You’re Hired! How to Land a Job in O&P: A Business Owner’s Wish List

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By Betta Ferrendelli

Every O&P practice has different needs when it comes to hiring the right employee; however, there are two things these employers have in common: they want their prospective hires to be resourceful and to care about the people they serve.

"From a big-picture perspective, I don't think the traits that would make a good employee for an O&P business are much different than for any other business," says Shane Ryley, BOCPO, area practice manager for the Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics patient care facilities in Torrance, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills, California.

The Basics

Shane Ryley, BOCPO

Ryley

O&P practice managers look for an abundance of good qualities when hiring a new employee. Ryley says most of the candidates he interviews have already done research about Hanger, as well as looked at some of the local practices. In addition to having this knowledge, a potential employee should be prepared, at minimum, to answer basic interview questions such as, "What do you see as your biggest strength?" and "If I were to hire you, what do you feel you can bring to my business?"

A candidate who has a good educational background and a full slate of "well-rounded" abilities, including good communication, organization, and time-management skills, impresses Ted Snell, CP, a fourth-generation prosthetist whose family-run business is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. He is the owner of CFI Prosthetics-Orthotics, which has practices in Memphis, Tennessee, and northern Mississippi.

Ted Snell, CP

Snell

Not only must potential employees be creative and compassionate, but they also must be ambitious and self motivated, he says. "The candidate [must] share the same short-term and long-term vision and view the opportunity as that of a profession, not just a job," Snell says.

Do Your Homework

Michael Mangino, CPO, BOCPO, LPO, CPed, is the president and director of Bay Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Supply, headquartered in Huntington Station, New York, and has been in practice for more than 30 years. He says the ideal O&P candidate should know something about his practice before walking through the door.

"It would be nice for the candidate to know whether the interviewer possesses a single [credential] or has multiple credentials. That could give an important insight to your interviewer," Mangino says. "Talking about upper-limb myolelectric prosthetic componentry to a person who is just certified in pedorthics might not be the best tactic, unless your plan was to bring a new discipline to the practice."

Michael Mangino, CPO, BOCPO, LPO, CPed

Mangino

He further advises job hunters not to limit their research on a potential employer to the Internet.

"If the candidate didn't have Internet access or wasn't well versed in computer searches, they could check out ads in the local Yellow Pages," he says. "You can also take a dry run past the facility to see how the facility presents itself." A company's choice of a storefront location or an office located within a medical building may be clues as to how it tends to attract its patient population, Mangino explains.

"Do they use storefront windows to publicize their services, or do they just rely on a directory in a professional building?" he asks. "If they use yellow-page advertising, do they list unique services such as C-Legs®, cranial helmets, early intervention bracing, pedorthic services, or wound-care services? These are all hints as to what the practice thinks are their professional niches."

Be Flexible

O&P hiring managers also like candidates who are flexible. Jena Baxter, a recruiter with Greenville, South Carolina-based The Newell Group, says the "ideal candidate" is one who is willing and able to relocate. "With so many practices having noncompetes, most of my placements require relocation."

Longevity is also important. "A majority of my clients look at the individual's work history, especially when you're dealing with patient care," Baxter adds, noting that her clients like to see someone who has stayed at a facility for a "reasonable amount of time."

Jena Baxter

Baxter

"I would say three years minimum with any given company," says Baxter, who has been a recruiter for 11 years and focused solely on O&P for the last two years. "Practitioners build a bond with patients, and that takes time."

Mangino agrees. "If the candidate is experienced, my preference is that [he or she] gathered that experience from one or two facilities and...would encourage me to call them to verify their worthiness," he says.

Candidates can also set themselves apart by mentioning other skills, such as being multilingual or having cold-calling sales experience, according to Mangino. Resourceful candidates could also check to see whether their prospective employer is certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC), the Board for Certification/Accreditation, International (BOC), or both, as well as whether the employer is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) or a member of the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA).

Be Presentable

When it comes to the job search, most firms look for new employees in similar ways: word of mouth, professional social networking, recruiters, and classified advertising. Prospective employees should also take the time to be presentable for the interview, O&P hiring managers agree.

"I don't expect a suit," Ryley says. "At a minimum, slacks with a collar shirt and tie and clean shoes."

In addition to the "must-have" qualities that O&P business owners look for in potential practitioner employees, there are also a few qualities that turn off O&P business owners.

"What I like least is the inability to communicate with patients and referral sources from different educational and economic backgrounds," Snell says. "An ideal candidate would be a leader, not a follower."

Terry Shaw, CPO, BOCPO, FAAOP

Shaw

Employees who are late to work, but the first to leave, don't sit well with Terry Shaw, CPO, BOCPO, FAAOP. Neither does an employee who "elevates their own self worth or who subverts authority or has poor time-management skills," adds Shaw, who started in 1983 as a technician for a Tennessee company and now owns Shaw's Prosthetics Plus, Owensboro, Kentucky.

Shaw says he is less than impressed with candidates who only have clinical experience and came through an O&P education program that didn't include technical work. "I'm old school," he says. "Patients still like to have a practitioner that knows how they are going to build it and can explain how it will make their lives better."

He also knows what makes a good employee. "Someone who doesn't mind undertaking new tasks, is good with patients in all age groups, and enjoys doing their own tech work," he says.

Timing Is Everything

Hiring the right candidate can take time-one to eight months, on average, The Newell Group's Baxter says. There are exceptions, however. Baxter says she once placed a successful candidate in 32 hours.

"In O&P, it is more about finding the right fit for the individual and the employer," she says.

The economy and healthcare reform have made the hiring process even more challenging for O&P business owners and practice managers. "Healthcare reform has already made an impact on our industry," says Snell, who has been in the O&P profession for 34 years. "In conjunction with increased regulatory barriers, it has created an environment complicating longterm vision and requiring O&P practices to remain flexible when it comes to the economy."

For the professional looking for a position, many O&P practices may appear stable, but such may not be the case. "In today's environment these practices may not be able to react to the economic and regulatory changes that are on the horizon," Snell says. "Therefore, a candidate looking for a position in an O&P practice should consider the company's vision and adaptability with equal importance to his or her personal objectives."

Reimbursement issues add to the challenges for firms seeking to hire new employees, according to Baxter. However, she says that the employment outlook for the second half of the year looks brighter.

"It's always busier, which means people are hiring," Baxter says. "I think it may have a little something to do with deductibles being met."

Betta Ferrendelli can be reached at