After 10 years working at a major children’s hospital, Marie Shinmoto was laid off and (at the time unwillingly) launched into a private practice career. After exploring different career options in her field she built a practice with a business partner. After 7 years in business together, tragedy struck and her partner died of a brain tumor. Now Marie is working as a solopreneur managing both her physiotherapy clients and handling day-to-day business operations.
In this interview, we’ve worked with Marie to capture what her job is like and how she got to where she is today. If you are considering a career in physiotherapy or like the idea of having your own private medical practice, this is a great resource to get an inside look at how one person is living that life. We also invite you to watch Marie’s “Day in the Life” video for even more insight.
What is a physiotherapist?
Physiotherapists address health issues, primarily issues of body movement, for their clients and use manual techniques, exercise, and other techniques. Physiotherapy helps reduce stiffness, reduce pain, increase mobility, facilitate recovery, and improve quality of life. Physiotherapists are highly trained health professionals and often work in a holistic manner, many will also specialize in addressing certain needs.
What is your job description?
I provide direct patient care and perform administrative tasks necessary to run a physiotherapy practice as a solopreneur. The majority of my word day is spent caring for patients at my clinic. I also do basic administrative work like finances, billing, and booking appointments. In the evenings, I spend time working on social media and blogging at home to help market the business.
What is your salary?
My gross income is about $80,000 CAD after business expenses.
What education is required as a physiotherapist? What education do you have?
In Ontario, physiotherapists must be licensed to practice and have a suitable degree. I have a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy, but the equivalent is now at the Master’s Degree level. I have no formal education in business administration.
What experience is required?
A moderate level of computer literacy is required since all patient records are kept electronically. A knowledge of social media is also key in terms of marketing. Basic knowledge of how to run a business is also important as a clinic owner.
What skills are useful for the job?
It is very important for a physiotherapist to be able to feel things with their hands when working with a client. This gives insight into what issues the client is facing and helps guide the care. Strong communication skills ensure that you are able to both understand your client and help them understand what is going on with their health. Critical thinking is also useful.
What tools are used in your work?
Unlike most physiotherapists who rely on machines, the main tools I use are my hands.
I particularly love working with children. I enjoy working with children with neurological conditions as well as helping babies with colic and developmental issues.
What is it like?
What is your workplace like?
My workplace is small but welcoming. It is a private clinic in a small strip mall. It is mainly me here, with a few part time therapists in at certain times.
What are your work hours like?
I treat clients during traditional business hours then do marketing tasks at home in the evening after my kids have gone to bed. I treat between 4 and 6 patients a day, 5 days a week.
What is the workload like?
The patient care aspect can easily be handled in business hours. It is the other aspects of running a business that add a lot of hours to the work week. Patient care takes about 35 - 40 hours per week and the other aspects of running a business take another 8 - 10 hours per week.
Describe a typical work day.
7:30 AM - Start work and focus on basic administrative tasks like finances, billing, and booking appointments.
8:30 AM - Begin patient care seeing 4 to 6 patients for about an hour each. The appointments typically involve an update of how the client is feeling, tests of movement, exercises/manual techniques/treatment, suggested next steps for the client, and some general chatter.
3:00 PM - Return to administrative tasks.
4:00 PM - Close clinic for the day.
After children are in bed: Work on any administrative tasks that requires more than 10 minutes (and therefore can’t get done during the day) like social media and marketing.
9:00 PM - End for the day.
What makes you different from other physiotherapists?
Most other therapists only have to worry about treating patients and keeping their records up to date. I have to manage everything that goes into keeping a business running.
My approach to physiotherapy is unique. I do all hands-on one-on-one individualized treatment where I look at the whole person to try to find the root cause of the problem, whereas most people just treat the painful area. The way I do things is absolutely NOT typical in the physiotherapy profession, but something I hope more people will do in the future.
What is your story? How did you get here?
I spent the first ten years of my career working at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). There I gained much valuable experience in acute care paediatrics, working with children with cystic fibrosis as well as working in Intensive Care (ICU) and Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU). After ten years I was laid off which, at the time unwillingly, launched me into private practice.
I started out working in the school care system and in a private practice treating adults with neurological conditions such as strokes and brain injuries. After a few years I left the school system to focus on neurology. I continued to work in the community in people’s homes. Then I began to treat people with more orthopaedic issues as well.
In 2008, I left to start my own practice with my business partner Gail Machin. We enjoyed seven years in business together before she was suddenly rendered unable to work due to a brain tumour in 2015. Sadly, Gail died one year later and I was forced to downsize and move the business to its present location. I am now a solopreneur working to establish my presence in Orléans.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I was always interested in science. One of the most memorable presents I ever received was a microscope from my uncle. I don’t recall yearning for a specific career, but I definitely saw science as a part of it.
What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
I have had the fortune of not really having met many obstacles to success in my career. I have also had many great mentors along the way who helped me tremendously. Although getting laid off was a difficult at the time, looking back I realize it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I guess the only thing I might consider an obstacle thus far was Gail’s illness and how I was left to single-handedly deal with the fall-out.
The big questions
What is next for you?
I plan to continue as a solopreneur and grow my business modestly. I do not want things to get too big as I do not want to spend my time being an administrator and worrying about managing too many people.
What is your passion?
My passion is helping people improve their quality of life. Nothing is more satisfying than helping someone reduce their pain or hearing them tell you about something they accomplished because you helped them. I also have a great passion for learning and I believe that when you stop learning you should stop working.
What do you love most about your career?
I love getting to meet interesting and amazing people, many of whom have overcome serious challenges and continue to work to improve their lives.
What would you change about your career?
As for my personal career, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have been very fortunate and have thus far enjoyed a very rewarding professional life.
If I could change something about my profession, it would be the way physiotherapists are taught. We are taught to compartmentalize the body and treat body parts, not whole people. This does not produce lasting results.
Advice to future physiotherapists
What are useful traits/abilities needed for someone considering physiotherapy?
Willingness to learn, clinical curiosity, compassion, empathy.
Critical thinking, strong communication and interpersonal skills.
Advice for someone interested in this career?
Be certain you have a strong science background, a willingness to be a lifelong learner, and above all empathy.
How will this career evolve in the next 5 (or more) years?
My concern about my profession is that if we don’t stop treating body parts instead of people, we will be displaced by other professionals such as osteopaths who look at the whole person and look for the root cause of the problem, rather than just treating the painful area. I believe as physiotherapists we have become complacent (e.g. assuming that treatment will always be covered by extended health plans) and for most, the approach has not evolved. I am somewhat encouraged by the very small group of therapists I see who are starting to look at things in a more holistic way. I believe if this does not change this profession may be in danger.