“In high school I had a fabulous therapist, and she inspired me to do what she did,” Allison McNulty says. “I was a swimmer at the time, and I had a lot of shoulder problems. She was so inspiring.”
Still, she said, “I tried not to be a physical therapist pretty hard. I wanted to explore everything. I struggled with the sciences — it’s not quite a pre-med track but it’s right up there.” Ultimately, she realized, “My thing has always been to help people have a better quality of life, to be able to move. That’s physical therapy.”
After completing an undergraduate degree in kinesiology, McNulty went directly to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at St. Catherine University. The decision to go straight to graduate school was dictated in part by the economy. “In 2009 when I graduated, the only thing I could do was work at Starbucks,” she said. “I was very fortunate to get into grad school — it gave me three years and a profession.”
After completing her graduate degree, McNulty spent a year in the Allina system as a per diem, the medical industry’s term for temporary workers. “I got to experience outpatient, acute care, rehab, aquatic therapy. I didn’t take a full salaried position because I wanted to be able to experience it all.”
In July 2013 she joined Live Your Life Physical Therapy, a private practice. “We’re private pay — beyond insurance-covered rehab,” she said. “It allows clients to invest in their health, however they want to accomplish it. I go to work every day with people who invest in their health. It’s really encouraging.”
What does a DPT do?
I visit a client whose mobility isn’t where they want it to be. I look at why. It could be a chronic condition — a heart that limits their ability to move, or chronic pain. I diagnose it, then work to improve it. Whether you’re walking, in a walker, in a wheelchair, in a bed, how do we maximize your experience?
Who are your clients?
Mostly older adults. We do offer an annual PT exam, which is a comprehensive medical profile. That seems to be more attractive to a younger population — ages 40, 50, 60, people who are aging and realizing there is some health disparity.
What’s the career path for a DPT?
Traditionally, it’s been very clinic focused. You have the opportunity to become a specialist, highly trained in a certain area like pediatrics. With the change in health care to prevention and accountability, we’re going to see more of my company’s type of model. I think that’s promising, and I think you’ll see that a lot. We are the connection between health care and health.
What tip would you give people for maintaining their health?
Just keep moving — be active every day. If you get up out of your chair one extra time, those little things do add up. If you’re already active, take five more minutes on the workout — even if you have to shower faster. I thought there was more to it when I was in school; there’s not. It’s just activity. □