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4 Ways to Attract New PT Staff When the Workforce is Dropping Like Flies

Great Resignation made the PT job market more competitive. Learn how to capture and retain the right employees by standing out in the crowd.

Erin Thorburn
5 min read
October 28, 2021
image representing 4 ways to attract new pt staff when the workforce is dropping like flies
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To say the U.S. workforce is dropping like flies may seem like an exaggeration, but in all reality, it’s the truth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a staggering 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. What’s been dubbed as the Great Resignation has many industry employers quaking in their boots—and physical therapy is no exception. Health care has taken one of the hardest hits in resignations—with 3.6% more healthcare employees quitting their jobs in 2020 compared to the previous year. Not wonderful news for an industry poised for 21% growth through 2030. But on the brighter side, there are several ways to attract new and skilled talent—even amidst this unpredictable time.  

Here are four buzz-worthy strategies to attract the worker bees you need.

1. Offer lucrative salary options.

According to the BLS, the physical therapist’s median annual wage was $91,010 in May 2020. In the current employee-driven job market, businesses are finding that offering a competitive salary may not be enough. This is precisely why practices are deviating from more traditional fixed-salary models in favor of alternative compensation models

Fixed-Pay, Performance-Based Plans

As a customizable option, this model works well for small- and medium-sized outpatient practices. It works by splitting a therapist’s salary between a base salary and performance-based pay. Performance is often measured by total visits, billed units, and reimbursable units. As an example, the 90/10 model—90% guaranteed pay and 10% performance-based pay—is a popular option, particularly for more risk-averse therapists. However, the percentages can be arranged to whatever entices your candidate and supports the financial goals of your business. 

Revenue-Sharing Plans

Similar to profit sharing, revenue-sharing pay models work by paying each therapist a percentage of projected revenue from their individual monthly billing revenue. Together, PTs share the profits and losses of the practice (based on patient volume, satisfaction, and outcomes).

2. Provide enticing benefits. 

Much like sweetening up salary options for potential PT candidates, dynamic employee benefits will also help you stand apart in a saturated job market. Take a look at several valuable and competitive employee benefits approaches.

Dynamic Health and Wellness Benefits

Even prior to the pandemic, people were hyperaware of the rising cost of health care, insurance, and medical expenses. As the pandemic trudges on—and career reassessments and changes continue to gain steam—providing affordable, dynamic, and competitive health and wellness benefits are a must. 

For example, rather than an ancillary benefit, mental health services are increasingly becoming a primary desire among employees. One survey cited that 27% of American employees would like additional mental health support from their employer. As part of your mental health provisions, you can:

  • Offer health insurance plans that either cover or reduce the cost of mental health counseling and medication;
  • Provide free or subsidized mental health screenings and self-assessment tools; and
  • Host onsite and/or virtual supplemental mental health support in the form of workshops, seminars, and complementary resources.

Alongside a robust mental health benefits program, consider implementing these additional options within your employee benefits package: 

  • Telehealth services;
  • Caregiving benefits;
  • Accidental death and dismemberment insurance (AD&D);
  • Pet health care (e.g., pet health insurance, 24/7 pet health question hotline, etc.);
  • Gym memberships or discounts on health and wellness services; and
  • Pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) services to help reduce healthcare costs for employees and enable greater access to specialty medications. 

Flexible Schedules

When asked what they would benefit from most in their job, 94% of workers surveyed by Deloitte in May 2020 said flexibility. Additionally, our own State of Rehab Therapy Report corroborates this, as having a solid work-life balance ranked fourth among the most important job factors for rehab therapists (behind income stability, salary and benefits, and company culture).

Flexible schedules for employees help reduce burnout and encourage a positive work-life balance. And, it’s something rehab clinics can (luckily) often accommodate. Most PT clinics, for instance, operate in time ranges—7:00 AM to 7:00 PM—enabling wiggle room in staff scheduling.   

Development Opportunities 

Offering career development courses, classes, and mentorship opportunities to help your employees further their professional goals is a great way to improve clinical skills and confidence within your practice. Plus, this is also a great way to enhance employee engagement and loyalty in the long term. Some ideas include:

  • Set aside a certain amount of funds for employees to pursue a specialty board certification should they express interest in deepening their knowledge in a niche PT market.  
  • Partner with or establish your own mentoring program. Movement for Life Physical Therapy, for example, assigns new graduate physical therapists a senior clinician as their mentor for the first year, with dedicated weekly meetings for the first three months. 
  • Cover the cost of CEU credit courses.
  • Schedule work enrichment hours during which therapists can focus on individual goal setting with you or other members of your leadership team. 
  • Provide opportunities to attend national physical therapy conferences, such as CSM, PPS, and Ascend. Also consider any local or regional conferences or specialty-specific seminars that would add value to employee development (e.g., complex hip and knee solutions, PT in emergency departments, health and wellness in neuro-rehabilitation).

Student Loan Payback Programs

Most PTs are all too familiar with the burden of student debt. The latest data published by APTA reports close to 93% of recent PT graduates carry an average of $152,882 for all debt (barring mortgages). And, that 70% of PTs surveyed expressed ongoing mid-to high-level anxiety because of their financial debt. 

To help ease the financial and emotional weight of student debt for employees, rehab clinics offer student loan payback programs. There are several ways they can be structured, which include:

  • Cash pay. As the most common payback method, the employer pays a fixed amount toward the employee’s student debt. (e.g., $100 per month toward an employee’s student loan).
  • Payment match. As the employer, you match a predetermined payment amount that your employee makes. 
  • 401K match. These programs help employees by providing a 401K contribution equal to the employee’s student loan payment (typically capped out at the employee’s maximum 401K match percentage).
  • Swap. As an employer, you and your employee literally “swap” out benefits. For example, your employee would trade accrued PTO dollars in favor of an equivalent amount allocated toward student loan payback assistance. 

3. Cultivate a kick-butt culture.

When plenty of jobs are for the taking, you simply can’t afford to have a toxic, blah, or even so-so culture in your clinic. Some of the best PT work environments we’ve encountered over the years have similar workplace culture building blocks. So, if you’ve lost some of your veteran clinicians, or are having a difficult time attracting new talent, it’s time to consider implementing the following culture-enhancing strategies:

  • An open-door policy. Does your management team avail themselves of open, honest feedback, questions, and concerns? If not, they should. Employees want and need to be heard and advocated for. 
  • A collaborative and communicative atmosphere. Teamwork really does make the dream work! Encouraging collaboration and communication helps employees band together, reduces the likelihood of crossed wires, and helps create a vibrant, productive work environment.
  • A kudos and rewards policy. Everyone has different preferences for receiving praise. Some people enjoy verbal recognition (either one-on-one or in a team setting). Others enjoy tangible rewards. And, it’s common for many employees to appreciate both. Acknowledgments of a job well done can be:
  •  Bestowed in an email;
  •  Represented in an employee portrait for “PT of the month” in the breakroom; or
  •  Given in the form of a gift card to a local coffee shop or restaurant.
  • The presence of clear boundaries. Part of identifying your culture, making employees feel safe, and setting a precedent for mutual respect is ensuring healthy boundaries are intact. Make sure all staff members understand and follow rules and guidelines surrounding communication. For example, some clinics may stress the importance of not contacting co-workers about work-related issues after hours or abstaining from texting during meetings. Whatever boundaries are established, it’s important to express them clearly and concisely.

4. Craft a stellar job description.

Once all juicy job benefits and perks are put in place, it’s time to showcase them in an eye-catching job posting. We covered this topic extensively in this blog post, so we’ll just stick to the highlights:

  • Make sure the job title and summary posted appropriately reflect the duties of the position you are hiring for.
  • Use common language that’s in alignment with similar jobs in your industry and keep the job description short and sweet.
  • Avoid using any descriptors that overemphasize the requirement of flexibility. This can translate to: “Our clinic is short-staffed and we don’t have great work-life boundaries here.”
  • Talk up the culture of your clinic (highlight your practice team-building initiatives and staff events.
  • Describe your mission and goal as a company.
  • Provide a salary range and benefits—especially those that are unique to your clinic.
  • List specific job duties and education/certification requirements.
  • State whether the position is exclusively in-person, remote, or hybrid.
  • Check and double-check for spelling and grammar errors. 

Bee ready for a buzz of applicant activity.

Even though the current PT job market is challenging to say the least, you are now armed with the tools to attract the talent you need. The best part is that you can handpick which elements of the four strategies above work best for your clinic—and add some of your own creative offerings as well. 

If you have any talent acquisition or employee retention tips, we’d love to hear them! Share your ideas with us in the comment thread below.


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