PT Profile: Karen Litzy

For this week’s PT Profile, we’re excited to welcome to Karen Litzy. Karen graduated from Misericordia University with a Masters degree in Physical Therapy in 1997 and in 2014 with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She’s the owner of Karen Litzy Physical Therapy, a concierge physical therapy practice in New York City, host of the podcast Healthy Wealthy & Smart and co-host of the web series #sipswJerLarKar.  

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Where do you practice? What are some of the benefits of the “concierge model” both for you and for your patients?

I practice in Manhattan, New York. One of the biggest benefits for me is treating the patient in their home or office. This gives me a glimpse into their life, which helps me to develop a more robust and individualized plan of care for my patients. I can see first hand the challenges they face at home or at work, which is something you don’t get when the patient comes to at a PT office.

Another benefit is I have the luxury of one-hour one-on-one sessions with my patients. I love this because I don’t feel rushed or stressed when seeing my patients which makes for a more therapeutic environment in which to treat.

Another huge benefit is I can make my own schedule! This gives me the freedom during the day to focus on writing projects and my podcast.

Why did you choose PT as a career?

Growing up I played a lot of sports and was a gymnast for many years. There was a physical therapist in my town and I worked with him (not for injuries) but for flexibility and strength testing and exercises. After spending time with him I thought physical therapy seemed like something I might want to do. So, I entered a 5-year master’s program right out of high school. My older sister is also a physical therapist, so I am sure that played into my decision as well!

Is there a specific area of PT you’re particularly drawn to/enjoy doing?

I am really drawn to the chronic pain patient. As someone who suffered from chronic pain for many years I can completely relate to the struggles they are going through. I think my personal experience with chronic pain drives me to help that patient population.

What has surprised you about PT so far?

I am not sure if anything surprises me but I am definitely energized by the passion of the DPT students. They really help to keep me on my toes and excited about the future of the profession. I am further energized by the power of social media. I am so lucky to have met some of the most amazing PTs and DPT students from around the world and have learned from so many. The PT community is so generous with their time and knowledge and I am honored to be part of this profession.

Tell us about a PT-related challenge you’ve faced so far and how you worked through it.

I guess my most recent PT related challenge was working full time and going back to school for the last two years to get my DPT degree. I am so happy I went through the process and graduated this past December but I definitely underestimated the amount of time I would need to devote to my studies. But, when you make a commitment you change your priorities around a bit and just do it!

Do you teach or participate in PT continuing education and/or learning new manual therapy techniques? Why?

Of course I take lots of continuing education every year. Not because I have to (in order to maintain my license in New York) but because I want to! I want to be on top of the latest research and techniques to be the best PT I can for my patients. In the end it all comes down to the patient. These days we are treating a very well informed health care consumer and so it is imperative to practice at the top of your license and post-graduate education is the key to this practice.

I am also in the process of producing an online conference for physical therapists that is all about the business side of physical therapy. I am in the beginning stages right now but am really excited for this conference. It will launch on April 21st!

Do you have any influential mentors? Are you currently mentoring someone? How important do you think the role of mentorship plays in the PT field?

I feel like I have so many mentors! Dr. David Butler has and continues to be a huge influence on me as a PT. I have learned so much from taking his classes and reading his work, but I have also been lucky enough to be able to ask him about individual patients as well and interview him for the podcast a few times, Dr. Adriaan Louw is another amazing person and therapist who is so generous with his time and knowledge. As a matter of fact I just emailed him a few weeks ago about a patient and of course his advice was spot on. More recently I have been concentrating on the business of PT and Jerry Durham, PT , Dr. Larry Benz, Marianne Ryan, PT, Erica Meloe, PT and Dr. Sandy Hilton have been amazing mentors and friends and they totally get the business side of PT.

I am not formally mentoring anyone right now but I am helping out some DPT students and always offering advice and help when asked.

Overall, I think mentorship is such an important aspect of the physical therapy profession. If you are looking for a mentor I think it is important to be very clear on your goals and what you want to get out of a mentor. Once you are truly clear on those things you will then be able to find a mentor to work with you and help you attain those goals. Social media makes it so easy to find a mentor and I encourage everyone to just reach out for help when you need it!

What are some of the changes you hope can be made within PT in the next decade?

In an ideal world…unrestricted direct access in every state and the ability to “opt out” of Medicare. If both of these measures are realized it would open up a whole new world to patient care. Like I said above, now more than ever Americans are becoming savvy health care consumers. They are smarter about who they choose to care for them and want the ability to go to the health care providers they feel are the best fit for them and will provide the kind of care they expect. If the health care consumer had the ability to go to any physical therapist they wanted it would be a game changer for the PT world. As therapists we would have the opportunity to become a point of entry into the healthcare system and form true collaborations with physicians, massage therapists, trainers, etc, keeping the patient at the center of care. Through collaboration and evidenced based care we can show the incredible value we bring to the medical field.

Tell us a little about your radio show “Healthy, Wealthy, Smart” and what PTs can gain from it.

Healthy Wealthy & Smart is an interview style podcast. It covers topics in health, wellness and business with a particular slant towards physical therapy. I strive to get experts in their respective fields to share their knowledge in a simple yet comprehensive way. I think the podcast is very relevant to physical therapists because it is being produced by a physical therapist (me). I think I have a good idea of some of the challenges faced in the PT profession and a somewhat good idea of what people are interested in. I also do a fair amount of crowd sourcing for topics that PTs want to hear. I think there is tremendous value to the content of the podcast and I am really happy that people like it and continue to tune in!

What is it that makes you a PT worth seeing?

I am dedicated to my patients and provide one-on-one evidenced based care. I treat the whole patient not just the diagnosis. I make a promise to my patients to treat them with honesty and integrity to the best of my ability. I am the first to refer out if I feel I cannot be of service. I am empathetic, caring and professional and I strive to be a good person.

What advice would you give to new physical therapists and students about to embark on their careers?

*Keep your mind open: take lots of postgraduate education (cont ed courses, fellowship, residency) and remember they don’t always have to be PT related!

*Don’t be afraid to push yourself into the “uncomfortable zone:” this is usually when good things happen.

*Try to make at least one new professional contact each week: in person or through social media, because you never know when you can help someone or they can help you…and you just might make a great friend.

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