Overcoming Hospital-Based Mindset: An Interview with Dr. Sandra Cortina

Meet SimplePractice customer, Dr. Sandra Cortina! Sandra has risen above disability and the confines of “hospital-based mindset” to take on the challenge of transitioning into the world of private practice.


Hi Sandra! Tell us about your journey.

I’m a pediatric psychologist and spent around ten years as faculty at a major children’s hospital before I started my private practice. I was in charge of creating cutting-edge clinical interventions, ran a hospital-wide integrated clinical research program, and co-lead a hospital initiative to improve Provider-Family communication around treatments. It was quite an experience!

Three years ago, I was unfortunately diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that resulted in vision loss.

I began struggling with the EMR I was using and it created quite a bit of chaos in terms of being able to access the electronic medical records that the hospital system was using. Luckily I had really wonderful resources here with the Visually Impaired and Blind Association. They provided me with access to software that would enable me to magnify anything that I needed to see on a computer screen, but unfortunately, it didn’t interface with the EMR that I was using at the time.

I had a change of spirit and also wanted to do more innovative treatments at the point of care. Each of these scenarios made it tougher for me work authentically within the system’s framework so I took a few deep breaths and left. With the support of my friends, family, and colleagues, I began using the same mindfulness techniques I had prescribed to clients to figure out what my practice needed to look like.

I’m a researcher at heart so I moved forward and looked around for an EMR solution, and that’s when I came across SimplePractice! I saw all the great reviews and all the awesome things that it could do, and when I saw that it would interface with Apple and with the products I already had… I was sold. I was able to use the free trial to test it out myself first before I even started my practice and that was fantastic!




Would you say there was a huge transition period or learning curve going from working at a large hospital to running your own practice?

Surprisingly, no! I was really fortunate in that I was running my own integrated clinical research program at the hospital where I was in charge of monitoring all of the financials, monitoring the number of patients that I was seeing, monitoring everything that I was bringing in. I was also basically a one-man marketing team, or one-woman marketing team rather, for my research program. All of this experience is pretty similar to the things I’ve had to handle with starting and running my private practice.

I’d say the biggest transition for me though was that in the medical profession, and specifically within psychology, anything outside of the hospital setting, is basically viewed as career suicide in a way. So the idea of leaving the hospital was really daunting because the message that you get continually from grad school and on is if you don’t stay in a medical setting, you’re not going to survive.

This is the mindset with medical professionals who are taught that the hospital is the only place where it’s at. That’s where the researchers are, that’s where the resources are, that’s where the community is, and that’s where people who are vested in their work are going to be. The idea that there’s another world outside of the hospital is not one that’s really acknowledged, so I actually had to work pretty hard to meet providers outside of my hospital community. For me, that was definitely the largest growth curve because I’m now having to discover and network with other providers on my own. I started from ground zero in that respect, and I honestly had no idea!

Top 3 tips for getting sh*t done. Go!

  1. Don’t procrastinate! Make sure to do your notes after each session.
  2. Set a day or a chunk of time aside to do “your stuff” away from the office & honor it!
  3. Don’t check email, social media until after you check off your list.




How do you use SP in your day to day & how has it helped your practice overall?

I use it for scheduling, reminders, and sending all my documents to clients. My clients love that I’m essentially all electronic. I love that the program “fits” my visual disability, giving me back my independence! I have more mobility with it and freedom that I didn’t have that before when I was in the hospital setting. I wasn’t using an iPad in the hospital, that’s for sure.

With SimplePractice I can use the dictate function for my low vision days and I even have the option to enlarge the screen on better days. The customer service team is super helpful whenever any of my H&B codes need to be added.

Hospital-based work is very insular and the message is often that private practice is hard, career-ending, and not worth the trouble. The reality is that private practice takes the same level of work and dedication, just in another arena. The upside is that I now have the time and space to practice what I preach, I am able to create a space that fits me and my clients, and I control my schedule. Quality of life matters and I have that now!

What SimplePractice feature can you not live without?

I really like the reminders! My clients love that everything is electronic- I get those comments from them all the time. Everything is paperless and they really enjoy that.

They also like that I keep their credit card on file because a good number of my clients are teenagers and oftentimes they’re either dropped off by their parents or they’re driving themselves. It really helps to streamline the process so parents don’t have to worry about getting billed later or figuring out how they’re going to pay. It just takes something off of their plate, and they really appreciate that.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people aiming for success in private practice?

Set a marketing goal for each season! Then aim to hit milestones for that goal every few weeks or so.

To close, what’s your vision for your practice?

My vision is to empower families, teens, and young adults with strength-based care, which is essentially a method where I help guide my client to find their own element of strength and goodness so that they can basically lead their own healing.


Interested in learning more about Sandra? Check out her Facebook page!

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