Private Practice: Lessons Learned in the First Year Going into private practice is a big and sometimes scary step. Even with the most diligent research and planning, actually making the leap is the best way to learn what to do—and what not to do—as you leave the safety of a salaried position.The ASHA Leader asked members on LinkedIn ... In Private Practice
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In Private Practice  |   November 01, 2011
Private Practice: Lessons Learned in the First Year
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Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / In Private Practice
In Private Practice   |   November 01, 2011
Private Practice: Lessons Learned in the First Year
The ASHA Leader, November 2011, Vol. 16, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.16152011.np
The ASHA Leader, November 2011, Vol. 16, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.16152011.np
Going into private practice is a big and sometimes scary step. Even with the most diligent research and planning, actually making the leap is the best way to learn what to do—and what not to do—as you leave the safety of a salaried position.The ASHA Leader asked members on LinkedIn and Facebook to share the most important lesson they learned during their first year in private practice. Here is some of what they said:
When I decided to go into a solo private practice in May of 2009, I was prompted primarily by a desire to practice speech-language pathology guided by my own values and vision. Realizing that goal has been the greatest source of satisfaction, and my touchstone in some weeks that have felt a bit overwhelming. You need to establish routines, and fortunately I am an organized person, but I don’t know how you would do it otherwise. I use the services of a great billing company, and without them I would be overwhelmed by the time it sometimes takes to deal with secondary insurance. Earning a sustainable income is the ongoing challenge, particularly since I serve 95% Medicare-age persons.
—Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP,via LinkedIn
I learned that I had to be flexible with my business model. Originally, I wrote my business plan to focus on adult treatment. After turning away many children, and not having enough adults (especially since it took me two years to get approved as a Medicare provider), I changed my plan. It has taken a tremendous amount of work to get up to speed with the approaches that best benefit the diversity of my clients, but it is extremely rewarding.
—Ann Kulichik, MS, CCC-SLP, via LinkedIn
In my first year, I would definitely say that things got off the ground once I networked with other professionals, especially pediatric psychologists and occupational therapists. I would also agree that engaging with other SLPs, not as competitors but as collaborators, is key!
Jordan Sadler, MA, CCC-SLP, via LinkedIn
Interesting to think back on this...Like others, making the connections with other professionals (psychologists, special education teachers, other SLPs, OTs, etc.) was very important. In addition, finding a trustworthy, knowledgeable accountant took some time, but [was] vital. Finally, establishing clear boundaries with clients (e.g., contract for services, working weekends or not) was beneficial.
—Stacey Buck, MA, CCC-SLP, via LinkedIn
One of the most important things I have learned since opening my private practice in 1999 is that I work a lot more then I thought I would (especially having 30 employees), and I don’t make as much as I thought I would. I think it is important for others in our field considering private practice to be aware of that. However, that being said, the truth is that the rewards of owning a private practice are well worth it. I have a great team of speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and administrative staff that make my job as an owner/director easy.
I also have the added benefit of mentoring new clinicians as they complete their clinical fellowships. My CFs comment on the great variety of pediatric clients they serve and really enjoy the experience they are gaining. I am also able to teach and guide graduate students in their externships. I love being in private practice and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I have also learned that integrity is very important. You must be a person of your word and model your expectations by action. People seem to trust you more and strive to be like you when you are a “doer” of your word.
—Leslie J. Hammond, MS, CCC-SLP, via LinkedIn
The most important thing I learned during the first year of private practice was that the best form of advertising is word of mouth. We should never underestimate the importance of building and strengthening our relationships with current clients.
—Holly Cook, MS, CCC-SLP, via Facebook
The biggest lesson I learned during my first year of working in a private practice was that I had to learn to say “no.” I would take on all sorts of cases, from severe autism to pediatric feeding, whether I had experience with that area or not. We tend to be ’jack of all trades, masters of none’ in this profession and realizing that you do not know everything is often a hard pill to swallow. These days, I can readily say to my clinical director or to a parent that I have limited experience with a certain disorder and they should either go to another speech-language pathologist or to allow me to consult another speech-language pathologist who is more knowledgeable in that area.
—Missie Holmes MS, CCC-SLP, via Facebook
It is said every professional person needs a mentor, and I have found this to be so true.
Leaving a school district for private practice was unnerving. My previous job had built-in mentors throughout my career: bosses, supervisors, principals, colleagues, etc. Most of my time is now spent in my home office with no one in reach to bounce ideas off and discuss the day-to-day workings of a start-up business. I decided to go to the ASHA Convention in part to meet others in the same situation. Going to Convention that first year turned out to be a very good decision.
The private-practice speech-language pathologists at Convention that year were supportive and like ’mini-mentors’ with great ideas and suggestions. However, there was one person in particular who unknowingly mentored me. Today, she continues to share valuable information to help me grow my business. At the time, she shared with me many of her experiences and knowledge and gave me a great deal of direction. She not only gave me advice on basic information of starting a new company, but she also set me up with important contacts. She also guided me in strategies and ideas on how to navigate business deals.
She was looking from the outside in with a vast knowledge of business savvy. And she shared her stories, what she had tried and what didn’t work. She has continued to make herself available to answer questions since that ASHA Convention meeting. I didn’t realize at the time I needed a mentor, but today I would suggest it as part of setting up a private practice.
—JoAnn Tuttle, MS, CCC-SLP, via Facebook
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November 2011
Volume 16, Issue 15