Seven years ago, occupational therapist Karen Allen Witters felt a calling to move on from her supervisory position and 21-year stay as a pediatric and upper extremity/hand therapist at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my work, but after the merger between MultiCare and Good Samaritan Hospital, I felt it was time to get back to basics and open up a small neighborhood clinic,” said Witters, the sole founder of Pioneer Therapy Center in Puyallup. “I’d assisted with setting up several orthopedic clinics in Enumclaw, Bonney Lake, and Puyallup; knew many local physicians and surgeons; and was also well-versed in rehabilitation protocols.”
Witters opened Pioneer Therapy Center in 2011 in downtown Puyallup with one occupational therapist, an aide, a bookkeeper, and a medical insurance biller. Today, the team includes four specialized therapists, one of whom also serves as clinic manager. The business’ building, at 324 E. Pioneer, is shared by Dr. Tyler Scheinost, who operates Puyallup Foot and Ankle, and assists when needed with post-operative counsel.
Founded as a general occupational therapy clinic, Pioneer Therapy Center provides rehabilitation for many conditions. The clinic offers private rooms, as well as a large open area where client therapy is often administered in a group setting.
“Clients with upper- and lower-extremity conditions, along with those being treated for general weakness, often enjoy the camaraderie of other clients during therapy,” Witters said. “Activities; exercises; and modalities such as electrical stimulation, heat packs, and pulsed ultrasound are routinely administered in the open clinic area where the peer support and fellowship have proven to motivate clients while they progress through their rehabilitation goals.”
The clinic’s private rooms are reserved for clients needing individualized treatments. Another special room is used for fabricating custom thermoplastic orthotics and changing post-operative dressings. On the second floor, a more spacious room is used for the clinic’s pediatric program for children when they aren’t being integrated into the other areas of the clinic to help with social interaction, transitions, and self-regulation. There also is a full kitchen for adults and children to work on safe meal preparation.
When asked what she might do differently if opening a new private practice today, Witters quipped, “I would have purchased a larger building.” As far as operations, Witters said she would do everything the same. She advises other independent practice professionals to, “make a great environment for clients, hire experts to answer the phone and process financials, and have a medical insurance manager on staff to work with all the insurance companies so that providers are able to concentrate on what they love doing most.”