Sometime in 1990 in a classroom at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Caty Stegemann sat down to answer a series of questions on a career aptitude test.
Little did she know responding to the set of questions would unlock a lifelong passion for helping others live healthier lives and becoming a successful business owner.
With results indicating success in either healthcare or education, Stegemann’s dean lined up a volunteering opportunity for her at Oak Park’s West Suburban Hospital. It was there she realized what she wanted to spend her life doing — working as a physical therapist.
Packing her bags and heading one state west, Stegemann enrolled in college at St. Louis University, graduating in 1996 with her degree in physical therapy.
Over the years, she has practiced in both hospital networks and outpatient orthopedic centers, making her way up the ranks of clinician, manager, researcher and lecturer — most notably, sharing her expertise in the areas of hip pain and sports medicine.
But around 2017, she began taking notice of something in the field that did not sit well with her — burnout.
“I began to see so many clinicians being burned out,” she said. “You were scheduling patients anywhere from 20 minutes to a half hour, seeing way more patients than I thought was healthy for the therapist, and not being able to give your patients as much one-on-one time as they deserved.”
After much reflection, she found an answer in opening her own practice focusing on a holistic, research-based health approach and ensuring attentive care with longer appointment times for a successful patient healing process.
An Oak Park native who now calls south Berwyn home, Stegemann opened Centre Physical Therapy in Oak Park’s Arts District in September 2018. Late last year, she opened a second location in the historic Arcade Building at 1 Riverside Road in downtown Riverside.
“I liked the idea of opening up something fairly close by,” she said. “We were getting some patients driving from the south and west suburbs, and when I walked into this space, it was just my gut telling me that this was the right space to be in.”
Stegemann says she is excited to be a new part of the Riverside community. Since opening a few months ago, Centre opened its doors in Riverside’s Holiday Stroll and is looking forward to joining with the Riverside Chamber of Commerce for local events and partnerships.
If there’s one elevator pitch Stegemann would make to the Riverside community about Centre, it’s that happier therapists make all the difference.
“There are things we do here to make it a happier environment, and that’s kind of unheard of in the healthcare world,” she said. “We’re going back to old-fashioned values of running a business, and I do pride myself on having that vision and three-and-a-half years later, maintaining that.”
Areas of expertise covered at Centre include orthopedic treatment, sports therapy, hip preservation and rehab, pre- and postpartum strengthening, pain management, pediatrics and dry needling.
In terms of target clientele, Stegemann says there’s no one-size-fits-all patient.
“I would say that we see it all,” she said.
Along with having the business be patient-centered, Stegemann has also prioritized developing a therapist-centered practice, seeing employees as “the whole being” and not just a healthcare professional needing to finish a to-do list.
“I wanted therapists to have the ability to have a good work/life balance — not feel as if they’re getting burnt out, be able to spend time with their families and be able to get their documentation finished in a timely manner,” Stegemann said. “Being able to spend that one-on-one time with the patient, you learn so much more about what their deficits are and how it’s really impacting their lives. We have the time to listen to them and work to be able to make a difference.”
Stegemann says about 50 percent of her staff are therapists she has worked with previously. The others, she says, reached out to her as referrals from current employees or those who said they heard about her business and wanted to become part of the holistic practice themselves.
“We have so much experience within our group of physical therapists — over 100 years of experience,” she said. “We really work together as a nice family.”
Centre Physical Therapy in Riverside is located at 1 Riverside Road, Unit 107. For more information visit centrephysicaltherapy.com.