His mother, looking overwhelmed said, “Do you treat private patients?”
I took a breath. It was the question I had been waiting months to hear. “Yes, I do.”
She exclaimed, “Wonderful! How much do you charge?”
My head kept saying, ’100! 100! 100! 100!,’ but my mouth said, “I charge $80 per hour.”
And So It Started
I was three years out of graduate school at that time. I had gained both knowledge/skills and also the confidence to feel that I was truly worth $80 (or $100!) per hour. My colleague Rick said, “Someday soon someone will ask and you simply say, ‘Yes.”
A Conflict of Interest?
A few weeks later, my schedule at the hospital opened up and as promised, I told the mother that I could now see him twice weekly at work and we didn’t have to continue privately. (The part of me that was enjoying the extra cash was a little sad about this- but I knew it was the right thing to do.) To my surprise, the mother said, “What if we continued once weekly at your office and increased private therapy to twice a week?” As the little boy was very complex, she found that he was more comfortable in the home and felt that he was making more progress there.
* On a side note, money was not an issue for this family and I think the mom liked the added convenience of my coming to her.
I felt like although the makings of a conflict of interest were certainly present, I offered all of the choices to the family and they chose to do both private and insurance based therapy. I know that private patients are like customers: they need to be informed of their options and they make the best decision for themselves/their families.
Lessons Learned With My First Private Therapy Client
I learned quite a bit about myself during this experience:
- Don’t sell yourself short. While it’s okay to charge a bit less your first time, make sure you charge what you feel your services are worth.
- Don’t pass up opportunities! The opportunity to treat my first patient fell into my lap. (Okay- I had been waiting for months) If an opportunity comes along, say “yes” first and then figure out the details.
- Get advice from mentors. If you’re lucky enough to have colleagues who are successfully treating privately, don’t hesitate to ask them about their practices. I’m sure they will have some valuable tips to share.
- Don’t conflict with your employer. Make sure that by treating the patient you are not taking away business from your employer. Give the patient/family the available information and then let them choose.
- If you’re feeling uncomfortable, refer on. Just as your private patients make a choice to see you, you have the choice to see/not see them. Be careful though- don’t dump odd families on fellow clinicians without a heads up. No one likes that
Jena H. Casbon, MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and private practice consultant. She started her own speech therapy private practice in 2006. She is the founder of The Independent Clinician and author of The Guide to Private Patients and The Guide to Creating a Web Presence for Your Private Practice. Since 2008, she has helped thousands of clinicians get the flexibility, income and freedom they desire from starting their own private speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy practices.