If you’re feeling like your clinic has a permanent “help wanted” sign on the door, you’re not alone. Finding top physical therapists to keep your clinic running smoothly to meet the increasing patient demand is challenging. There are many factors driving this demand including an aging population, prevalence of chronic conditions, and a preference for non-pharmacological solutions to pain management. Physical therapists, like many healthcare workers, have been suffering from burnout while the demand for physical therapy continues to rise.
The physical therapist workforce may feel as if it’s shrinking, potentially caused by burnt-out physical therapists searching for non-clinical roles or leaving the field entirely. In addition, therapists may be opting to work in a non-profit/hospital-based setting rather than an outpatient clinic to qualify for public student loan forgiveness programs. All of this together has made the hiring process extremely competitive for outpatient rehab clinics. Additionally, providers can be increasingly picky when searching for their next practice. So with all that said, what can you do to find and retain top talent?
How to source candidates
Sourcing top-notch physical therapists for your clinic requires strategic thinking and innovative methods. Here are some proven strategies ranging from partnering with universities and leveraging job boards to crafting a compelling employer brand, and more. Each approach is designed not only to reach a broader pool of candidates but also to engage the right ones who align well with your clinic’s ethos and values.
- Partner with universities: Providing clinical rotation opportunities for students can be a great way to start a steady stream of upcoming practitioners through your door. This is an excellent way for your clinic to become more well known, while building relationships and getting to know future clinicians to see how they might fit.
- Job posting boards and social media: Write up detailed listings for your open positions and post them on popular job boards. We recommend the APTA Career Center, Indeed, and Linkedin to name a few. You can also engage with potential candidates by sharing informative, interesting content related to PT on social media. Be sure to post open positions from your personal account too!
- Create a compelling employer brand: Start by making your clinic a great place to work, then share your culture, values, and work environment through your website, social media, and other promotional materials. Highlight benefits that are unique to your practice, like a particular approach to patient care, cutting-edge equipment, or professional development opportunities.
- Networking and community involvement: Get involved in local community events, PT associations, PT related events, and continuing education. We highly recommend attending the APTA Private Practice Conference (PPS) in November and the Combined Section Meeting (CSM) in February. This can help you build relationships and improve your clinic’s visibility within the PT community.
- Alumni associations: Tap into your school’s alumni association! There you can hopefully find some candidates, and network with other clinic owners and therapists who may post your openings or send you some leads.
Remember, the goal isn’t just to attract candidates, but to attract the right candidates. Clearly communicate what your clinic has to offer and what type of physical therapists would be the best fit. This can help streamline the recruiting process and increase the chances of finding therapists who will be happy and successful in your clinic.
Offer a strong compensation package
After you have found the right places to look for potential candidates, how do you make sure they want to give your clinic a closer look? It all starts with company culture, work-life balance, and benefits that are genuinely attractive – especially for those candidates who are considering multiple options.
It’s no secret that money talks and an attractive compensation package for physical therapists will entice new talent into your clinic. Competitive salaries, hiring bonuses, performance bonuses, and partial student loan repayment plans are all fantastic ways to bring in talented therapists.
Opportunities for continuing education and training can also be appealing for therapists. Continuing education requirements vary by state, but most states do require some. It can be well worth it for your clinic to invest in your therapists by providing a monetary stipend to spend on courses and even time off from work to participate. Not only does it provide another incentive to bring in physical therapists, but your patients will also benefit from a more skilled workforce.
Provide an awesome work environment
Salary and benefits are only one piece of the puzzle in attracting quality physical therapy candidates. It’s the day-to-day that can make or break a therapist’s job satisfaction and outcomes. Here are some suggestions:
- Foster a collaborative and supportive culture: Encourage team collaboration and provide a supportive environment. This includes an open-door policy for concerns and questions, regular team meetings to discuss cases and share knowledge, and building a strong sense of camaraderie among staff.
- Flexible schedules: PTs often appreciate the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Offering flexible schedules, part-time opportunities, or accommodating for personal needs can go a long way in boosting job satisfaction. PTs with a greater sense of trust from management and autonomy in their work also report less burnout.
- Mentorship and career advancement: Offer opportunities for new or less experienced staff to learn from those with more experience. This can be done through a formal mentorship program or simply by encouraging collaboration and consultation among staff. Also, provide clear pathways for career advancement within your clinic.
- Continuing education and professional development opportunities: Encourage and support ongoing learning. This could include providing funding or time off for PTs to attend conferences, take advanced courses, or pursue specialty certifications.
- Incorporate modern technology: Spending hours each day completing documentation through a cumbersome or outdated EMR system can quickly lead to therapist frustration and dissatisfaction. Having the right tools at your practice can be a major factor for candidates who are considering their options.
- Workplace design: Ensure your clinic is a pleasant place to work. This means both in terms of the physical environment (clean, well-maintained, and well-equipped) and in terms of processes and workflows that make sense and don’t create unnecessary stress.
- Recognition and rewards: Show appreciation for your staff’s hard work. This can be as simple as a thank-you note or as elaborate as an employee of the month program or annual awards. You could also think about leveraging a software solution that helps gather, track, and distribute positive patient testimonials, which can be a great way to show your staff the impact they are having on patients’ lives.
- Open communication: Keep your staff in the loop about the clinic’s financial health, plans for the future, and any changes that may affect them. This helps build trust and shows you respect them as professionals.
By implementing these strategies, you are not only creating an environment that PTs love to work in, but you’re also making your clinic a magnet for top talent. Moreover, satisfied PTs can become ambassadors for your clinic, referring their contacts and promising new graduates. This commitment can drive both retention and recruitment, bolstering the overall success of your clinic.
Consider different pay structures
There are varying philosophies on compensation in the outpatient rehab space. In recent years, an incentive-based pay approach has grown more prevalent in the physical therapy industry, where it didn’t used to be so common. If you’re finding that your current structure is not winning over talented applicants, it may be worth trying this incentive-based structure. This can give your PTs more of an upside, so they can earn more money if they help grow your profits – and with this added incentive, deliver better treatment experiences and outcomes for your patients. If you do try this type of approach, be sure to advertise it in your job listings and during interviews.
In order to try an incentive-based structure, you first need technology in place that can track metrics for your practice, so you can calculate items like revenue per visit and the number of visits you need to hit in a year to be profitable. Then, based on your staff size, determine what you can pay out for a competitive rate. On average, PTs who work on incentive-based pay might take home 25-35% of what they bring in. This approach can be a motivating factor for top talent in many cases, and help them feel more engaged with their work – which can, in turn, lead to higher success rates with treatment goals. With that said, if your clinicians aren’t meeting the quotas you set in this structure, you will need to reassess if they’re the right fit – or if this approach works for your clinic.
In conclusion, the rising demand for physical therapy services combined with a competitive hiring market makes it imperative for clinics to utilize innovative strategies to attract top talent. A multi-faceted approach to hiring, which includes forming partnerships with educational institutions, leveraging various job boards, and using recruiters, can significantly expand your candidate pool. Once potential hires are identified, offering a competitive compensation package, investing in a conducive work environment, and presenting unique opportunities for professional development become crucial in clinching the deal. Flexibility in pay structures, such as the incentive-based approach, can also offer an attractive benefit for high-performing therapists.
Above all, creating a culture that values work-life balance, collaboration, open communication, and personal growth can turn your clinic into a magnet for exceptional talent, ultimately bolstering both patient satisfaction and clinic success.
About the author:
Chelsea Krotser is an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist and freelance writer. Drawing on her experience as a PT as well as her former life as an accountant, she is dedicated to providing an insightful clinical and business perspective. She loves writing about all things related to physical therapy. You can find her on Instagram @chelseakrotser.