Starting a Therapy Continuing Education Company: ARC Seminars
Have you considered becoming a physical therapy continuing education provider? Maybe you are a physical therapist who loves teaching and attending CEU courses; or maybe you want to expand your non-clinical skill set into the business field. Perhaps you have complained with your PT and OT colleagues about how the continuing education out there is too vague, or too expensive, or impractical. Or maybe you just want to nerd out on the personal clinical interests you have, and bring that knowledge to the widest audience of PTs, OTs, Speech Pathologists, and nurses!
We interviewed Emily, the co-founder of ARC Seminars- a continuing education company focused on inpatient rehabilitation skills for PTs, OTs, SLPs and nurses, to learn more about becoming a CEU company.
If this is something you are interested in, read on to learn about our journey and what you need to know about starting a therapy continuing education company.
Why become a physical therapy continuing education unit provider?
Dissatisfaction… with the status quo
I have been an occupational therapist for over ten years, and have spent a majority of that time in in-patient rehab. There are many CEU providers in the therapy field- most providing quick online courses that can fulfill your cont-ed requirements without costing too much time or money. Unfortunately, in order to appeal to the masses, my colleagues and I constantly found that a lot of these courses were general and non-specific in terms of actionable outcomes- or the outcomes were not at all practical to implement owing to time/financial/equipment resources.
We wanted education that would make our clinical lives easier, not harder! Topics we see commonly but don’t have the tools to deal with, and tools developed by clinicians who were working in the field daily so that they could be implemented immediately.
My personal pet peeve was edema. 90% of my patients had it- and no one was addressing it! Not the doctor, PT, OT, nurse… I eventually got lymphedema certified and realized- this is something we can all do. WITHOUT being certified. But yet- education on edema management for the non-certified clinician was thin on the ground. So, we set out to change that!
Customer discovery…people want better CEUs!
This idea- that we could get better and more applicable CEUs by becoming providers- was a consistent, niggling earworm. But we had to find out- did other therapists feel the same way? What were their experiences with cont. ed?
My co-founder and I started visiting as many inpatient facilities as we could find and quizzing all the departments during their lunch break. ‘What topics are missing from continuing education?’ ‘What do you want to see in courses?’ ‘What holds you back from really investing your time in CEU courses?’
The same pain points kept arising- time constraints at work, productivity restrictions, and- again and again- intimidation or lack of confidence. All the therapists were pretty confident with ther-ex or strength and endurance building- but when it came to things like dementia; behavioral outbursts; edema; migraines; wounds….they didn’t see how their role could fit in.
The ideas being brought up by these clinicians were consistent, and just helped us to realize that there was indeed an area that we could be helpful with.
Exploring non-clinical skills..flexing your business muscles!
If you feel that you love your clinical job, but would love to also explore some other aspects of your abilities- even (gasp!) non-clinical abilities- then you may have thought about getting involved with a business. Teaching seminars is actually a perfect mix of the two, but there are far more non-clinical responsibilities in running the CEU company that we had ever imagined.
However, I really believe that PTs, OTs, and SLPs are far more capable in this area than they may think!
Therapists can make really good entrepreneurs. We are flexible thinkers, and problem solvers by nature, and generally we learn new skills pretty quick! At ARC, we’ve been really surprised that three therapists (PT, OT and SLP) have been able to run every aspect of the start-up ourselves- with no business background whatsoever. And having a non-clinical focus to our practice is a bonus too!
How do you become a physical therapy continuing education unit provider?
1. Starting a business
Well firstly, to start any business successfully you must make a business plan, formulate articles of formation, get a tax ID number and bank account. These early months were a haze of researching online, quizzing friends who owned businesses, and panic-reading.
If I were to start all over, I would definitely not underestimate the power of the business plan. Although it is a document that is going to continually change as your business grows and develops, it gives a blueprint for everything you hope to achieve and how you intend to go about it, and is an absolute godsend to keep you grounded.
We also used a local service- SCORE- which links retired entrepreneurs who mentor young start-ups. This was an extremely helpful service for us! Our mentor guided us along the way and clarified our thoughts around formation, marketing strategies, and other business areas that we had no idea about!
2. Courses and presenters
Of course, to become a provider of Physical Therapy continuing education units, you have to have cont-ed courses to offer. As experienced teachers ourselves, we each brought a course from our areas of specialty. I developed and teach a course about edema management; Ruth, my co-founder and a PT teaches about balance; and Allison, an SLP and our third partner educates about brain injury.
As further topics were identified by clinicians that we visited and reached out to, we started to advertise for experts who wanted to share their knowledge. Clinical experts reached out to us or were recommended, and if they were a good fit, they joined ARC and began developing and presenting in their areas of expertise. To date, we have 9 separate courses, on a variety of conditions or clinical skills, and continue to grow!
It is pretty essential to be able to offer continuing education credit for your courses. Your customer’s time is too valuable to take and pay for education if it does not go toward their CEU total! This process is both straightforward and incredibly exacting. As a small company, or if you only offer a small amount of courses in a state or two, you can apply to each state board for approval of the specific course for each discipline. Of course, as your directory grows, or if you have courses for multiple disciplines, this can become tricky as you will have a lot of applications and expiry dates to content with!
Once you begin to grow, or if you have been providing education for a year or more, you can apply to the AOTA or the ASHA to become an approved provider of education for OTs and SLPs. These applications are enormous and costly, but will save you the time of approving your courses in each state you want to offer education! This is especially handy for online education.
Unfortunately (for us!) Physical Therapy continues to only offer state-by-state approvals, so applying to each state for approval before offering your seminars is still necessary. You can usually find the form through which to apply on the board website. Each physical therapy continuing education application generally costs between $40-$100 and (if approved) lasts for up to two years.
4. Website and Marketing
One of the biggest tools that helped us, and will help you too- is your website! Whether you want to sell and host your courses through the site, or just attract people to your products, the website is truly key. Keeping a blog on the website where you can write about the issues in your field is a great way for clinicians who want to become more educated on your topics to find you. We write articles on all topics relating to the field on in-patient rehab on our blog, as we want to continue developing a space online for therapists who work in this space.
Again, as a tiny start up/side hustle with no money to spare, setting up the website was another thing I learned on the fly. The good news about this is- it can be done, and you don’t need a degree to set it up! The bad news- it takes a good amount of work. I used Wordpress and built up the site one page at a time. What I wish I had known in advance of starting that- you shouldn’t underestimate your ‘brand’ look! Pick a few colors, get a logo, and stick to your theme! It will save a lot of re-doing once your website is up and running.
We also market through mailing- sending flyers with some of our course listings to facilities; email; word-of-mouth and through connections at conferences; and social media. Social media has been a powerful tool to gather clinician interests and preferences, as well as talk about the courses and services we offer.
In conclusion- becoming a physical therapy continuing education provider is definitely something you can do!
If you are passionate about a topic- feel it is underrepresented- and want to bring it to the world- I would say go for it! Me and my partners have learned a lot by extending ourselves into this space, and we plan to keep expanding and having more great presenters and topics join the curriculum.
Bringing your course to an existing company, such as ARC Seminars, may save you some time and upfront investment. If you want to have your own company, then selling just one course, or offering it online through your website, may be a great way to begin to supplement your clinical income passively.
If you have any further questions about starting a continuing education company, or want to read more articles on the topic of inpatient rehab, check out arcseminars.net!