Last summer I was sitting in my hospital’s charting room with beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay and glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge. Much time in the life of a physical therapist (PT) is spent documenting in a familiar environment. One of my unit’s case managers came up to me and stated, “I intercepted this fairly vague phone call. The caller was looking to speak with the PT supervisor.” She continued on, saying, “I tried to receive the call and answer appropriately, but she was very insistent in speaking with you. Would you mind calling her back, if it’s not too inconvenient? Unfortunately, all I have is a name and number.” Without hesitation, I took the limited information and after a brief call, I was introduced to Ekso Bionics™.
After 10 years of clinical work, I found myself frustrated with watching a clock, and counting minutes to assure I was fulfilling Medicare’s expectations of time spent with patients and units of productive service expected by my clinic. Although I wasn’t actively seeking a change in employment, I found myself excited with the opportunity Ekso Bionics offered. A series of phone calls and conveniently local headquarters offered the opportunity for me to interview and visit with the company on two separate occasions. On the second visit, I asked Darrell Musick (the Clinical Director) if an able-bodied person can walk in Ekso and about 10 minutes later I was wearing and walking in Ekso. I was sold and really wanted the position.
With much excitement, I was offered the position of Clinical Training Specialist. With appropriate diligence to wrap up my former position and assist with appropriate transitions, it took a couple months to close one chapter of my PT career to open the next. The clinic was everything I knew and one where I could anticipate what curveballs would head my way. The challenges of patient or family members, therapy or nursing team dynamics, staffing ratios and productivity were quickly swept away. I was moving into a world extremely foreign to the clinical-based physical therapist. A biotech start-up company is entirely different. I was now trying to understand fairly new and evolving technology. I think of myself as a math and science person, but I’m not very tech-savvy. Although I feel confident in my knowledge of the body, biomechanics and neuromuscular function, I stepped into a world of technology and discovered how a robot can interface with the highly sophisticated system that is the human body. The learning curve was eased with training from my colleagues who spent appropriate time to explain and offer opportunities for learning.
This new and dynamic experience is ever-changing and exciting. I see the Clinical Training Specialist as a 3-dimensional role. We are first and foremost physical therapists working with patients and analyzing gait, but we also act as clinical educators/instructors and tap into a sales and marketing component.
Throughout each week we have test pilots come to headquarters. These appointments help on multiple levels. It offers the clinical staff opportunity to gain exposure to learning styles and teaching opportunities, while still maintaining a clinical opportunity of patient and family interaction. The test pilots have the opportunity to use the product, ambulate and gain benefits of walking in Ekso. The product development team gains opportunities to test and trial new hardware, soft goods and software changes. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.
The Ekso Clinical Training Specialist is also responsible to assist with sales demonstrations. It is a rare opportunity for PTs to travel for work. Outside a home healthcare scenario, it is the clinical model in the US healthcare system for patients to travel to the clinic due to equipment and logistical constraints. I have been offered the opportunity to travel across the country to demonstrate and expose people and clinicians to Ekso. It is a priceless experience to watch people witness our ambassadors and test pilots walking in Ekso each time.
The ultimate goal of many of these demonstrations is to place Ekso in the rehabilitation clinics. When these sales are complete, the clinical PTs have the opportunity to train up to four of the clinical site’s PTs on how to safely use the device. As a clinical instructor, it is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to get back into teaching.
This career change was certainly unexpected and an opportunity that is unmatched. Every day I work side-by-side with some of the world’s most innovative engineers, top-notch executives, brilliant marketing and customer relations representatives and an elite group of clinicians. I find myself very fortunate to have this opportunity and excited for the many lives we will touch in the future.