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Blog #1 - Can you operate a profitable private practice with graduate physios?

Can you operate a successful physiotherapy practice with new graduate staff? This is going to be the dilemma for the future physiotherapy business owner, as we see an increase in new graduates employed in private practice.

There once was a time when graduates were encouraged to enter into the public system first to gain exposure to a varied caseload in their first year of practice. However, as hospitals have less positions vacant for graduate physiotherapsts, more are opting to enter private practice. The upside is, we now have a larger pool of staff to hire from, the downside for a business owner is we are finding it increasingly difficult to find and employ experienced physiotherapists, so therefore who is available to train/mentor/coach a graduate???

Whether we are losing our experienced therapists due to burn out in the profession, career change or simply leaving the profession to perhaps have a family, this is a discussion for another time, however it is an increasing concern for those of us in business that need to hire staff, can't get experienced staff, so hire new graduates to fill positions, but then have the problem of having to be a business owner, clinician and educator. I know this problem all too well, and it only leads to a path of burn out. This snippet below is taken from the In Practice 2025: Final Report by the APA

A Changing Workforce

Emerging trends in the current physiotherapy workforce suggest that the Practice of the Future will have to manage their staff differently. 

Increased number of graduates: The number of graduates is projected to increase by 56% between 2012 and 2016. However, this is unlikely to address existing skill shortages from unequal distribution across metropolitan, regional and remote areas. (YEP - who had trouble hiring this year???)

Workforce retention: Registration data indicates there is a significant decline in physiotherapist numbers after age 30. The Practice of the Future is likely to find it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain more experienced clinicians.

Gen-Y to the fore: A ‘Gen-Y’ workforce will expect flexible working hours and increased autonomy. Expectations of career paths and professional development will be greater. (YEP ABSOLUTELY - don't offer this and forget about retention of your workforce of the future)

Graduates in private practice: There is slight shift of graduate employment in the public hospital sector to the private practice sector. In a recent study, the proportion of graduates who were employed in private practices increased from 34.7% to 41.8% between 2011 and 2012. In contrast, graduates that were employed in the public sector declined from 48.3% to 38% in the same period.

(Less positions being offered in the public system)

Dual-qualified clinicians: Graduate-entry programs and post-graduate studies will produce more physiotherapists able to draw upon their previous experience in another health profession, such as nursing or exercise physiology, or academic background.

More specialisation: As the profession continues to mature and the broader healthcare environment becomes more clinically complex, there will be an increase in the number and range of specialist physiotherapists.

We as practice owners need to start thinking outside the bubble and looking for ideas to survive and thrive in a private practice of the future run with inexperienced staff. We know this is happening, it was the hot topic at the 2014 APA Leadership and Business Conference, but since then no one has done anything to develop a solution for business owners. Hence, why Physiomentor was founded and we have been successfully training grads for private practice since 2016, because as a business owner, I realised that my sanity would be saved and my business revenue improved upon if I had an option for training of new graduates to develop and improve their complex clinical knowledge and business skills to be well equipped for private practice.

It is possible and profitable to run a practice on new graduates, because I have been there and done that and still doing it. I walk the walk everyday!!

However, it is hard work and you must have a structured, consistent development program that moulds the graduate into a private practitioner and creates a ethical mindshift in their thinking of health care. A graduate does not finish university knowing how to operate in the specialised field of being a private practitioner, just like any other specialty it needs to be mentored and coached, but the rewards and profitability are well worth it!

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