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We Asked Rehab Therapists Why They Are Leaving Traditional Patient Care

Prompt recently conducted a survey to better understand why physical therapists and other rehab clinicians are leaving outpatient care for non-clinical roles.

Why? Staffing is the number-one challenge facing rehab therapy businesses, and we hear more stories about it each day. The reduced candidate pool makes the hiring search increasingly competitive for understaffed practices.

In our survey, we asked clinicians who have transitioned out of the traditional care setting or are considering doing so why they are deciding to make a change, among other things. We’ve summarized the findings below.

Table of Contents

Survey methodology and key findings

Prompt conducted this survey from May 14-24, 2024, and collected 215 responses. Respondents were members of The Clinician Transition, an online community for rehab therapists (PTs, OTs, SLPs) who are either considering a nontraditional role or have already taken one.

Key Findings

Lack of growth opportunities (85%) and insufficient salary/benefits (73%) were the top two reasons* clinicians gave for transitioning out of traditional care
*Respondents were allowed to choose multiple reasons

68% of all respondents said emotional burnout is a top reason for leaving traditional care

79% of respondents under age 30 said that excessive workload was a top reason for transitioning

The top roles* that clinicians are transitioning to are customer success (52%) and product/project/program management (50%)
*Respondents were allowed to choose multiple roles

Clinicians with 5-7 years of experience represent the largest group seeking nontraditional roles

24% of those surveyed indicated they’d consider returning to traditional care if they had a leadership role

Who took the survey?

Survey respondents were predominantly female (83%), followed by male (16%) and non-binary (<1%). The largest age group was 30-39 (62%), followed by 40-49 (20%), under 30 (13%), and 50-59 (5%). Responses were distributed evenly across levels of experience, ranging from 1 year to 15+ years in traditional care. Respondents were split fairly evenly between still having a role in traditional care (52%) and having already transitioned (48%).

What are the top reasons rehab therapists are leaving traditional care roles?

When asked for their primary reasons for leaving the field of traditional care, clinicians reported lack of professional growth opportunities, desire for higher salaries, burnout, and difficulty balancing work and home life. Note: They were able to choose multiple answers.

The top reasons clinicians are changing careers

  • The top reason clinicians cited is lack of professional growth opportunities (85%) 
  • The second is insufficient salary/benefits (73%)
  • 90% of the 30-39 age group – the largest age group represented in the survey – say that pay is a top reason they are transitioning
  • 95% of providers under 30 report “lack of professional growth opportunities” as a top reason
  • 75% of providers age 40-49 also say “lack of professional growth opportunities” as a top reason

Many respondents called out declining/stagnant reimbursements rates, low reimbursement payers, and the profession’s overall reliance on insurance reimbursements for adequate pay as frustrations with traditional care.

What clinicians are saying about their top reasons for leaving

In their open-ended responses, clinicians went into more detail about topics that contributed to their decisions to leave the profession. They shared their thoughts on limited career growth opportunities, insufficient pay for their work, and a lack of respect from leadership, among others.

Additional reasons clinicians reported for leaving

  • 68% of total respondents list emotional burnout as a top reason, making it third overall
  • 61% of total respondents list work-life balance as a top reason
  • 79% of respondents under 30 also say that excessive workload was a top reason
  • Some responses point to “increased focus on numbers over quality of care,” “difficulty in getting PTO,” and “lack of mental health support” as challenges they faced

What clinicians are saying contributed to their burnout

Clinicians reported unrealistic work demands, less focus on patients, documentation struggles, and frustrations with inefficient technology as burnout contributors.

What do/did they like most about traditional care?

When asked “What do you/did you like most about traditional patient care?,” many respondents shared their positive experiences getting to know and helping patients, as well as building connections with their team.

What roles are they transitioning to, and what would influence a decision to return?

Customer success and product/program/project management are the top fields that rehab therapists are transitioning toward after traditional care.

The top 5 alternative career paths mentioned* were customer success (52%), product/project/program management (49.75%), healthcare quality (38%), sales (30%), and data analysis (25%).
*Respondents were allowed to choose multiple options

We asked those clinicians that had successfully transitioned out of the field if there was a different role they’d consider if they ever returned to traditional rehab therapy.
From those that responded, 24% said they’d consider a leadership role, followed by admin (19%), founder (11%), and biller (2%). Around 36% said there wasn’t a different role they would consider.

When asked the most appealing aspects of non-traditional roles, “time flexibility,” “ability to work remotely,” and “better growth/pay potential” were often mentioned.

89% of respondents are detractors of the profession (reporting 6 or less out of 10 on the question, “How likely are you to recommend a career in traditional care?”)

34% of respondents who have already transitioned away from traditional care reported they are highly unlikely to return to a traditional care role in the future.

What clinicians are saying would improve traditional care:

In clinics

Respondents shared some suggestions for how practice leaders could improve their businesses to help retain clinicians. These included building more time into provider schedules for unique projects and career development, and a greater focus on quality over quantity of patient visits.

At the industry level

Clinicians also offered some ideas for improving the rehab therapy industry as a whole. These included a desire for less dependence on the reimbursement model and more general business education in school.


Thank you to The Clinician Transition group for partnering with us on this survey, and for all the respondents who took time to share honest answers.

We are committed to a brighter future in rehab therapy, and offering technology that can help clinics deliver better care is just one part of that.

We look forward to the positive impact(s) this report can have across the industry.

Share the report

Bring awareness to these findings and how the industry can address these challenges.

Prompt Staff

Prompt Therapy Solutions builds practice management software for physical therapy clinics ranging from single provider practices and startups, to large enterprise organizations.

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