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Why are Physical Therapy roles getting harder to fill?

Stacey Shaw April 30, 2024

Recruiting for physical therapy (PT) positions has always been a challenge within the healthcare sector, but the struggle has intensified in 2024. Despite increased recruitment spending, applications for a major healthcare client have plummeted by 30%. Let's explore the underlying issues and cover strategic adjustments to address these challenges effectively.

Why are applications going down despite spending going up?

The decline in PT applications isn't just a numbers game; it's influenced by several key factors that require a deeper analysis.

First, the declining applicant pool for PT schools (acceptance rates are now around 80%, and there have been roughly 50% application reductions) has reduced the number of graduates by about 11K per year.  

The rising cost of PT education significantly exceeds inflation, which deters potential students from pursuing these careers. As the educational expenses mount, the pool of new graduates dwindles, impacting the availability of qualified candidates.

Additionally, many new graduates are now seeking part-time positions, with about 10-15% preferring a 30-hour work week. This trend towards part-time employment adds another layer of complexity to filling full-time roles. Compounding these issues is the increasing demand for outpatient PT services, which are involved in a notable percentage of musculoskeletal cases. This demand heightens the competition among employers for a limited pool of qualified PTs.

How can I get more PT applicants?

Employers must revisit their recruitment strategies in response to these challenges. This involves more than tweaking job descriptions; it requires a holistic approach to how positions are presented and promoted.

Optimize job titles and descriptions 

Small changes to job titles and descriptions can make a significant difference. Clear, attractive job listings that emphasize benefits and career progression opportunities can draw more attention and engagement from potential candidates.

Strengthen your employer brand

Your employer brand serves as the public face of your organization in the eyes of potential employees. It encompasses your company's values, culture, and reputation as an employer. In the healthcare industry, where competition for top talent is fierce, the significance of your employer brand cannot be emphasized enough.

When your employer brand is effectively portrayed and garners positive reviews, it creates a powerful magnet for attracting high-caliber candidates. Prospective employees are not only drawn to organizations with strong reputations but are also influenced by the experiences shared by current and former employees. Positive reviews serve as testimonials, validating the employer brand and signaling to job seekers that your client's organization is a desirable place to work.

Actively engage with past candidates

Reconnecting with previous applicants not only helps maintain a pipeline of potential hires but also fosters relationships that can lead to valuable insights and feedback. By engaging with these "warm leads," employers can gain a deeper understanding of candidates' career goals, preferences, and any changes in their circumstances. This personalized approach not only streamlines the recruitment process but also demonstrates a commitment to building long-term connections with potential hires.  

Thinking outside the box

Looking beyond traditional recruitment tactics, there are innovative approaches that can help alleviate some of the pressure.

Forming partnerships with educational institutions

Employers can actively contribute to the growth and enhancement of PT programs by forming partnerships with educational institutions. These collaborations can lead to the development of innovative curriculum structures, clinical training opportunities, and research initiatives within PT programs.

Fostering these partnerships mean employers not only support the academic advancement of future PT professionals but also create a pipeline of well-trained graduates ready to enter the workforce. Ultimately, investing in educational partnerships can help bridge the gap between the demand for skilled PTs and the available talent pool, ensuring a steady supply of qualified professionals to meet the evolving needs of the healthcare industry.

Offering flexible work arrangements

Offering flexible work arrangements can be a game-changer in attracting top talent, especially in a competitive field like physical therapy. By providing options for part-time roles, employers can cater to the preferences of new graduates who are increasingly seeking reduced hours to maintain a life-work balance. This flexibility not only appeals to the emerging workforce but also demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being and satisfaction.

Embracing flexible work arrangements can attract a wider pool of candidates and set employers apart. Adapting to evolving work preferences enhances recruitment efforts and promotes talent retention and organizational success in the healthcare sector.

Focus on retention

Focusing on retention strategies—such as enhancing workplace conditions and providing career development opportunities—can decrease the overall need for new hires by keeping current employees satisfied and engaged.

How Wicresoft can help

The recent downturn in PT applications is a multifaceted issue that reflects broader challenges in healthcare recruitment. At Wicresoft, we understand these unique challenges. Our free audit will let us assess your current recruitment posture and make recommendations on how to improve your strategy.