The DOs and DON'Ts of Recruiting Physical Therapists

Orthopedic groups face many challenges in providing in-office physical and occupational therapy (PT/OT) to their patients—but attracting highly skilled, motivated therapists shouldn’t be one of them. Therapists employed by orthopedic groups have an extremely high retention rate, and the vast majority report high levels of professional and personal satisfaction.

The following recruiting DOs and DON’Ts should help you attract, hire, and retain talented therapists.

Recruiting Dos

  • Point out the advantages of working within your physician group, such as a stable, secure position, benefit package, ready source of patient referrals, support for continuing medical education (CME), and the ability to develop and implement new programs that are economically feasible to meet the needs of patients and the practice. Collaboration and a team approach to care can result in better clinical outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.
  • Clarify the candidate’s position on working within a physician group. The American Physical Therapy Association has a long-standing policy against physician-owned PT and many therapists are under the mistaken impression that orthopedic groups offer PT/OT solely to profit from referrals. Pass on candidates who express any objection or voice even a minor concern.
  • Match or exceed the benefit packages offered by other therapy practices in your area. Therapists are accustomed to receiving three weeks of paid vacation, plus paid holidays and paid CME days per year. Therapists often place a priority on work-life balance, travel, and recreation, and your benefit package should address those priorities. Offer a productivity-based bonus plan that rewards therapists who reach target levels of productivity. You may even want to consider guaranteeing a portion of the bonus for the first year of employment.
  • Provide flexible work hours, as long as patient needs are met. Many therapists prefer a 4-day week (10-hour days) or three 10-hour days and two 5-hour days. However, patient needs—not therapist preference—should dictate the schedule and hours of operation.
  • Give more weight to a positive attitude and strong work ethic than to managerial experience when hiring for a director position. The primary responsibility of a PT/OT director should be to treat patients and serve as the clinical supervisor. Let your administrative staff handle administrative tasks. Therapy directors should typically spend about 90 percent of their time treating patients.
  • Hire lead therapists for each PT/OT location with more than three providers. It is difficult for a treating therapist at one location to effectively manage other locations.
  • Conduct a Fraud and Abuse Control Information System (FACIS) check. Make sure the candidate has an active license and no record of disciplinary actions. If the candidate has disciplinary complaints or sanctions, obtain copies of the complaint and all associated documents and ensure that the candidate has an acceptable explanation, can be covered by your professional liability carrier, and can be credentialed with all significant payers. Talk to at least three professional references, including at least one former supervisor.
  • If you have three or more full-time equivalent therapists, set up a PT/OT student intern program so that you have the inside track on recruiting new graduates. If the local PT/OT school is reluctant to send students to a physician group, approach the school about changing its policy.

Recruiting DON’Ts

  • Don’t overpay therapists. You should not need to pay more than the prevailing compensation rate for therapists in your area, and those figures should be readily available.
  • Don’t hire a candidate to simply fill a position. Too many orthopedic groups settle for less-than-stellar candidates because they are under pressure to fill the position. A therapist who does not have good clinical and communication skills and a strong work ethic will not be an asset and can negatively impact the productivity of the entire clinic. Wait for the right candidate.
  • Don’t (ordinarily) hire a therapist who currently spends more than half of his or her time performing managerial tasks. These candidates rarely wish to spend a substantial portion of their time treating patients.
  • Don’t (ordinarily) hire the owner of a local PT/OT practice. If these candidates had good clinical and managerial skills, they would have developed a successful private practice and would not be looking to work for someone else.
  • Don’t let relationships get in the way. For example, if one of the physicians recommends a therapist, the therapist should not report to that physician. A therapist who reports to a physician or goes to a physician with compensation or other employment concerns is a red flag.

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