Contributions from Kayla Leer and Megan Otto
March is Women’s History Month, and with that in mind we will be highlighting a few of the incredible women that help to make up the PRN network of physical therapy clinics across the country. We are thrilled to start our series off with a conversation with Kayla Leer, PT, DPT and Rehab Director at RehabAuthority – Bismarck.
Question: Where did you go to college? What was your college experience like as an athlete?
Kayla: I went to the University of Mary here in Bismarck, North Dakota! My first degree is actually in accounting…so I took a very long route to becoming a physical therapist. I also played soccer at U-Mary. Being a student athlete made it incredibly challenging to keep your grades up, but it was really cool that the University of Mary soccer program is incredibly supportive of grades and making sure that school is number one. All my teammates and I were in the same position and we all supported each other which made it so much easier.
Question: Your first degree was in accounting. How did you transition into the field of physical therapy?
Kayla: After graduating, I worked for a year in the accounting world and quickly found that it was not for me. I felt lost. So I job shadowed to find where I was supposed to be and within the first 10 minutes of walking into a physical therapy clinic, I knew PT was what I wanted to do. I applied to the University of Mary’s physical therapy program.
Question: Did your background as an athlete draw you toward the field of physical therapy at all?
Kayla: Yeah! Being an athlete, I was so incredibly interested in the human body – if someone had knee pain, I always wanted to know what caused it. But I didn’t put two and two together while playing college soccer. To be honest, I was pushed away from the medical world in high school by my counselors because I didn’t like blood. I was good at math and numbers, so I was pushed toward business.
Question: How did you become a part of the RehabAuthority and PRN family?
Kayla: In physical therapy school, we had to do four clinic rotations and my first rotation was at RehabAuthority in Boise, Idaho. RehabAuthority set the bar incredibly high for physical therapy. I loved how they treated their patients, clientele and employees! Really, I loved everything about them! I assumed that was how all physical therapy clinics would be, but after my next three rotations, I found that that was not the case. After my fourth rotation, I realized that RehabAuthority was the gold standard and that is where I wanted to be.
I stayed in close contact with one of my supervisors at RehabAuthority and told them how passionate I was about their patient care and what they were doing for the field of PT. After I graduated, RehabAuthority had a job opening in Minnesota and I thought that would be so cool. But my life was in Bismarck, ND and I wasn’t looking to move. So I emailed my contact and let them know that if they ever wanted to open a clinic in Bismarck, I was their girl! I was all in – 100 percent!
In what seemed like the fastest week of my life, I was talking through plans to open a clinic in Bismarck with the head of RehabAuthority. Only thing was…I still needed to take my boards to become a PT! It was all very cool but super overwhelming. Within a month of passing my boards, the ball was rolling to find a clinic space!
Question: Your first position in the world of physical therapy was as clinic director. How did you navigate managing the clinic, running a business and practicing physical therapy at the same time?
Kayla: One word: mentorship. I would not be where I am today without the mentors from RehabAuthority that I have had. During that time, any free time I had was spent on a call talking to my mentors. They would help walk me through patient scenarios and remind me to look for certain symptoms. Their guidance was incredibly beneficial to me and is how I succeeded.
And then as a woman, not a ton of clinic directors are female. In Bismarck, there are only about two clinics run by women. It is a reminder to me every day that I am trying to expand my business and do something new – while showing the world that women can be great businesses owners and we have a place in the industry.
Question: Now that you are established in the field, has the mentorship role reversed?
Kayla: Mentorship is something that I preach all the time because I am a walking ad for it – it helped me so much! And honestly, in a lot of jobs, you don’t get that. I have been lucky enough to be a mentor to a few physical therapy technicians who have worked for me when they were students. They’re now practicing physical therapists and I am still in contact with them several times a month to chat and talk about how to navigate life while being a physical therapist and woman in the industry. I definitely have a soft spot for the women who come through my clinic as students as I want this industry to grow and become more dominant with women. It is well on the way, but we have a lot of work to do to make it known that we have a place in this world of PT.
Question: You recently had a baby and quickly bounced back to continue running your successful clinic. How have you balanced it all?
Kayla: I now understand that working moms are so cool. You’re working full-time and you’re taking care of you baby. But then throw in running a business on top of that? It is challenging because I’m the type of person who throws 100 percent into everything I do. I learned that I couldn’t give 100 percent to every single thing and still be the best, so I learned how to delegate better. I have an amazing staff at my clinic and an amazing and supportive husband, so that helps!
It’s a balancing act – being a great boss, being a business owner, being a mentor, a mom, a wife – those are so many aspects of my life. Plus, I am one of the only female directors at RehabAuthority. So I am constantly trying to prove that even though I’ve just had a baby, I can still run a clinic and do all the things I was doing before. It’s just another speed bump that I’ve learned to navigate.
Question: Can you talk about the importance of women in the field of physical therapy? Especially woman leaders?
Kayla: Physical therapy is historically a male dominated field. I speak at a lot of classes at the University of Mary and I’ve noticed that there are so many more women in the classes. It is no longer 90 percent men and 10 percent women – its nearly even!
I also talk to a ton of moms who want to go back to school for physical therapy but are worried about being able to do it all. I love talking to them because I was that person! I went back to school and it wasn’t the most glamorous thing in my life – I was the oldest person in most of my classes – but at the end of the day, you have to love what you do. A lot of times, fear gets in the way, and it’s just not a good enough excuse. We are women and we can do this. We can be the best mom. We can be a good wife. We can be a business owner. It’s challenging, but you can’t waste your time thinking about it. You have take a step forward and just do it.
PRN is dedicated to creating an inclusive, diverse workforce that values honesty, integrity and dedication to delivering value to our patients. We believe that our customer’s experience is only as good as our employees and that’s why we go to great lengths to take care of everyone at our company. We can’t meet that goal without passionate, intelligent and innovative employees.
If you are interested in becoming a part of our growing team, we invite you to search for an open opportunity and apply.