Sunday, March 1, 2020 – First cases in Florida were made publicly aware. But this was in South Florida and not completely on my radar yet.
Monday, March 9, 2020 – There’s been a lot more cases escalating throughout the country. Florida is still relatively quiet, with no local cases near where I live in Orlando, nor are they near my clinic locations. I start to watch the news more and pay attention. I have family in New York so I am hearing more and more first hand about what is going on up that way with Covid-19.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020 – School for my boys is still per usual. My husband attended a play at our oldest son’s school in the morning. I have a phone conference with a friend and physical therapy practice owner in Oregon and he reports things are still pretty normal around him. That evening my youngest son comes home with a huge packet of worksheets with a note from his 1st grade teacher to “save these in case school doesn’t start up again after spring break”. This is when I start to feel a little more concerned. I also have an employee at our practice that flies out this evening for spring break back home in England. She’s not concerned; airports are still humming like normal.
Thursday, March 12, 2020 – I head to the Kennedy Space Center on a field trip with my son’s 3rd grade class. It’s packed. There are no precautionary signs up about hand-washing or anything. Everything is normal. On the drive home I hear that the NCAA has decided to cancel the rest of the season. I also hear that the NBA is postponing all games; and my husband was supposed to take the boys to a game tonight. A lot of the parents on the field trip start to talk about how crazy this is; more-so in the sense of “this seems silly, why is this happening”. I still don’t know what to really think.
Friday, March 13, 2020 – I am starting to wonder if I really should cancel our spring break trip to upstate New York to go skiing. At this point it’s just a thought. I call my mom (she’s who we were planned to visit) and ask her opinion. She tells me there are no cases anywhere near them, “they’re all down by the city”. As of now, we’re still going to go. I’ve never thought I would have to potentially cancel this. It seems kind of like an irrational thought right now.
Saturday, March 14, 2020 – Jeff and I have to make a decision today if we’re going to cancel our trip. We do our internet research. I call my mom and let her know that we’re not going to risk it. More than anything we’re worried about being able to get back home. Our boys cry. It’s a hard day for them.
Sunday, March 15, 2020 – I get a message from my office manager that one of our receptionists has a cough and isn’t sure she should come in on Monday. My immediate decision is “no, she should not”. The world is starting to really panic. And frankly, so am I.
Monday, March 16, 2020 – I go back into work. I literally sit there all day and do pretty much nothing. I had planned to be away on spring break with my family, so I had all my loose ends already tied up and completed. I feel like I am at a stall. I keep up with the news and online articles to watch the spread and what is evolving. Reported cases are starting to hit closer to home. My receptionist that was sick tells us that her cough was just from allergies; sadly with all that’s going on I don’t believe her because I’m scared. She’s told to stay home Tuesday too.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 – It’s St. Patrick’s Day and Orlando orders that no more alcohol can be served in bars and restaurants, thus shutting down any hope of people wanting to go out and celebrate. One of my physical therapists is an Irish dancer and had taken off the day at work to perform for multiple events that day; instead he sat home. Patients start calling our office and canceling appointments. Fear is starting to set in for a lot of folks. I’m starting to enter the first stage of grief – shock and denial. My receptionist that was “sick” really wants to come back to work; it’s agreed upon that if she can produce a note from a doctor saying that she is okay, she can come to work on Wednesday. She gets one.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 – More patient cancels. Only a trickle of new evals. Our phones at the office barely ring. I send a few support people home early because things are so slow. I’m starting to worry about my staff that’s on spring break this week; how can I bring them back next week if our patient numbers are going down? I had 2 PT’s, 1 PTA and 1 front desk employee on vacation this week that plan to return Monday.
Thursday, March 19, 2020 – Today I enter the 2nd stage of grief – pain and guilt. I am coming to the reality of the fact that I have too much staff right now for the shrinking number of patients we are still seeing. I cannot afford to make payroll if I keep everyone on; nor do we have enough for them to do during the day. I have never had to make a decision like this before and I am agonizing over it. I take a walk outside my office and pace the parking lot multiple times that morning; consulting with my husband, with my practice manager on the phone. At this point I want the state to tell me to close my doors so it will be an easier solution for me versus me having to make this decision on my own. But I realize that’s lame; that’s the easier way out. And business is hard; this is hard. I cry. I cry a lot. Other than hearing a previous patient I was close with has passed away, I have never cried at work. That’s not me. Today was tough. Today I made the decision to furlough 10 employees; one of whom was a PT that had just started with us 1 week prior. I cried my entire commute home. Today was the absolute hardest day of my entire business life.
Friday, March 20, 2020 – Today we are at about 50% reduction in patient visits. We set up our Telehealth operations. But very few patients bite; it’s too sudden and new for them. Our current team is helpful and accommodating and more than anything they want to be there. But me on the other hand, I’m paralyzed. I can’t do anything but scour the web hoping to find a projection for when this would all be over. What I find on social media sends me right into phase 3 of grief – anger. There are 2 sides to this debate – 1) those therapists that think you should shut your clinic doors ASAP to help contribute to shrinking the spread and 2) those that are still open to help their patients and have somewhat of a job for some of their employees. I 100% understand both sides. Of course I would hope that every single person on the planet would want to contribute to stopping the spread. But then there is also the reality of owning a business and being responsible not only for the livelihood of your employees, but of their families too. All of us business owners have unique circumstances. I was having a really hard time looking at people write things on social media virtually telling me that I was making a bad decision by being open. LOOK…none of us have ever been through something like this before and we’re doing the best that we can with our own individual circumstances. It is no one else’s place to judge our response in this crisis. So with that being said, I had to completely get off social media…at least for now. I was angry. On the flipside, Jeff and I spoke with our mentor today and he was able to give us some very valuable insight into how we should proceed as a company as things are evolving on Capitol Hill.
Saturday & Sunday, March 21-22, 2020 – The weekend seemed fairly usual. Except for the fact that no one could go anywhere. Jeff and I completed an SBA loan application for both businesses. It helped to take a good hard look at our expenses, our income and liabilities. It took us about 3 hours over the weekend to do both, but it was worth it. I started moving into the phase of grief known as reflection. Reflecting on our companies and how we’ve handled crises up until now (nothing nearly this catastrophic as the current situation). I sat at my sewing machine for hours this week and made face masks. It’s the only thing I could think of to do to try and help. Our nanny 2 years ago was currently working on the Covid-19 floor of our local hospital, so I reached out to her to arrange a drop-off.
Monday, March 23, 2020 – As I continued to watch the numbers in my clinic drop and looking ahead to cutting even more hours from my team’s waning schedule, I am somehow starting to feel more optimistic. Watching the news and seeing that Congress does in fact want to help small businesses as much as they can seemed to be hopeful for me and gave me a sense of peace. I’m glued to the tv.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 – Today Jeff was supposed to meet our ex-nanny to drop off the masks I made. She just got out of urgent care being tested for Covid-19 as she had developed symptoms! Crap! This is getting closer to home now. Also today, I was one of 3 guests on a management panel at UCF (my alma mater) for a virtual class with the 2020 DPT graduating class. These kids are about to come out of PT school during a super crazy time. They’ve got to be stressed and scared; I know I would be. Will they have jobs? What’s going to happen for them? Two of the students in this class did their internship at my practice, so I know they must have been really freaked out when I told them 10 of my employees had been furloughed. It hit close to home more so for them. The other 2 PT’s that were guests were both the directors of rehab at the 2 large hospital chains in Central Florida. It was very interesting to see how this is impacting them too. One of them said that their census was down right now because people that do not have Covid-19 are trying to stay out of the hospitals as much as possible (which is good), resulting in less needed PT’s right now. With all elective surgeries (joint replacements, etc) this made sense.
Thursday, March 26, 2020 – Today marks 1 week from the hardest day I’ve had as a practice owner. Although half my staff is not currently working, at least as a business each day we are breaking even. The less I go into the “red”, the better the outcome is going to look for my business and my team. I sit here wondering “why can’t this just be over”? More and more cases are being added to the count; the US surpasses China. I brought my homemade masks that I had planned to donate into my clinics for my team to wear. They seem thankful for them. I’m hopeful now with the Covid-19 Relief bill having passed unanimously in the Senate early this morning. I’m trying to spread the word to other practice owners that I know. But that becomes frustrating really fast. Other owners are skeptical and don’t think it will amount to anything to actually help them. As much I try to help point them in the right direction, they don’t understand just how advantageous this will be for all of us. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. I called today on the status of the 2 SBA loans we applied for for each business. I wanted to make sure they had received all of our supporting documentation. The automated response told me that I was number 587 in the cue. I expected that, but I couldn’t believe it at the same time. I waited. After an hour and a half I spoke to the nicest, most helpful guy who was able to point me in the right direction talking with me for a good 15 minutes. I’ve got to tell you, this is serious….I went from caller number 587 to caller 1 in only 1 1/2 hours…I think that’s pretty damn good! So kudos to that department of the government because this was much appreciated.
Friday, March 27, 2020 – The last 2 weeks have felt like the longest weeks and days of my life. I’ve spent every hour I can in my Clermont clinic since all of this started. I am certainly at the point of acceptance for the situation, but strong hope (the last stage of grief). Just now, the House of Representatives passed the Covid-19 relief bill. And it’s a relief! On the flip side I still have employees at home right now. I still can’t bring them in to work….yet. My biggest ticking time bomb that is on my mind right now is that payroll is due on Tuesday. My hope is that I will have this SBA loan processed and distributed so that I can pay my team their usual wage, no matter if they’ve worked 0 hours of 35 hours. But right now it’s still a waiting game. I’m hoping that by Monday, I will have more answers to the questions in my head. Right now I am so proud of my team. The ones that are still here, working the hours I can give them, wearing masks all day, using so much hand sanitizer and soap and water that their hands are dried out. But I’m also proud of the ones not here. They’re hanging in there. They’re keeping in touch with me and letting me know what they’re doing to spend their time during the days. It’s hard. It’s hard for everyone. I’m dreaming of the day we’re all back together. And I’m hopeful that it’ll be soon.
Saturday, March 28, 2020 – So this morning was different. First of all, so happy that this stimulus bill went through! I am trying to continue to educate other practice owners on how crucial this is for all of us. Today I also ventured out a little. I actually haven’t been to a grocery store yet and we needed a bunch of things, so today was the time. I wore a homemade mask I made last weekend. Only one other person in the store was wearing a mask and a few had gloves on. Some people were there with their kids running around the store like maniacs…I certainly saw all sorts. I just wanted to be in and out as quickly as possible. It was my first time seeing what people were talking about. All of the aisles that were ravaged through, leaving nothing but empty shelves. Restriction signs on certain items. One thing I really needed was clippers. My boys hair is getting out of control and something needed to be done about it. I’ve never cut anyone’s hair before (except myself when I was 3) and these boys actually let me do it! When we’re all out of this their barber is going to have a good laugh! The rest of today I am just trying to continue to stay informed with everything Covid-19 related and spend time with my boys.
Sunday, March 29, 2020 – Today is Jeff’s birthday. 46. I wish we could have done something a little more special for him today, but at least we were all together for it. I was able to sneak out to Publix and get him a cake. And actually sitting back and thinking about it….this is the first year that multiple friends and family actually called him to wish him a happy birthday! That might seem silly to some. But I think often times that people are so busy with their own lives that they forget things. So this year for him, that was different. It was nice. The day turned out to be really nice. A great breakfast, yard work and out on the boat for awhile. Then we got back and watched the update from the President. He’s extending the social distancing guidelines through the end of April now. Our practice is so skimpy now as it is. And with very few new evaluations scheduling anymore (I think we have 8 this week, as compared to our usual 40+) the patients we have are going to wash through as they complete their treatment plans. It a sickening thought. Part of me just wants to give up. What’s the point of staying open right now? It seems more stressful to stay open than it does to close. Again, it doesn’t just affect me, it affects 20 people that I employ at my clinics. And it’s absolutely going to start affecting the employees of our software company too. I think I just need to digest this and sleep on it and come up with a plan tomorrow.
Monday, March 30, 2020 – Today’s a stressful day. I open my email and there are a bunch of voicemails of more patients canceling. Between the Florida Surgeon General sending out a mass text message to all residents telling them to stay home if they are 65+ and the President extending the social distancing to the end of April, our numbers continue to decline. It’s hard to watch it all continue to evolve. My staff meeting was a little bit depressing today. Talking more about the unknown of what is to come; not knowing sure makes it hard to plan. As the schedule falls apart more and more I wonder if we should even bother being open. But then I have to remind myself about the post-op patients and the patients that are in pain that we need to continue to serve. Without us, there’s a chance they could be taking up space in the emergency rooms. It is important that we are here to serve. On a positive note, I have a coaching call with a new client today. It’s really exciting to talk to practice owners that are buttoning up all of their processes to make things better and more efficient on the other side. As the day proceeds I do start to worry about payroll going out tomorrow. I worry, not because I don’t have the money, but because I have to make a really important decision for my team and the longevity of my business. It seems like the banks don’t have a really good understanding of the loans available to small business owners quite yet. And I’m kind of in a time crunch to get this taken care of. I call my employees that are sitting at home not working right now. I want to touch base with them and catch up on how they’re hanging in there. I don’t have much new information to tell them, but it’s so great to hear their voices. As I walk around the clinic today, with my 6 remaining employees in this office, I get a really somber vibe. No one is cheerful. And can you blame them? Not really. But we also need to be really thankful for the patients that are still able to safely come in. We’ve got to put on a show for them and help to uplift their spirits during this difficult time. That’s our role all of the time normally, so we can’t play any differently right now. I relay this to my team. One of my PT’s tells me that she’s had 3 people close to her in NY pass away from Covid-19. One of my receptionists also tells me the same of a family member in NJ. It’s hitting closer to home now for my team and it’s hard.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 – Payroll is due today. I’m anxious. There is zero clear cut understanding of what’s going on with the small business help. All of the applications that we’ve filled out so far have gone nowhere. It’s stressful. Ultimately I make the decision to pay my full staff anyway. We’ve been smart and have business savings that I can tap into for now. It won’t last long but at least it will buy us some time for now and help every single one of my employees.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020 – It’s April Fools Day. There’s nothing funny about what is going on right now and I can’t think of any pranks to play on my staff that aren’t terrible…LOL! Still no info on the loans. I’m starting to lose hope that is even going to be an option. But I know I have to keep on pushing forward.
Thursday, April 2, 2020 – There are no more massages in our offices anymore due this service not being deemed essential. I get it. But that means even less appointments. Even less work for my team. Today is the last day for this employee. Another one to say goodbye to…for now.
Friday, April 3, 2020 – It’s the last day for another one of my receptionists. With hours cut it’s not possible to keep everyone, even at this pace. It’s so sad. It seems like every day there’s something negative. It’s hard to not fall into the black hole of depression right now.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020 – So today was the first pre-planned day that I did not have my Clermont office open. It was definitely sad. For the past 10 1/2 years that clinic has been open 5 days/week. Until today. One of my PTs had 2 telehealth sessions from home, so I suppose that is the positive for today! Today was also the first day that I was home during the week with Jeff trying to do his job and both boys in virtual school. Wow. It’s so hard. I found myself doing quite a bit of yelling. But all in all, they finally did what they were supposed to do and everyone survived. But I can tell you that I very much appreciate going to work on the days I am fortunate to do so. It’s really hard being cooped up at home. Everyone gets on each others nerves pretty easily these days. After “school” I got the boys outside and we played soccer, gardened and stayed outside. The day ended fun, but the fight of getting schoolwork done was exhausting! I praise homeschool parents for sure!
Wednesday, April 8, 2020 – I feel like I barely know what day it is anymore. Now that our practice isn’t open 5 days/week, I have lost all track of where weekdays start or end. I’ve also realized that I am a really good working mom. Being at home yesterday made me crazy. I absolutely love my kids more than anything, but I need my work time to keep me sane. Sane for me and sane for them. So coming back into the office today was nice. We are still having a very tiny trickle of new patients calling to schedule. These are trauma-type patients that need up right now. These are fractures and post-op patients. I’m happy that everyone in my practice is healthy and safe and that we are still able to provide the care for these patients that they need. Today is looking a little brighter on the side of getting a small business loan. Our local bank has received and submitting our mounds and mounds of payrolls reports, etc to the underwriter. So now we wait. Again. But hopefully this will happen soon.
Friday, April 10, 2020 – So this might seem a little strange to some, but I have an astrologist that I talked to last August. A lot of things between then and now have panned out from what she had told me; sometimes to the point of being pretty freaky. When asked about this epidemic, she said that the alignment of the planets on should show that the worst of this will be over by April 8th. At least as it relates to me personally, that (so far) has deemed true. Yesterday we were approved for Hohman Rehab’s PPP loan through our local bank. And today we woke up to $17k in our bank account for the Care Act Provider Relief Fund. There are mixed feelings on this that I am not totally clear on yet. If this purely an advance that we will have to pay back? Or is this a stimulus? I am never one for a handout without strings, so I am skeptical. However, I am still grateful. I am just so eager to get my team back here. Having 5 people in this big office is so depressing. As I continue to look for the silver lining with all of this, it’s a struggle some days way more than others. I can’t decide if I am happier today because of our loan making some headway, or because it’s Friday and I can take a break from this for 2 days. The past 2 days I’ve had the worst headache I’ve ever had. I know it’s stress-related.
Monday, April 13, 2020 – This weekend was really nice. I am starting to appreciate what’s in front of me right now. Spending so much time together as a family and with our immediate neighbors has been a blessing through all of this. I think sometimes it is just so hard to see past the stifling stress of what is going on right now to our society, our economy, and our communities. It’s hard to not feel self pity. It’s hard to not feel depressed. And I have really been pushing myself to find the positive on our situation. I have to do that for me, for my family, for my work family. So yesterday was Easter and in all honesty, I really don’t remember anything eventful with Easters in the past. But this year….this year will absolutely be memorable. I spent the day doing what I love; gardening, spending time with my boys and husband, and sharing a great meal with our neighbors. I couldn’t have asked for anything better honestly. Today started with a deep clean of our Clermont office and a staff meeting on Zoom with everyone that was able to attend. I wanted to have some positivity in our meeting, as I feel that it is so easy to fall into that hole of stress and anxiety. And I am the leader of my team, so it’s my responsibility (now, more than ever) to be positive for them and try to uplift everybody. And that’s really hard to do in a time like this; but it has to be done. The patients that are still coming in really need us. And so much of what our role as physical therapists is is to uplift patients and help them to not only physically heal, but also emotionally heal from what they are going through. My team is just amazing. We’re healthcare workers. And we might not directly be on the front line of Covid, but we certainly exude the same characteristics of doing whatever it takes to help our patients. This is something that my team cannot do differently; they are passionate and amazing. They are trudging through this with me. So still no PPP loan money. It’s interesting how the media portrays this as such a win, but in reality the longer this takes, the harder it is for small business owners. Payroll is tomorrow. I feel like I’m at a standstill again because I don’t know which road we have to go down right now. I am hopeful there will be more clarity this week. But I’ve also been hoping for that the past 3 weeks. I feel like I check my email every 10 minutes to make sure I didn’t miss something. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when; and I am so impatient.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020 – Our $10k advancement for the EIDL came through today. It cracks me up (not in a good way) that that was said to take 3 days to receive. It has been at least 2 weeks (I wish I had documented when we did this above, but I didn’t) since we applied for this advancement. And the stipulations about this advancement I feel like have changed 100 times since the application became available. As far as I can tell from the email I received, it is forgivable and is to be used on business expenses NOT covered by the PPP. Anyhow, this was good news to wake up to. We also appear to be picking up a little bit of steam in the clinics. Last week my Clermont office had 1 evaluation; this week we have 8 so far. Last week Ocoee had 6 and this week we have 4, but have no more space for any more appointments with the days we are open. On Monday, I plan to bring back one of my furloughed receptionists into Ocoee full-time. This is HUGE victory for me mentally especially. As much as I am soooo excited to bring someone back full time, I also have this little voice in the back of my head saying “what if she doesn’t want to come back; what if she’d rather just collect unemployment”? At this point, it seems like I am living with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Today is Tuesday, which also means our offices are closed and I am the homeschool teacher I was never meant to be. Jeff and I have a much better arrangement for this crazy world of “distance learning”. I think if we didn’t come up with this plan, we might all have killed each other! Now that I am home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jeff goes to his empty office to work. I don’t mean work, where you sit at home and think you’re working but are then interrupted 1,000,000 times an hour to help with online schooling. I mean, work where you can actually accomplish something in the exact amount of time (or less) than you expect it to take! It makes everyone happy to get a break at some point, even if that means working alone in an empty office. It is also good for the kids and parent relationship right now to have a “split shift”. There’s less stress, less yelling, and more productive schoolwork getting done.
Wednesday, April 15, 2020 – Today is the last day of open enrollment for renewal of our whole team’s health benefits. Great timing, right? Our new coverage starts on May 1st and this was as far back as I could push this. But for those employees that are still sitting at home working, it has to seem impossible to look at spending hundreds per month for an insurance for a job they are not even currently working! And we are able to pay for the premiums for those employees through April. But then what? Still no PPP loan money. And as exciting as it was to receive the $10k advance and the $17k Medicare money, that is still a drop in the bucket compared to our monthly expenses. I’m absolutely NOT complaining; I know many private practice owners that are getting nothing. And every penny really does help. I think it is just frustrating to “wait and see”. And every day I’m hopeful for an email. Then nothing. This morning I had a really great conversation with one of the receptionists in my Ocoee office. I wanted to let her know that we’d be bringing back her co-worker on Monday; I wanted to be the first to explain to her why it wasn’t her that was coming back yet. I literally flipped a coin. These two amazing ladies started working at Hohman Rehab on the exact same day, so there was no choosing by seniority. And it makes no sense to bring 2 people back to only work minimum hours and forfeit unemployment (that they aren’t even getting paid for yet). She was so upbeat, so optimistic. The goal was to help her, and she helped me. Just another reason why I pretty much have the best team on the planet. No matter what your role is, the owner, a receptionist, a physical therapist….we all pitch in and help each other no matter what. It makes me really feel for those owners that feel like they’re in this alone because their team doesn’t have their back. Mine does. Mine absolutely does. And I love them for it.
Thursday, April 16, 2020 – Today I am playing the homeschool teacher again. It is just amazing to get a small glimpse of what teachers must go through on a regular basis…God bless them, because I know I could not do this long term! Teacher appreciation week is coming up and it’s sad to not be able to celebrate them the way that we’d love to. So instead, we wrote letters of thanks to mail to the school. Business-wise today was a very mixed bag. The PPP loans for small businesses has completely run out of funding. They are staying that if you were approved, you are locked into receiving the money. And from what our banker is telling us, we should be getting it for Hohman Rehab on April 21st and for HENO on April 24th. But it’s still scary; what if that doesn’t happen? Taking to social media today and seeing so many practice owners that have applied and did not get an approval; meaning they for sure won’t see the money unless additional money is added into this bill. My heart aches for our profession and for small business in general. The last 4-5 weeks have been the most stressful of my life. I’ve had a massive headache for the past 7 days. Being a small business owner through all of this has been pretty unbelievable. If you are not one, it’s impossible to imagine what we’re going through right now. I notice posts on Facebook from therapists or therapy staff questioning what their employers are doing right now, and it makes me sad. I’d like to think that everyone of us is in the same boat and doing whatever we can to help our team, our business and our patients. We cannot provide full payroll without help right now. Unemployment is our best option until a loan comes through; and in a lot of people’s case right now, that is not happening. Employees need to understand that we care about them more than anything, we are just having to deal with what is available to us right now and we’re doing the best that we can with the cards we are dealt. And that hand seems to keep changing every day and we’re just trying to keep up. If we can’t pay you right now, if we can’t have you in the practice helping, it’s not because we don’t want to. We are trying to help our business survive through all of this so that we have a position for you to come back to at some point. Nobody asked for this. Trust us right now. Please. At the end of today I also had a little sense of relief to see that the government is going to start allowing each state to start opening back up the economy as seen fit. It’s promising. And I hope that we can all get back to normal soon. Time will tell.
Friday, April 17, 2020 – From a numbers perspective, the work week was about the same as last week. A few more evals; up to 13 this week between clinics. That number is higher than last week, so I’m hopeful for sure that things are starting to slowly grow back to normal. I wanted to point out some positive things that have come out of the Covid-19 pandemic in my life that I am super grateful for being more aware of now more than ever. I am thankful that I have a home and a yard for my kids and our family to find ways to entertain ourselves. I feel such sadness for those living in tiny apartments without yards and having to be confined for so many weeks. Those people are stronger than me. That I know. My grandmother, who will be 103 this summer, is isolated to the 2nd floor of her nursing home. She is probably the most positive person I have ever met. And she is doing well in spite of all this; what a role model right now. I try to email or mail her a letter every other day. I am thankful for good relationships turning into even closer ones; with other business owners, with neighbors, with friends, and with family. Time has slowed down and I’ve been able to connect and communicate more than ever with people that are close and far. I’ve made time to appreciate the simple things, like lying in a hammock and watching the nature around me. On our property we have bats, hawks, owls, otters, fish, bald eagles, pelicans, herons, egrets, turtles, ducks, so many species of birds, and so many more amazing creatures to watch, especially this time of year when babies are being born. When I’m at home I’m not going 100mph, so I can actually look at what is around me. And every night I’ve enjoyed the sunset from our backyard. I need to start forcing myself to look at these things more. Finding the positive in what feels so negative.
Monday, April 20, 2020 – This past weekend I thought a lot about how great it has been to spend time at home with my husband and boys without having the need to go anywhere. We don’t go to Target, we don’t go to Universal Studios, we don’t go the playground, or the park, or the beach, or out to eat. It’s actually pretty relaxing to not feel like we constantly have to be on the go. Saturday was Jeff and my 11 year anniversary and it was better than I could have asked for if Covid-19 didn’t exist. We woke up and Jeff made a wonderful breakfast, complete with mimosas. I got in a little gardening, which is my favorite. Our next door neighbors took the boys out in their boat and gave us some alone time to not be answering 1,000,000 questions and hearing my name placed on repeat (mom, mom, mom). The day was simple, yet really refreshing. Today marks the start of the 6th week of Covid-19 havok at the office. We’re still maintaining 4 employees in Clermont, but I’ve been able to add back a FT receptionist in Ocoee, putting that office at 4 employees. That is a huge win for me! Bringing someone back to work that had been furloughed for a month. It’s giving me a taste of what I hope to do for every single one of them. And I was hoping for soon. But still no money from the PPP loan. We pretty much harass our banker multiple times each day for updates. Nothing. But we are promised for funding on April 21. That’s tomorrow. I am so anxious. I just want to be able to prepare for some type of normality. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.
Tuesday, April 21, 2020 – Today is the day I feel like I have been waiting for forever; we need this PPP funding to get our employees back in the door. At 8:15am this morning Jeff and I receive a docusign for the funding. Thank God! Things are moving. My office manager also lets me know that we are starting to receive paid claims from our telehealth physical therapy visits; and to boot some of them are paying the patient’s co-pays which is absolutely fantastic! At the end of today we receive the PPP funds into our bank account. It’s like finishing a marathon of waiting. I immediately let my team know; everyone is super excited for sure. Let’s get this team back together. So now that we have the money to pay our team, I need to figure out a strategic way to make this all work. I’ve been obviously brainstorming about this for weeks, but now that it’s finally come to fruition, I want to take action. I’ve decided that the best and safest option for bringing everyone back to work is to put together 2 teams in each office. This way we are limiting the number of people in the office at once and also, God forbid, someone on one of our teams gets sick, it doesn’t knock everyone out from safely working. I spend hours trying to put together a schedule for next week. I am anxious to let everyone on my team in on what is to come for the next 8 weeks.
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 – Today I spent a ton of time on the phone calling, talking, texting, catching up and updating my employees (some of whom I have not seen in over 6 weeks at this point). It’s always great to hear their voices. I was super excited to be able to tell each and every one of them that they are coming back to work next week!! Perhaps I was super optimistic that everyone would be excited, yet flexible, with how we need to handle getting everyone back to work safely and for the benefit of the patients, the business and the team. I actually was a very surprised at some pushback (only from a couple of employees, but still shocked that people aren’t as grateful as I am to get this loan to help everyone). Maybe I was being too naive, but I truly thought that 100% of my team would be on the same page as me and psyched to get back to work. No excuses, no complaints, no questioning my protocols and directives; but unfortunately I wasn’t 100% accurate on this. And as much as it upset me, it also gave me some clarity as to which people on my staff are TEAM players versus those that only worries about themselves. For any business owner or employee out there reading this right now, THIS is the time to see the true value of the team. There is no doubt we’re in a very difficult, scary, crazy time right now, but we also all work in healthcare and took a silent oath to always put the patient first and help them no matter what. This not only goes for clinicians, this goes for every single person in the organization; everyone plays a role in the patient’s care. If you’re an employee, this is your time to step up, push forward and help the business that EVERYONE has worked so hard in the past to grow (not just the owner); and I promise you that your boss will remember that. They will remember your actions right now. Clearly, safety is immensely important right now, so certainly you need to protect yourself, but you also need to be a team player more than ever right now. If you’re asked to work a shift that is not your typical shift, do it without hesitation. If you’re asked to do things that are not your typical duties, do it the best you absolutely can. Every single person on my team is so lucky and blessed right now to have access to PPP funding and not a single person should be complaining. So many small businesses have not received a dime. So many employees are out of work with zero money coming in as unemployment is so overloaded in Florida. People are losing their minds being isolated at home and we have the incredible opportunity to get back to some sense of normal right now. Be grateful. Be respectful. Be safe. Be a team player. Rant over.
Monday, April 27, 2020 – Clearly I have been so much more busy in these last few days than I have in these last few weeks. Now that we have secured the PPP loan and bring back our team, I’ve had to spend a ton of time getting things prepared to do this in a safe and efficient manner. I’ve got to tell you though; as an owner and manager of people for the past 11 years being super efficient and strategic about how I staff and the caseloads of each employee, it is extremely difficult to get past the mindset of paying employees to NOT be productive. It is a weird moral dilemma for me. I’ve always been the type of person to work hard and reap the rewards. But to not work hard and still reap the rewards; now, that seems really strange to me. So with that being said, I am busy trying to assign projects and do whatever I can do keep everyone busy; it’s a full time gig for me right now.
Tuesday, April 28, 2020 – Today I had some serious emotional meltdowns. They were directed at the kids. They were directed at my team. I’ve always had the mentality that not everyone is going to respond and act the way that I do or that I expect of them, and for some reason today I was utterly surprised when people made bad choices. I am under such a tremendous amount of stress right now that I am having a very difficult time hiding my feelings. Maybe that’s a good thing; maybe not. I feel like these next 2 months are really do or die for me and for my practice, so I think I am taking things way more personally than I have ever before. When I say “do or die”, I don’t mean that I think my practice won’t survive. It will. I mean, that I do not want to be in the same place I was 6 weeks ago when I had to lay off the valuable members of my team. What makes Hohman Rehab and Sports Therapy the best physical therapy place around is my team. And that Thursday, March 19th was the hardest day of my life. So I have a lot of pressure on myself and on my team to make sure I never, ever have to do that again.
Wednesday, April 29, 2020 – I’m trying to determine which is harder right now – trying to keep 2 small businesses afloat during a pandemic or homeschooling 2 elementary-aged boys!! This week was the start of implementing 2 teams in each office. So I will be in our Clermont office on Monday, Thursday and Saturdays for now with the RED team. So I am home 3 weekdays with my boys taking over homeschooling and trying to get work done at the same time. Either my patience is just terrible right now or the stress of trying to manage 2 major things at the same time is extremely difficult. And actually, it’s probably both! The good news is that I am seeing the numbers steadily increase in our clinics. As of right now, we’re up to 180 appointments this week and 16 new patient evaluations. This is definitely looking promising. Now that I have my full team back up and running, this also gives me an opportunity to offload all of the roles I had taken over in the last 6-7 weeks, but also really start to push our marketing. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to have consistent physical therapy marketing. Tomorrow in Florida is supposed to be the end of the stay-at-home orders. Our Governor is supposed to talk today to tell us more about reopening society. This week I have certainly noticed a major increase in cars on the road. So it seems like people are already getting back to work.
Saturday, May 2, 2020 – Today is the first Saturday that my practice has ever been open. It’s kind of a bittersweet thing to me. On one hand it really sucks to have to have made drastic schedule changes to account for what is going on right now with this pandemic. But on the other hand, we have a busy morning with patients and new evaluations, so this may be a new step for our business. I kind of prepared myself to have a mopey staff today since they have to work on Saturday, but they were not that at all. They were happy and helpful and eager to have work. Jeff pressed me to not go into the office today and spend time with our family. But I feel like as many hours as I’ve been working each week (at this point at least 60 hours/week) since this pandemic completely changed our world, I feel the need to be there and support my team. I actually WANT to be there. We spent the afternoon painting the office and everyone seemed to have a really good time. Clearly it is not the typical roles of a PT, PTA, massage therapist and receptionist, but we all worked together and the walls we did so far came out beautiful! It feels really good to have a sense of accomplishment today and to stand back and see our work.
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 – Today was a work-at-home day and also mommy’s homeschooling day. It’s always hit or miss how the day will play out. I usually am pulled in so many different directions, between owning and running two businesses, being a mom and being a teacher right now. My emotions fluctuate wildly these days. I go from “I’ve got everything under control” to “everything is falling apart”. I’m sure I am not alone on that. Today I have realized why I have been so exhausted at the end of each day at about 7 o’clock. I am just mentally exhausted. I spend all day and night processing what is currently going on and devising plans to conquer it all. I have to run my businesses in a way that I have never had to before now. I am constantly using my brain in ways that I haven’t had to before Covid-19. It is certainly challenging, and I love a challenge, but it’s also so completely mentally exhausting. On the day to day it doesn’t feel like I am always accomplishing much. But when I sit back and think about it, this is all new territory for so many people like myself, that it causes us to have to use more brain power. For example, lately I’m stressing about my team not having enough to do on the days they are in the office working. I want to keep them as busy and productive as I can for 2 reasons. 1) So the day doesn’t feel long and drawn out to them, and 2) so that as a company we are doing everything we can to bounce back with a vengeance. Developing ideas and tasks to do (that are far out of our norm) is tiring. I think this is really good for me and I think it’s really good for my team members. But it’s tiring. I came up with a great idea yesterday. Since we’re able to pay our staff to be here, and they certainly aren’t full with their schedules I needed a plan. We have a massage therapist in Clermont that started back last week and the one in Ocoee starts back next week. Now, many of our patients desperately have been needing a massage. And we are not a fluff-type massage parlor. We strictly work with patients that need massage to function. So I thought this was a great opportunity to help other healthcare workers on the front lines right now that are having pain, stress, tightness. I put together a fax blast (how we send out mass faxes to providers in HENO) that was offering the first 20 healthcare employees that email me a free 60-minute massage. This is a complete win-win for us and our community of medical professionals. Within 2 hours we had our 20, and it didn’t stop there. People we so appreciative and thankful. On our end, this provides work for my massage therapists (who hopefully will get a tip from each client they see) and it gives our practice more exposure to medical offices that may not have gotten to know us personally before all of this. I’m excited to see how this plays out and if all goes well, I will do it again in June. As the numbers look today, we’re verging on 200 appointments this week and 20 new patient evaluations. This is about 40-45% of our normal weeks pre-covid. But it is promising at we continue to edge upward. Today I made the final decision to postpone our employee-earned Caribbean cruise to Labor Day for next year (instead of this year). It obviously makes sense to do that, but it was still hard for me to pull the trigger. I don’t want to be on a cruise whatsoever in the coming months, but this was also something HUGE that our company does with our employees. So it was certainly sad to have to finalize this decision. On the bright side, this gives us so much more time to be able to make sure it’s the best one yet!
Thursday, May 7, 2020 – Today I spent a good amount of time doing random things trying to fill in the gaps with business operations and marketing for my practice. I even spent a few hours painting a huge wall in the office myself. I feel so scattered honestly. There are times when I feel like I don’t really know what I am doing and I am just trying to make myself feel useful. I also just realized I didn’t even eat lunch. And its 4pm. That’s just me. When I’m stressed, I forget to eat. At this point, I might as well wait until dinner. We didn’t break 200 visits this week; but I suppose we still have 2 more days to see if it’ll happen. Today I’ve been working with my practice manager and just thinking about how to make things as “normal” as possible around here considering the circumstances. We’ve got a plan to resume our typically beginning of the week staff meetings where everyone contributes something to the meeting. For the last 8 weeks I have been the one leading the meeting and doing all the talking. I think I just went into defense mode and completely didn’t stick to our typical format for meetings. I think having as much sense of “normal” is important right now for everyone. We’ll see how it goes; hoping for better engagement.
Friday, May 8, 2020 – Today I just hit a wall. I’ve been working pretty much 80-hour weeks, between the office and at home, and it’s catching up with me today for some reason. I’m absolutely exhausted. Exhausted from stressing and thinking and planning and trying to make this work for my employees and my practice. At noon today I decided pack a lunch and drive to the beach with the boys. I just needed some new scenery. And although we were there for less time than it took to drive back and forth, it was worth it to clear my head for a couple of hours. I cannot wait until this is all behind us.
Wednesday, May 13, 2020 – The last couple of days have been really hard for me emotionally. And it is starting to affect my physical body at this point. I am the type of boss and leader that is firm, yet wants to be as accommodating as I can if it’s at all possible. I have always, always done what I can to take every single employee into account for changes within the company. Since Covid, it hasn’t been possible to do that anymore; my decisions are solely based on the needs of the company. I cannot factor in individuals at all right now; it’s survival of the business that is in everyone’s best interest at this point. I think that also with the tremendous amount of stress I have been under the last few months, I have no filter whatsoever. I don’t sugarcoat anything anymore. I say what I’m thinking, even if it seems blunt or harsh. And I certainly am not taking any shit from anyone. So here’s what happened that has set me off the early part of this week. My practice manager and I made the decision that we needed to open our other office for Saturday hours. By offering this, we have a leg up on the competition, can accommodate our patients that are going back to work, and can also get our fourth team working 3 days/week like everyone else in the company. Every employee that I have right now (with the exception of a new tech) is getting paid for full time hours, while only working 18-27 hours each week. I feel like this is extremely generous and a huge gift from the banks and government that I am able to do this. I’m not patting myself on the back, it’s just what is going on right now. I know many other physical therapy practice owners that are not using their PPP loan money in this way. They are solely using it to pay their staff for the hours they need in the clinic based on their caseload right now; and caseloads these days are sitting at about 40-70% of normal for more practices across the US. Trust me when I say that I know that no one wants to work on a Saturday. I get it. I don’t want to work on Saturdays, nor does my Clermont team. But we’re doing it right now because we have to in order to build the business back up. And it’s working. We’re busy all day on Saturdays now and the patients are loving it. It’s been a great move for us. But one thing I cannot tolerate right now is an employee giving me serious pushback about doing this in the short term. Someone I thought was a team player and would once graciously do anything to help her peers, now has taken the selfish approach. Like I said before, I understand that working on a Saturday sucks for a lot of people; especially in an industry where this really isn’t the norm. But when you’re working 18 hours each week and paid for 38 and are refusing to help out for a handful of Saturdays, it’s completely unacceptable. This isn’t just for me. This isn’t just for Hohman Rehab. This is to save our whole team. And it’s selfish. My gut instinct was to let this person go. But in light of the emotional rollercoaster that everyone is on right now, I decided to at least let her make the decision. You either work the hours our team needs you there, or you don’t work at all. No hard feelings either way. In a receptionist position in my office pre-covid, there were five other people vying for your job….post-covid there’s at least 100 that will take it happily. She made the decision that I would hope anyone living through a situation like this would make. And I am hoping it works out for her. Y’all, I just can’t take any more bullshit. If you’re not a team player and you can’t be flexible during a time like this, then we aren’t meant to work together. I think it makes it harder to deal with issues like this right now because 95% of my team has bent over backwards and has been amazing through all of this. The stress of dealing with such unnecessary crap has ravaged my health. I’ve had a massive headache and constant intestinal issues, which have led to exhaustion and dehydration. I’ve been drinking more at night to try and relax myself, but I know that just contributes to the problem. At the end of today I told myself that I am instead going running to destress and rehydrating myself with loads of water; no alcohol. For those of you reading this that are practice owners, you need to know that you’re not alone in dealing with major stress right now. Stress that is beyond what we’re used to. We watched Forrest Gump with the kids the other night and I was sobbing beyond control. I just broke down. If you’re an employee of a small business, I want you to know that this is not easy for the owners. This is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. There is no rule book. We are doing the absolute best that we can right now and what we need from you the most is your support and flexibility. Be kind. Not just to us, but to everyone. We all need that more than ever right now.
Thursday, May 14, 2020 – I had a good night sleep and am feeling much better about everything today. I received a few messages from other practice owners that are going through the same employee bullshit as I am, if not worse actually. There are two types of employees right now: 1) the one that is so grateful to have a job and is doing everything they know how to help the company they work for, and then 2) the employee that is happy being at home collecting unemployment, even if you want and need them back at work. Now I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell don’t want to employ, or work with, or even associate with #2. That is not my outlook on life. That is not how I function as a motivated, driven individual and I cannot comprehend someone that feels that way. That’s just me. It’s amazing that no matter how new or seasoned in business, how big or small of a company, we all have the same struggles. It’s how we react to them that differentiates us.
Monday, May 25, 2020 – A few weeks ago I talked with an astrologist that I’d been working with since last summer. She isn’t a psychic, she’s an astrologer. And I trust her insight because she’s been pretty spot-on with everything so far. She told me in the end of March that I had been through the worst of it with my business and the hit it would take from Covid. But she also told me that May was going to be a very emotional and stressful month for me. Once I got past May, I’d be doing much better. I haven’t written an entry in here for a week and half. And it’s because I’ve been working non-stop since May 10th. Not a single day off from everything business. So much has happened in the last couple of weeks: kids started winding down with school and my youngest is now done for the summer, and the numbers at the office are starting to pick up significantly. We had 31 new patient evaluations last week and into the 20s for this coming week. We’re getting back up over 50% of our normal and it’s starting to feel good. Last weekend I participated in a Mastermind virtual meeting and this past weekend I attended, and spoke at, a virtual healthcare conference. It all went great, but it certainly added to the stress and burden of responsibility I’ve felt over the past few weeks. But now I was finally done, and as accomplished as I’ve felt I also felt relief. I’d had my eye on this day; Memorial Day. I was so much looking forward to grilling out and being outside enjoying the sunshine with my family and our neighbors. And wouldn’t you know it, today’s been all rain. So instead of being bummed, I realized this is probably just what I needed. A day to sleep in. A day to lie on the couch with the cat in my lap. A day to start a new book (that’s NOT business by the way). I think today was the universe’s way of telling me to relax and just do me today. So that’s what I’m doing.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – Today is the first day back that quite a few of my employees that have not seen each other in 8-10 weeks finally get to work together again! We have been doing split days so that our team was split into two and alternating working days. What an amazing feeling to see them all so excited to see each other again and have some sense of normalcy. It has been a really good day; just knowing that my team loves each other makes me so happy!
Thursday, May 28, 2020 – Something happened today that made me really take a step back and look at myself from outside my own mind. I was interviewed today by two different people: first, was a young girl finishing up with her undergraduate degree and aspiring to go to physical therapy school. She had a background in computer science and exercise science and wanted some guidance (and probably reassurance) that those two fields can be really great together, especially in 2020 and moving onward. She had heard me speak at the virtual summit last weekend and connected with my background as a PT and also developing software. We talked about strategies to make her stand out amongst the thousands of PT school applicants. She was super eager, and excited, and listened intently to the suggestions I gave her. The second, was a physical therapist in Las Vegas that I’ve known for the past year. We certainly don’t know each other well, but we’ve chatted a few times in person at conferences. She interviewed me on her podcast, which focuses on self care techniques for healthcare professionals. She also reached out to me after speaking at the virtual summit, and quite honestly I didn’t think much of it. I literally thought, “it’ll be nice to catch up with Deb” and that was about it. But after getting off the recording I soon realized that she was inspired by me. She was inspired by the way I handled things and handled my own health and self care going through such a devastating time for everyone, especially being a small business owner. It’s actually very enlightening to me because living in it and having to make major decisions not just for myself and my family, but for 20 employees and their families, I did not feel like I was a rockstar. I did not feel proud of myself for what I did and how I handled things. I just did the best I could with the hand that I was dealt. Half the time I felt like I was barely holding onto the seat of my own pants as things were spiraling completely out of control. It was honestly so interesting to view my actions during this time through the lens of someone else. I wasn’t proud of how things progressed, or changed, or evolved during my practice during these couple of months. I felt out of control for the most part. Now that things are starting to settle back into some type of normal, I can almost sigh a breath of relief. Almost.
Monday, July 6, 2020 – Today is a monumental day for my practice. Today marks the first official day of implementing a complete overhaul to the payment structure of my therapists. I’m excited. But I’m also stressed because this puts even more weight on my shoulders. I want this model to be a success for everyone. And I know it can be; it’s just going to take a lot of getting used to for everyone. So far my therapists have been really great. The majority of them have been very proactive; I’ve gotten new online courses created to package and sell, new product ideas that can help our patients, and more investment into the company they are apart of now more than ever before.
Tuesday, July 7, 2020 – The past month has been a lot of hustling, making and implementing changes within the practice, reorganization of staff, and just trying to crawl out of the hole that Covid dug for us as a business. Just when things started to look up in Florida, the cases started skyrocketing. In a matter of 2 weeks I had to have 5 employees get tested for Covid-19 due to people they lived with being in contact with others at work that tested positive. Thankfully all of my employees were negative. But that may not last for long. And that is what is so frightening. I keep having to remind myself that as a company and as an individual, precautions are being taken seriously and to the best of our ability. I have to constantly reiterate our Covid procedures and policies to our team; they are well aware what they are but I think it gives me some sense of calm to assure that each week I go over them in the staff meetings. I’ve realized by writing this entry that it’s important for me to continue to journal; without this I tend to keep my thoughts, fears, stress and anxiety buried for as long as I can. This is a good outlet. I can’t forget that.
Monday, July 20, 2020 – Another Monday. I feel stressed today for some reason. I am feeling stuck with my direction, not only of my practice, but also of my other business and my role as a mom. I know every working mom on the planet right now is presented with such a dilemma with choosing to send our kids back to school or not in the fall. Everyone has a unique concern, a unique need and a unique situation for making a decision that is right for their family. I don’t know what is right at this point. My boys need structure and the socialism that builds them, something that only being in school can offer them. But at the same time, this is an unprecedented time that poses a huge risk to them, our family and anyone we might come into contact with. How are we supposed to make this decision right now? I never would have thought when they halted school in March, that come August we would still be battling this crazy pandemic. As much as a big deal this has been for me personally, that’s not all that’s plaguing my brain today. I’m feeling so blocked in my mind for finding a solution to continue to move the numbers in our practice in an upward direction. I think I am just so astonished by the fact that I am doing everything I can possibly think of to drive new and existing business, but the numbers are just steady at about 80% for the last 4 weeks. In the past if our census was down, I’d jump in for a day or two and revisit processes, amp up a few things and BOOM, we’d be right back up there. Times are very different right now. And as much as I am aware that what I’ve done in the past won’t necessarily work anymore, it’s also a major struggle for me to continue to battle something that is beyond my control. We still don’t have a vaccine. We still don’t know when the spike in numbers is going to subside. I know that my main purpose is to keep our team and our clients safe, but it’s still hard. It’s hard to feel like a failure. I know this sounds like I’m having a pity party right now, but I feel like I need to say those words on here right now so that I can clear my mind free of the disappointment I am feeling for myself. When you tie in the personal, the work, and the emotions I am feeling for both, that’s where I start to feel shitty.