2022 Wrap-Up: How to Get Started as an OncoPT

So you want to work in OncoPT…but don’t know how (or where) to start?  This episode is just for you!

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, with Dr. Karen Rivera Yepiz.  She had a lot of AMAZING questions about finding a job, additional certifications, & so much more. 

I know every new grad has these questions, which is why I’m so glad Karen agreed to ask her questions LIVE (so you know you’re getting my gut answers!). I know this episode will help you along your journey in the oncology field.

Are there any suggestions for what to look for in a job, whether it is the position specifically or company values, culture, etc.?

The most important thing. From my experience, the most important thing to look for when applying for a position, wherever it might be, is the company mission and the company culture. It’s really important that they match in person and not just on paper. Making sure your company, mission, and culture are in line with what you want to do and how you intend to impact the world.

There isn’t always enough time in the outpatient setting. If you felt that extra treatment time was necessary for your patients and for yourself, how could you advocate for them?

Any time you advocate for yourself or for patients, you need to be vocal about it. The thing is, sometimes it’s very important to say something more than once so that it sticks. If you believe that a patient needs a particular treatment or if you know that he or she will benefit from more time in therapy sessions, more visits, different equipment, you have to be vocal about it and you have to tell people. And then, which is harder said than done, don’t back down. 

If the patient has multiple complaints, how would you structure your time with them?

If you have a patient with multiple issues, the most important thing you can do is to fully investigate and talk to the patient. Discover what is bothering them the most. Understanding why it’s so important allows me to work backwards to find the best way to serve the client based on their biggest concern. 

How to network either with physicians, surgeons, and other health care providers.

I will focus on the outpatient side of things. Having a couple colleagues on-site or off-site and letting them know you want to treat this patient population can help you funnel patients in. I found that working in the community was most effective. At lunchtime, when I offered community-based services at the oncology center, I would get new patients. Patients who return to their doctors and say, “Look at how much better I am doing.” The doctors take notice. 

PORI vs. lymphedema certification

It is extremely important to have a general understanding of oncology. If I were you, I would probably decide on PORI first because it’s a good foundation for your practice. Then CLT afterward.

When you first began seeing patients as an oncology PT did you come across any obscure cancers that you had never heard of before? If so, what did you do? 

Yes. Throughout my practice, I have encountered cancer and treatment plans I had never heard of, and I expect to continue to do so. I googled what the patient was coming in for, and fortunately for one case I had a podcast interview with Beth Hogue about pelvic floor physical therapy, which was just what I needed.

Do you have any resources in terms of creating or planning some sort of prehabilitation program? 

I think it’s much easier if you can create a pre-rehab program together with the surgeons. Talk to everybody about it to see who we can help, then talk to them again and again. In addition to surgeons, ask who are the staff members at the surgeon’s office that can refer patients to you. Connect with everyone.

About Dr. Karen Rivera Yepiz

I am a recent Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate from Northern Arizona University. As an aspiring OncoPT, I am excited to empower patients on their path to healing and proudly represent our profession as part of the oncology care team.

Until next time, this is Elise with TheOncoPT. And remember you are exactly the physical therapist that your patients with cancer need. So let’s get to work.

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