A Day in the Life of a Physical Therapy Clinical Director
School of Health Sciences Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Alum Eric Fichera Opens Innovative Therapeutic Facility
Eric Fichera, an ‘18 graduate of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, talks about his educational journey since leaving college, why he chose this exciting yet demanding field, and shares advice for prospective students interested in advancing their PT career.
Can you talk a bit about your professional journey since receiving your Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from the School of Health Sciences of Touro College in 2018?
After graduating, I began working for JAG-ONE Physical Therapy in November of 2018 at their, Staten Island location. While an employee there, I began studying for my Orthopedic Clinical Specialty degree and took the exam in March of 2021. This test was very difficult, but I did well and was eventually promoted to clinical director in July of 2021. I was then moved to a brand-new location in Newport, Jersey City. It was my responsibility to get this clinic up and running. Once that was complete, I was moved to a new office in Staten Island on South Avenue, where it was once again my responsibility to get this clinic up and running. Learning the ins and outs of growing a new location including reviewing the office’s profits and losses, engaging in networking events, and enhancing community outreach has been a great experience for me both personally and professionally.
What are your responsibilities in your current job? What is a typical day like?
As a clinical director, I’m focused on managing and helping to expand the clinic where I work. We provide many services ranging from physical and occupational therapy to sports medicine, education and injury prevention, hand therapy, and athletic training services. We also provide innovative treatments that many other physical therapy clinics don’t offer including the Graston technique, a soft-tissue manual therapy service to break down scar tissue; the Schroth method, a spine therapy that deals with unnatural curvature in the back; and women's health services that address musculoskeletal and postnatal issues.
My current responsibilities include treating patients, supervising staff, ordering clinical and office supplies, and forming new relationships with doctors in the region. As a director, I play a role in virtually all clinical and office tasks, whether it's answering phones, cleaning tables, fixing clinical equipment, or onboarding new staff.
Why did you choose physical therapy?
Growing up, I played a lot of sports, but I loved karate and weightlifting the most. I had a few minor injuries along the way, but most notable was a tear in my rotator cuff. To rehab my injury, I went to One on One Physical Therapy, before the company merged with JAG in Staten Island, which ironically is the same location where I ended up working after graduation. While I was able to successfully come back from this injury, the unforgettable experience sparked my interest in the physical therapy profession. In turn, this prompted me to change my college major from business to psychology, and I then started volunteering at One on One Physical Therapy, which eventually led to an aide position.
How did Touro help prepare you for this challenging career?
I had a phenomenal experience at Touro’s School of Health Sciences. The professors and staff were incredibly helpful, and genuinely cared about each student as they helped us to learn and grow. I also formed lifelong friendships as a student, for which I’m grateful. The curriculum was hard, and I worked diligently during my time spent in the college classroom, yet these difficult scenarios fully prepared me for what I currently experience on a day-to-day basis in my role.
Some of the key skills I leverage daily include completing thorough examinations, manual therapy and educating patients on the particulars of their diagnosis. Completing five clinical rotations ranging from an acute bedside inpatient setting to busy upbeat outpatient orthopedics ensured that I was ready to hit the ground running at my first job as well.
What do you envision for your future? What is your dream career?
In the next few years, I hope to advance the success of the clinic where I currently work by creating and fostering relationships with referring doctors, expanding staff, and continuing to provide excellent patient care. I also hope to continue to move up the ladder and become a regional director.
Do you have any advice to share with prospective students interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy?
The best advice I can give to someone seeking to pursue a physical therapy career is to get as involved as possible in your ideal work setting. I started as a volunteer who was charged with cleaning tables and getting hot and cold packs. It seemed like small tasks at the time but engaging with patients and getting used to the overall workflow and environment served as an incredible learning experience for me. Being compassionate and genuinely caring for each patient are critical skillsets to possess in this profession and if those aren’t your strong suits, you might want to consider entering another field. It also helps to start working in a position where the responsibilities aren't overwhelming so you can learn from the ground up. If you can shadow an orthopedic doctor or someone in a similar role so you can understand the patients’ mindset when you see them, this will be invaluable to your future success.