Your PTs are getting close to calling it quits. Here’s why (and how you can save them)

Dec 27, 2023 | Blog, Front Desk, Healthcare

In October 2023, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) published a harrowing report about the state of PT staffing in outpatient physical therapy practices. Approximately 70% of PT clinics continue to face a vacancy rate of over 10% for PT positions. About 48% of practices have also reported that they’ve either retained or experienced an increase in the number of openings for PT providers.

What this means: there is a physical therapy shortage crisis — and your practice is at risk of losing providers, too.

Why Is There A Physical Therapy Shortage?

The APTA surveyed multiple practices to determine reasons for open PT positions Respondents were given a set of choices, from which they selected the top three reasons behind the openings.

Of the top 10 reasons that were determined, five notable reasons for openings due to employees leaving were:

  1. Better pay (72%)
  2. Better work-life balance (72%)
  3. Reduced hours or full-time employment status (34%)
  4. Change of profession (24%)
  5. Left the workforce entirely (12%)

Outside employees leaving, company growth (69.7%) was cited as one of the top reasons for having PT openings.

But coupled with the constant 10% vacancy rate in the past few years, this data begs the question: Why are PTs still continuing to call it quits?

It’s ideal to view the physical therapy faculty shortage from a holistic standpoint. Company growth, desires for improved work-life balance, changes of profession, and all the other reasons should be interpreted together.

Perhaps company growth led to a desire for work-life balance due to an increase in workload? Providers might have also been seeking better pay due to a change in employment status but were either rejected or neglected.

Whatever the reason, it’s crucial to take a close look at your providers and determine whether they, too, are thinking of throwing in the towel.

How Do You Know If Your PTs Are About To Quit?

There are various signs that may indicate that your healthcare providers are about to leave, whether due to personal, professional, or financial reasons.

Here are 5 common signs that your PTs may be considering quitting:

  1. Lower quality careAdministrative burden and other non-PT-related tasks (e.g., appointment scheduling, call handling) can distract them from attending to their patients, leading to decreased effectiveness during appointments.
  2. Frequent tardiness and absenteeism – Lack of motivation or the presence of health issues may affect their punctuality in the long run.
  3. Career stagnation – Physical therapists desire to grow professionally and financially to compensate for their educational expenses. If they’re unable to achieve that in physical therapy, they will leave your clinic to pursue a career change.
  4. Lack of training opportunities – Even with career stability, the lack of visible growth opportunities will slowly whittle away your providers’ motivation to continue pursuing PT work.
  5. Cancellations, no-shows, and attrition – Patients may be disappointed with the services they receive from your providers and express their frustration by slowly removing themselves from your clinic.

It’s vital to see these signs and identify a long-term solution for retaining your providers. This can be challenging, however, as your providers are unlikely to disclose that they want to quit out of fear of scrutiny from you or their peers.

How Can You Save Your PTs?

Saving your PTs is not just a one-time endeavor — it’s a concerted effort that involves significantly modifying your workflow and approach to staffing.

There are several ways you can reorganize your practice to be more welcoming to the needs of your PTs and avoid physical therapy shortage. By accommodating their needs, they will be more likely to stay in your practice.

Here are some strategies you can try out:

  • Remove their administrative burden. In an APTA survey on administrative burden, over 80% of PTs agree that administrative tasks contribute to burnout. Delegating administrative tasks to front desk staff helps significantly reduce the weight on your providers’ shoulders.
  • Provide flexible working arrangements. Giving your providers options to work full-time, part-time, or on a shifting schedule helps them manage their workload better. Open up a discussion on how you can help them be more productive and motivated with their work.
  • Establish a clear career progression path for them. Horizontal or vertical career progression, salary increase, or even recognition and awards give your providers clear goals for them to achieve. Ensure that the progression is relevant, rewarding, and attainable for your providers.
  • Provide regular training sessions and materials. Giving your providers opportunities to pursue further learning helps keep them motivated with their role, as it lets them discover news and trends in the PT space. Hold training regularly, conduct managerial meetings, and consider investing in a PT magazine publication to keep them engaged with their professional development.
  • Take the time to talk to your providers. Talking to your providers helps them unwind and voice their concerns and allows you to develop camaraderie with them. Meet with each provider 1-on-1 to give them a safe space to express their grievances.

Enable Your PTs To Find Long-Term Success In 2024

The physical therapy shortage continues to be a lingering problem affecting clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. Solving this issue requires you to be attentive to your PTs’ needs so you can adapt your practice accordingly. Your PTs may be facing issues in their personal and professional lives that can demoralize them in the long run. Thus, giving them a helping hand can do wonders for keeping them motivated, productive, and happy.

Every team member in your practice must work together to ensure each other’s wellness and success. Your receptionists, for instance, can mitigate your providers’ administrative burden and manage client expectations for a better overall patient intake process. Learn how you can support your PTs with a live virtual receptionist service that can help maintain a consistent patient experience across all your locations.

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