Contributions from Kate Farner and Megan Otto
March is Women’s History Month, and with that in mind we will be highlighting a few of the incredible women that help to make up the PRN network of physical therapy clinics across the country. We are thrilled to start our series off with a conversation with Kate Farner, PT, DPT, ATC, Clinic Director and Co-Owner at ProActive Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine – Brighton.
Question: Where did you go to college and how did you balance your education along with your extracurricular activities?
Kate: I started my college career at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California. I went there to study exercise science and participate in collegiate rodeo! My older sister went there as well, and to be honest, it was a good steppingstone for me to gain self-confidence without being 1,200 miles away from home. After my first year, I was ready to break out on my own and I transferred to the University of Northern Colorado. They had a stronger undergraduate program and had quite the reputation in the Colorado sports world. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science with an emphasis in athletic training and a minor in psychology.
After graduating, I took a two-year break to be an “adult.” I worked in a physical therapy clinic, traveled, enrolled in night classes and continued to volunteer. I went to Regis University for my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. During that time, I continued to work with organizations that matched my end goals of where I wanted to be and who I wanted to surround myself with. Balancing my time between school and life was something that I learned early on in high school. My parents encouraged good grades, but just going to school wasn’t enough. If I wasn’t playing sports, I was working. My parents were the best role models and were community leaders.
Question: Why did you go into the field of physical therapy? What drew you to it?
Kate: As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was always interested in medicine and loved animals. But the more time I spent in that field, the more I realized that I loved helping people even more. I set my sights on athletic training. I had a coach in high school who was a teacher and an athletic trainer. He would talk to me about the field of athletic training, the education needed and the range of opportunities available. It was the perfect mixture of medicine and sports for me. Once I began studying athletic training, I spend some educational time in an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinic, where I met two of the best mentors. They saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and really encouraged me to look into the field of physical therapy. After the stubbornness wore off, I started to pursue the possibility of PT and jumped in with both feet!
Question: What makes you passionate about the field of physical therapy?
Kate: I thrive off the variety of patients that I see, the intellectually stimulating environment and the idea that I can improve someone else’s quality of life with just my hands. Although some patients require surgery or medication, most improve with functional movement and manual treatments. I enjoy being a part of that process!
Question: After graduating from college, where did you first begin working? How did you eventually come to run the ProActive Physical Therapy – Brighton clinic as the clinic director?
Kate: Before I started PT school, I worked as a physical therapy technician at two PRN clinics in Colorado. The physical therapists that I worked with kept in contact with me throughout my DPT program. I also did a clinical rotation at ProActive Physical Therapy – Greeley, in Greeley, Colorado. After I graduated, I went back to the clinic directors and thanked them for their mentorship. I also told them why I wanted to return to ProActive PT. I was not shy; I knew what I wanted and what I could offer them as a staff physical therapist. The story of my interview has made me famous (more like infamous) among most people who work at ProActive PT today. I was strong in my belief that directorship and ownership were on my radar and roles I wanted to learn more about. My dad was a small business owner for more than 40 years, and I saw the benefits that provided to a family.
I was a sponge in Greeley, learning as much as I could about clinical skills, leadership and building a professional business. I began taking on more senior roles and after a few years at ProActive Greeley, I was asked to join the team responsible for developing a new ProActive PT clinic in Eaton, Colorado. I was the clinic director at ProActive – Eaton for eight years and developed a spectacular team that has continued the high standards that I helped set for the organization as clinic director there. Recently, I progressed to leading the team that opened ProActive – Brighton. I started with PRN at the bottom of the ladder and have been able to make moves and decisions that have led to great opportunities like my current role!
Question: Have you had any mentors along your professional journey? How have they impacted you?
Kate: My volleyball coach in high school was the first person to introduce me to the field of sports medicine and we communicate to this day. In college, I sought out people who were doing the job I wanted and integrated myself into their environments. I asked questions and sought understanding and opportunity. I asked professionals to mentor me – I didn’t wait for them to offer. I have also found business and life mentors organically, who have had no affiliation to healthcare. I may be biased, but I have found a village of strong and professional people who I trust to give honest, candid feedback. My mentors help me see the bigger picture, help me plan for the future and try their best to steer me away from my weaknesses.
Question: Why are women important to the field of physical therapy? How do you personally encourage women to get involved in the field, especially as leaders?
Kate: The profession of physical therapy historically sways toward women, but few are encouraged to seek leadership or ownership roles. I had mentors who never saw me as a female, they saw me as a hard-working, motivated individual. I have several young physical therapists and students who I mentor, and I encourage them all to look into professional leadership roles. Healthcare business is not something that is taught in school, it is something that must be sought out afterwards – just like any other specialty or additional certification. I try to live by example, and I believe that your mindset is one of the biggest hurdles you can face. If you believe that you can have a family, love your job and be a business owner, then you can have it all. I have a sign in my office that I see every day and it serves as reminder for me on how to approach my day: “Dress like a lady. Act like a woman. Work like the boss.”
PRN is dedicated to creating an inclusive, diverse workforce that values honesty, integrity and dedication to delivering value to our patients. We believe that our customer’s experience is only as good as our employees and that’s why we go to great lengths to take care of everyone at our company. We can’t meet that goal without passionate, intelligent and innovative employees.