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Sunday, October 22 News

Meet your neighbor... Dori Nissenson, who runs her own physical therapy practice

WESTPORT — Dori Nissenson needs a flexible work schedule.

The Westport mother of two balances raising her daughters and helping out at their schools with running her own physical therapy practice.

Hands on at Home Physical Therapy was started by Nissenson — who began her career at New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center — in 2015 with the goal of making physical therapy more accessible. Rather than work out of an office, Nissenson offers in-home care throughout Fairfield County.

Q: Why did you decide to start your door-to-door business?

A: I worked for many years for a major hospital in Manhattan — New York-Presbyterian Hospital — and then when I moved out here, I was doing per diem work because I wanted the flexibility. But I found that I really couldn’t exercise my education and my strong clinical background because treatment sessions were so short and everything was scrutinized by insurance companies. There were certain treatment modalities that you could use and certain ones you couldn’t use in combination with each other, and I didn’t feel that I was being as effective as I could be.

I did have a lot of patients who wanted to see me at home. So I started out with a small group of people from New York that existed from my New York City days. As word got out, I decided that I loved what I do, but I loved it more doing it how I wanted it done.

Q: How does running your own practice differ?

A: My sessions are 100 percent hands on.

I can spend an hour with my patients. It’s in the comfort of their own home. And it’s much more functionally relevant because if it’s an elderly patient that’s having trouble bending and opening a drawer, we can work on that very thing. It allows me to be more creative with my profession and more efficient because I can spend my entire hour with my hands on a patient, and it’s very flexible.

Q: When did you start going to people’s homes?

A: In 1994 when I started at New York-Presbyterian, the culture there encouraged it. At that time, the staffing wasn’t really sufficient to handle more than two sessions a week for a patient. Some patients wanted more, so they would encourage you to go to a patient’s home privately.

I always carried a good number of private patients, plus my full-time job.

Then when we moved out here, I went back to the city a few days a week and it was too much. So in May 2015 I established my LLC.

Q: Was that difficult? Had you any prior business experience?

A: No. I have some friends, and at one point I was thinking it might be good to bring somebody under my umbrella. But it was really stressful because I’m 47; I’m not a computer person at all. That was one of the most difficult things.

At the hospital I resigned before they went electronic. I was happy about it at the time, but I really missed all of that. That was challenging. And then just all the red tape. It was a lot of documents and faxing, and a lot of business stuff to take care of. It was like a whirlwind.

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But I had a goal for myself when I started to get it all done by September, and I was up and running.

Q: What made you want to go into physical therapy?

A: Originally I thought I wanted to go to medical school. I was a very intense student.

What really spurred me on is I hurt myself in college. I dislocated my kneecap and I had physical therapy and thought it was great. I was on the pre-med track, but that kind of swayed my decision.

Q: How do you feel your experience sets you apart?

A: I’m very thorough; I treat head to toe.

If someone comes to me with back pain, I’m going to look at their feet and their neck. The way I look at health and pain-free function is as an aggregate of a lot of different factors. So you have to look at all those different factors to really return somebody to full pain-free function.

It’s a holistic approach. Every part of the body affects every other part.

My initial assessment is very thorough, from head to toe. I’m looking at alignment, neuromuscular control, range of motion, flexibility, strength, movement, and then I take my findings and I analyze them and put together a treatment plan completely individualized to each patient based on how they’re presenting at that initial assessment.

Q: What do you find is the average age of your clients?

A: All over the place.

I made orthotics on Sunday for a patient who just turned 9. And I just came from a patient who is going to be 87 on Saturday. I’d say they’re at the ends of the spectrum, but most of my work at Cornell and New York Presbyterian was with geriatrics. But I’ve worked at sports clinics, I’ve worked at outpatient facilities. So they run the gamut.

Q: How far will you travel for clients?

A: I’m trying to stay within Fairfield County. I have some patients as far south as Greenwich and as far north as Redding.

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1

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