Dawn Heiderscheidt, OT


Dawn is an Occupational Therapist and entrepreneur with a drive to succeed. You are going to love her story..

What is your name and discipline?

My name is Dawn Heiderscheidt, I am an occupational Therapist and I also have my Executive Certification in Home Modifications

Where did you go to school and when did you graduate?

I got my masters from Temple University in '14 after returning to school. Prior to that I had received my BA in Art Education from Kutztown University in '08 and taught High School Art from '08-'12 in the Philadelphia School District.

When and why did you decide to go “independent”?

I officially went "Independent" in 2020. Like so many others, COVID played a part. The pandemic wasn't the cause however, it was just the final motivator. The path to independence started long before that. From 2014-2018 I was feeling undervalued, underpaid, and that my position was just a commodity to get clients discharged. I was tired of feeling like I was not valued. In 2018, I left my full time position at an Acute Care hospital, transitioned to a per diem position I advocated for, and picked up an additional per diem position at the hospital I had trained at.

Then, the hospital that trained me, closed. It was the beginning of a cascade of events that lead to my Independence. No one expected one of the larger Philadelphia Hospitals to declare bankruptcy, I applied for new positions. PDPM hit and therapists across the city were being laid off, we were all competing for the same jobs. I applied to 100's of positions both in/out of OT while working only a few days a week. Then the pandemic hit and I lost the last hours I had remaining. I had lost all income, I had exhausted all job searches, and I was stuck. That's when I decided that if no one else would hire me, I would make my own position. Now I opened Aurora Independence, a mobile outpatient Clinic.

"If no one else would hire me, I would make my own position. If no one else valued me, I would value myself.".
All therapists are valuable, and we love that Dawn found the value in herself to keep going!

What Are You Doing Now?

As an independent practitioner I have a mobile outpatient clinic which specializes in fall prevention and home modifications. I have been assisting adults in their homes to prevent falls through traditional therapy and improve their functional outcomes with hands-on interventions, I help to increase confidence in their bodies and themselves, change their relationship to pain, reduce their hospital admission risks and provide those looking to age in place the expertise of combining beauty and functionality.

One of my skills is thinking several steps ahead of where a person is right now. Knowing the functional outcomes/potential of the natural aging process or progressive nature of diagnosis, gives me a unique perspective when discussing things like toilet or stove placement. I focused on how to change your routines BEFORE they need changing. Often clients don't need me when they use me, and may never need me again in the same regard, and that's the point. I see the potential and the goals before you need to.

What are your hopes/plans/dreams for the future?

My hopes/dreams are to grow a company culture that places value on each of my team members and their contributions. (YES keep it going!) I want every person I work with to know I value them, their time, their energy, and their mental health. My goal is to have work life balance while providing excellent care to clients who are often overlooked. The healthcare world is a reactionary system, and I hope to help move it towards a cost effective preventative model.

I am also working on creating a Tai Chi/fall prevention video series for purchase, I offer fall prevention workshops to community centers and independence/assisted living facilities, consultation on home remodels for improved functionality, and individualized interventions for pain management within the community.

What tips do you have for others looking to go independent?

I would suggest two things, get a business coach, and invest in the services to help you.

A business coach, or AT LEAST find other healthcare related entrepreneurs will help give you the support system you need to navigate the difficult questions. I have dyslexia, and it has always been a struggle to read complex text, stay engaged, and decipher the necessary information being presented. To have a support system was beneficial to have someone explain it to me in terms I understood. It's complex, but it's not unattainable.

Additionally, I invested in the technology and services early on that made my life easier. Spending the money on the password encryptor/ password storage systems and the money on a computer that was more expensive but fit my lifestyle more, actually helped my organization in the long run. I am a mac person, so having my phone, watch, ipad and computer integrated made it easier for me with on the go documentation. It doesn't matter what device I forgot (cause I always forget something) I have access to the information I need.

ITA wishes Dawn nothing but success in her multiple business adventures! We are here for you and every other therapist looking to "make it" on their own!


Need to reach out to Dawn- please let us know at hello@itaexcels.org