Where is the Physiotherapy Workforce?

Physiotherapy recruitment is difficult.  Public hospitals advertise to recruit to one position and they receive 50 applicants.  We have been searching for 4 months for a perfect fit.  If I could guarantee staff members then this business would be flying, but the reality is that we don’t have an attractive community care system for our Physios to work in. Not Rehab Health and Fitness – generically community care. Especially NSW based Physiotherapists struggle with taking the step into community based care.  And I can understand.

We understand the struggles people face when choosing to work in the community.  Community based care for patients is not an attractive pathway for people.  I have always said I “just don’t know how to make Aged Care Sexy”.  There is nothing glamorous about treating the elderly or disabled in their home. I can’t brag on my Facebook page that “I treated Jarryd Hayne today”.  That will just never happen.  I can’t advertise our business as “Physiotherapists to the Stars” or the local football team.

It takes a really skilled and confident Physiotherapist who is able to take on the challenges of community based care.  And for a number of reasons.  Across my 12 years in the profession I haven’t met many therapists able to meet the challenge of any patient who works through the door.  In any one day our team are treating conditions ranging from Traumatic Brain Injury to Stroke to Ankle # to COAD and back again. That’s a large skill set.  It is almost a specialization of Physiotherapy “The Specialist Generalist”.

If you have worked for a large number of years with Strokes, you may not feel ready to meet the challenge of treating an elderly patient following a fall.  You might not be confident to advise the family of the challenges when tackling a newly diagnosed Dementia.

It’s really a Specialization unto it’s own being a Generalist.

And if you don’t have years of experience behind you and feel you may enjoy community based care you have to deal with the professional isolation.  It can seem daunting to not have a Physiotherapist colleague across the table at lunch time or just down the hall way to ask a question.  But there are ways around this. Emerging Social Media trends – hey you probably found this blog link via Facebook!! – Tablets and Smartphones makes online and e-communication so much easier than before.  The ability to take photo’s of wounds or Xrays and take video footage of gait or communication enhances the way we are able to manage our clients as a team and assist with providing continuing education to all of our team. How we brainstorm between therapists is evolving.

There aren’t many Practices around that have a team of 10 Physiotherapists to bounce an idea off.  Need Occupational Therapy input.  Well we have 2 of those as well.  Physio’s ranging from acute Msk Therapists to one with experience treating delayed children to treating a TBI.  Hey I used to help plaster bones that were poking out through the skin!  We can treat it all and it’s great for continuing professional development within our team.

If our profession is going to take on the challenge of increasing access to Disability based care, Aged Care, Retirement Village living and Residential Aged Care Facilities we need to improve the training of our graduates and undergraduates.  We need to increase professional development in these areas and we need to provide students with opportunity to get out into the clients home and the community. 

Private Practices are renowned for long work hours, sometimes paid per patient or per hour worked – but not those pesky hours between clients when not booked back to back.  Public hospitals were renowned for poor salary.  We all want more money however I believe the new NSW hospital award provides a very fair pay for Physiotherapist’s reflective of their skills, experience and dedication.  But the introduction of the award in 2007 has seen a shift in the turn over of staff members within the system.  Known for large vacancy rates due to lack of available therapists we are now seeing our therapists in Senior positions stay there and then the rest remain rotating Physio’s for a longer period as the availability of Senior or Permanent non-rotating positions being few and far between.  This means when a vacancy does come up – ie a maternity leave – a department may find it difficult to find an experienced clinician to replace that person and their specialized skill set.  Imagine if you are working in a department for 3 years rotating on 3 month rotations – for example you will need to “win” 3 ICU rotations over that 3 years to obtain only 9 months ICU experience.  Get my drift…

We pay a salary, you earn your leave entitlements, phone, car allowance and have flexible work hours. Some days our therapists are out the door just on 9 – their first client is close to home – others home just after 3pm.  Choose to do your paperwork at night and use those hours to get children from school, go to the beach – the gym in daylight hours.

Our Business provided – last week – more than 270 individual consultations in the clients home and then OT and Physio to 3 different aged care facilities and one NSW based Hospital.  Funded from variety of sources including CTP, Workcover, LTCS, DVA and Medicare.  It still amazes me to see what we have grown, who we support and where we are headed!  Join us!

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