“Keep Your Options Open” – My interview with a Physical therapist

Marcy D is a full-time physical therapist and mom to two adorable little girls with one more on the way! In her “spare time”, she is building a health and wellness coaching business – basically she is super woman. Here are her thoughts on finding and defining success, how she got into her career(s), and what advice she has for you! As usual – [my commentary is in the brackets].

[What did you plan to do “when you grew up”?]

When I was 17 and faced with choosing a college, locking into a major and subsequently a career path, I knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t have that much life experience, [because who does at 17?]. At the time, my world views were limited and I thought that a career in service meant becoming a doctor, or a nurse, or a physical therapist – the people I had experience with.  So I applied to college for nursing and physical therapy and, in the end, chose to go to the University of Miami. In the end, my choice between nursing and physical therapy came down to my desire to travel far away from home, [ RI where Marcy grew up] and the fact that UM was a top 5 physical therapy school, and I was accepted to their combined undergraduate and graduate program so it took me 6 years [rather than 7 years] to get my DPT. So at 17, I locked into my career path, based on a few fast choices and a strong desire to help people.

[What are you doing today?]

Today I am a DPT [Doctor of Physical Therapy] at a school for children with special needs, and I am growing a health and fitness business, both of which I love. Both allow me to be helping people the way I envisioned as a child, just from two very different avenues.

[Wow, you must be pretty busy how did you decide to on an entrepreneurial pursuit?]

Honestly, although I love my current job as a pediatric physical therapist, about 2 years ago I started to feel I was already burning out after only 6 years of working in the field. I was working in a large teaching hospital, in a high stress environment, that took a lot of my attention, energy and effort even outside of my work hours. I loved the children and families I was working with, but felt torn apart by the lack of work-life balance. I was missing bedtime stories and Mother’s day brunches at my daughter’s school. I was waking up on Sunday morning already consumed by the amount of paperwork and stress lying ahead of me, taking me away from my family even on my days off.  I was 8-months pregnant with my second daughter and I knew I didn’t want to go back to my job at the hospital, but I also knew that not working was not an option for me, financially or professionally. Then I saw an ad on Facebook talking about health coaching. I didn’t even know what it was, but the ad said “Do you want to have more freedom to spend time with your family?” It seems so silly, but it was my sign. I couldn’t help but think “YES” I do. So I reached out to the girl who was recruiting for her team and learned she was a pediatric nurse who had transitioned into coaching and now had built a successful business where she was able to follow her dream and serve others, but also be home with her children. She had the balance I wanted so badly, and I just knew in my heart that this was my sign. I knew taking on something additional when I was already overwhelmed and exhausted and very pregnant may have seemed crazy from the outside looking in, but I also knew I couldn’t afford not to make a change. My desire to feel happy, to be a more present and energetic mom, and to get back to doing something I loved was too strong to ignore.

[What was it like starting a new business? How did your friends and family respond to starting a business that was out of your career path?]

It was scary – I mean terrifying. I was scared of what everyone would think. I told my  sister first. She was ok with it, but I knew my family would be worried that I was doing something that didn’t make use of my degree, was unconventional and coming out of left field, and I didn’t want to let them down. After all, they had invested so much in my education, I could never say out loud to them “I hate my job”.  I feared failing. I feared embarrassing myself in front of my colleagues. I mean what would they think? And because I was launching my business via social media, if I did fail, EVERYONE would know. Because we all know, once it’s on Facebook, its official! But somehow, like I described, the fear of staying still scared me more, and was enough to keep pushing me forward. And eventually, my friends and family to took the time to see what I was doing and realized that it wasn’t all that different than what I do as a physical therapist. My purpose at the end of the day in my coaching business is never to sell a product or recruit for my team, it is to help others feel confident, healthy and strong; to educate other’s on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and give them the support they need to reach goals they had given up on. The real turning point was when I signed my dad up for the program for his birthday, and I put him in one of my coaching groups and by the end of the program he realized I was still on track, this was all part of my plan to help people.

[Wow that is really impressive that you stood strong through that. To get back a bit to your day job, what advice do you have for someone who is in your shoes, they know they want to help people in their career but they are not sure how?]

Keep your options open. Pursue what feels right now, but also what aligns with your goals 2-5 years down the line. I am still really happy with my path, but I keep my mind open to what opportunities are available to me every day.

[What does an entry level physical therapy position pay in your area?]

I was making $28.00/hour when I first started – and I have nearly $200,000 in student loan debt.

[Many of us have been there and having debt, now, I know this is a hard question but, if you could do it all over again, with the knowledge you have now would you do it differently?]

I would still become a physical therapist, but I would give myself the same advice I gave my youngest sister who just applied to college – GO TO URI [the state school where her family lives] – you will get the same education, have the same opportunities and must less of the debt.  I have worked with many physical therapists who went to school in all different places and they are just as qualified as I am with less debt. To be clear, I am beyond grateful for the experiences I had University of Miami, and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I do feel I gained value in my time away from home and experienced culture and diversity in ways my small town in RI had never shown me, and the education I received there left me feeling prepared and excited about physical therapy. However, I have worked with many physical therapists who went to school in all different places and they are just as qualified as I am with less debt and feel as strongly about their college experience as I do.

[I am with you, I appreciate my education tremendously and I am fortunate to have paid of my debt but I definitely wouldn’t recommend anyone putting themselves into extensive debt to get an education…Tell me something – how do you define success?]

Success is a moving target, much like happiness. It’s not something that once you have it you have it forever. I see it as a series of goals that you are meeting. It changes over time with what your needs and desires are.

[I love that, can you tell me what a day in the life looks like for you?]

5-6 am : Wake up: write down three things I am grateful for while drinking a bottle of water and my pre-workout. Starting my day with gratitude is part of my workday routine. It helps me to start the day with the right mindset and perspective before diving into a crazy busy day of balancing work and mom life.  Next, I get my scheduled workout in for that day. I am always following one of the set workout programs I am coaching my clients through. Following my workout, I check into my online accountability groups, make sure that any open questions are answered etc. I then quickly check my coaching email before switching gears into mommy mode!

6-8 am: After my workout and morning “power hour” for my business, I am able to completely shift my focus to my favorite job, being a Mama. I get ready for my workday, and get the girls set up and ready. I am present with my family during this morning time and my office is closed.

8-4:  On my commute to work I get in my PD [personal development] by listening to a podcast or audiobook. Currently on my playlist: “The Charged Life” podcast. My work day as a pediatric PT involves 30-minute sessions, back to back, helping children gain physical mobility and strength that increase their ability to access their school environment, and play with peers. Unlike in a more traditional PT setting, where a therapist may tell a patient to do 10 leg lifts or squats and talk their patients through a treatment plan, working with children with autism takes a lot more patience, creativity and flexibility. I create play-based treatment plans, while running behavior plans for each child, and addressing their specific learning needs.  It is tiring mentally and physically, but, just like my coaching business, it is my passion. To help these children learn their strengths and abilities and develop a sense of competence and confidence through their physical abilities. Some days are harder than others, but all are rewarding if I can keep that perspective (hence starting my day with mindset).

4-7:30: I am sure to block out time where I am focused on my family. Dance class, helping with homework, dinner time, bath time and bedtime.

8-9:30: Back to working my health and fitness business. I use this time to reach out to new clients who may have shown interest on my posts about upcoming fitness challenges or in learning more about coaching, connect with my current clients, answer questions, create content and schedule out posts that add value, and check in with my own daily accountability. This is also the time when I will check in with my teammates! While I work for myself, I do not work by myself. The network of amazing women I have met serve as a phenomenal resource, support and sisterhood.

9:30: 9:45: I end my day by reading something positive before bed. I am currently reading “Daring Greatly” by Dr. Brene Brown. An excellent book for recovering perfectionists like myself.

[Is there anything else you want to share with my audience?]

As hard as it is, don’t let what others think you should be doing, a job title, a degree or even what you envisioned your career or life to look like at some point in the past, put limits or restrictions on your next steps. As we get older, hopefully we are growing. And with growth comes change. Which is terrifying and empowering all at the same time. Yes, you might fail, you might face resistance, and have no clue what you are doing, which can be uncomfortable. But, ask yourself, is change scarier than the idea of staying “stuck”, of not feeling happy, and fulfilled. In my mind, it is always worth it to take a risk on yourself. You deserve to be happy.

[How can people reach you?]



Leave a Comment