The 3 Types of Physical Therapists and How to Hire Them

Imagine you’re a baker in a quiet pastry shop. 

You’re due to make a pie for the local competition. This year, you dream of being the best in the business. To make this goal a reality, you only order the top ingredients, of course. 

Now, as a private practice owner, why would you treat your hiring process any differently? 

Unlike in baking, you likely won’t find the perfect mix of personality traits along with professional skills rolled up into a highly motivated person “right off the shelf.” Your new hire will have to be groomed and cultivated into that ideal staff member for your team. 

That means you have to know a) what you are looking for and b) how to develop them into being the best fit for your company culture.  This is on you as the CEO of your own practice to invest in your personnel both personally and professionally. 

It’s important to know that there are 3 types of clinicians:

  • The “New Grad” (0-3 years out)
  • The Advanced Therapist (4 -9 years out)
  • The Veteran Therapist (10+ years out)

The New Grad Physical Therapist 

Let’s start with the New Grad. 

By definition, this is the physical therapist who’s about 0-3 years out of school. They’re eager to learn and are likely trying to absorb everything they can to be the best therapist possible. They’re often seeking mentorship and professional enhancement through continuing education and side by side learning from your veteran staff members. 

Here are some tips on how to best attract new graduates to your practice:

  • Make sure your New Grad has an assigned mentor.
  • Set up professional enhancement days.
  • Have a robust continuing education program.
  • Ads for the position should open with a question (create mystery…).
  • Follow our proven five-step hiring process.

To grow them into a valuable member of your team, make sure you:

  • Establish a post-orientation checklist done within the first week of employment.
  • Hold them accountable by encouraging self-accountability with intermittent spot-checking.
  • Make professional development a game and keep it fun.
  • Remember – good staff members are grown, not found.

The Advanced Therapist

Next, we have the Advanced Therapist. 

If your intention is to move this person into management someday, you should know that there are three things to look for in a potential manager that should be avoided at all costs: 

  • One who lacks confidence and decisiveness, you will see this in their nature to always look for consensus or go with the popular vote.
  • The person who lacks the work-ethic or willingness to go above and beyond because they’ll immediately feel taken advantage of.
  • The overly confident type that needs to be right and walks over others.

The “Advanced Therapist” is the type of person who typically becomes your clinical director and/or regional manager. Out of the three types of therapists, it is the advanced therapist who will likely carry the most responsibility and accountability throughout your practice.

Here are some tips to help with the development of your advanced therapist:

  • Train them extensively in the art of effective communication based on the building blocks of confront, rapport, reality, agreement, and understanding.
  • Be sure they are willing to say “No” and that they are not seeking to be liked or admired. Seeking popularity is dooming them to failure.
  • Make sure they have had the benefit of training on skill development not bright ideas and that they know how to train others.
  • Make sure that they understand the importance of key performance indicators (KPI’s) and how to track weekly stats and manage others based on performance, not personality this will help to hold in accountability.

The Veteran Therapist

Lastly, we have the Veteran Therapist. 

It is surprising that more people don’t actively recruit for a Veteran Therapist. This is likely due to the preference of teaching somebody something new as opposed to having to retrain them out of doing something old.

But, if I were to go after a veteran therapist, my recruitment ads would be pushing the button of flexibility in terms of days and hours to be worked. I may also want to target specialty services requiring specialized skills that only a veteran therapist has – especially if I’m looking into program development for a niche service. Oftentimes these individuals, with 10+ years of experience, would love the life of practicing their craft as a specialty with more flexibility, as opposed to taking on the burden of management. 

When it comes to Veteran Therapist retention, it’s all about how you value them and how they feel they can bring greater value to the group other than treating patients all day. Promote them to mentorship rolls or director over compliance and internships.

An expert clinician is someone with advanced educational knowledge combined with years of experience, rolled into the ability to apply a highly developed skillset. 

The right type of veteran therapist might best serve your practice in the role of the senior clinician. This position often brings the veteran therapist a great deal of professional satisfaction knowing that they’ve had a positive influence over another’s career. This is a highly-effective retention strategy.

Tips for hiring and retaining the veteran therapist are as follows:

  • Avoid hiring those with the “know best” attitude
  • Maintain strict control throughout the interview
  • Have them report stat sheets like everyone else, to ensure they are maintaining a company-standard level of production.
  • Give them an opportunity to grow into and develop even more as a senior staff member.

Physical therapy private practice success is not unlike that of the baker striving to have created the perfect cake. What’s needed is a clear goal, without compromise, and the knowledge on how to bring about group agreement so that each member feels acknowledge and validated. To be the leader who believes in their purpose, and invest in their staff accordingly. Whether they are a new grad, advanced, or veteran clinician, with these tips at play you are sure to attract the best and the brightest for your company culture to flourish. 

If you’re interested in learning more about hiring and retaining the right therapists, download our hiring tip sheet for expert tips on bringing on the best staff to your Private Practice

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