but a manager may focus more on daily clinical operations and training, while a director may focus more on human resources and finance responsibilities. 

2. Refine your skillset.

In the previous step, I asked you to jot down the different skills you would need to have—and responsibilities you would need to fulfill—in order to find success in your ideal job position. Now, go through that list and denote what you’re already good at, where you lack experience, and where you need to improve. Ta da! Now you have an exact list of up-skill action items. 

Seek out traditional educational opportunities. 

Now for the action part: If you lack experience in a certain area (or you need practice in it), then you can seek formal education to bolster your skills. For instance, if you’re aiming to specialize in a niche therapy type, then look for relevant, industry-recognized CEU courses to take. If you need to improve your management, marketing, or business finesse, then find a webinar to watch or read a few articles from experts in those disciplines. 

Find opportunities to practice (or learn) a skill set at work. 

Now, I’ll be the first to recognize that traditional education isn’t the best solution for everyone. The good news is that there are probably tons of learning opportunities hiding in plain sight right inside of your current workplace. If you have a healthy work culture, then it should be no problem for your manager or director to help foster your professional growth. Ask if you can assist with or shadow projects, tasks, or activities that don’t fall within your current job scope. Let clinic leadership know that you’re looking for ways to improve and expand your skills, and be open about how you’d like your career to progress. 

3. Find a mentor. 

Next, find a mentor in the field or position that you’d like to grow toward. Good mentors can open a lot of doors for you. They can help you evaluate your skills and talents, teach you about industry or career best practices, direct you toward relevant educational opportunities, and encourage you to continue growing and pushing yourself toward your final goal. A mentor can also help you network and connect with other professionals who are established in the professional circles that you’d like to enter. Sometimes, getting your foot in the door with a relationship is all you need to enter a highly competitive field. 

4. Seek growth opportunities. 

Beyond improving your skills and working with a mentor, a great way to grow your career is to seek (and know how to identify) growth opportunities. If this sounds a little vague, that’s because it is. We all encounter different opportunities in our lives that may open new doors and send us down different paths. A night of volunteer work, for instance, could allow you to meet an industry heavyweight who volunteers at the same place. Guest hosting a small YouTube webinar could lead to a speaking gig at a major convention. You just never know! 

Push yourself to say yes.

That’s why Meredith Castin, PT, is such an advocate for saying “yes” to any growth opportunity that presents itself to you. She believes that accepting new opportunities, even if they push you outside your comfort zone, is a wonderful way to challenge yourself and move your career forward. 

5. Network in your professional community.

There are probably people somewhere in the world who like networking. Okay, okay, I’m being facetious. Plenty of people like networking; I even know a couple of avid networkers. But for many of us, networking feels overwhelming, stressful, and confusing (especially if you’re soft-spoken, an introvert, or both). Here’s the rub: networking is one of the most effective ways to grow your career. It puts you in contact with people who can help you develop your career—whether that’s by giving you advice, introducing you to a future employer, or even offering you a job directly. 

Learn the trick to successful networking. 

So, I’m going to let you in on a little trick that helps me manage my networking-related stress. Networking is really just the art of making acquaintances and friends. That’s it! Yes, the ultimate goal of networking is to build a mutually beneficial relationship, but before someone goes out on a limb for you—or vice versa—you need to build some rapport. So, start by trying to establish a solid acquaintanceship—and then friendship—with people in your professional community who are also interested in forming connections.  

Meet people virtually during COVID-19.

Meeting new people in the midst of a pandemic is tough; there’s no doubt about it. But just because it’s more difficult, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! With fewer places to meet IRL (a.k.a. in real life) the world of online communities and events is positively blooming. Consider Virtual Ascend, WebPT’s 2020 digital conference. It’s a free event (with upgrading opportunities) that offers a ton of education, insight, and networking opportunities. Check it out

2020 has thrown a curveball at everyone. But this time of turmoil and uncertainty can be a great time for introspection. You can use this time to really sit down and figure out what’s important to you—what you want out of your career. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to drop them below.  

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At least 6% of medical school students will not become a doctor within seven years, according to a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges.But how many of the 94% who do finish medical school will actually thrive during those years.  We’re not claiming the road to becoming a doctor is easy or even […]

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