How to Improve Staff Retention For Your PT, OT, & SLP Practice

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Staff retention

The physical, occupational, and speech therapy industry is experiencing growth, and the demand for your services is increasing (the US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 17% increase for occupational therapy services alone). However, turnover rates remain high, even for the healthcare industry. And it’s costing you: the Society for Human Resource Management estimates that employers may need to spend between 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace them and up to 200% for specialized healthcare professionals. So, let’s find out why staff turnover is so high – and what you can do about it.

Therapists Are Burning Out

Burnout in the healthcare industry is no secret, and speech, occupational, and speech therapists are no exception. The impact of the services your provide is life-changing, which means professionals often feel their job contribution is important, but it makes it hard to “turn off” after work.

Therapists often report having to spend too much time on paperwork and admin tasks and less time helping clients. Providers struggle with enormous caseloads with significant administrative burdens, leading them to feel they’re not able to spend enough time on each client’s individual care plan. Most physical, occupational, and speech therapists go into this field to help people without realizing how much paperwork needs to get done for each client. This can lead them to feel like they have to cut corners on their client’s treatment plan just to keep up with documentation.

Beating Burnout to Improve Staff Retention

  • Promoting a healthy work-life balance is imperative in reducing burnout and turnover. Encouraging staff to use their vacation days, offering wellness programs, and implementing policies that promote self-care and stress reduction contribute to a positive work environment and staff retention.
  • Offering flexible work schedules allows therapists to have control over their time and manage personal commitments. This flexibility can decrease work-related stress and burnout.
  • Don’t forget that every hour of service means paperwork and administrative tasks. 40 hours of billable services to clients is simply not feasible. Make sure your staff has time to do every aspect of their job.
  • Invest in training to help them use your EMR more effectively. Modern EMRs often include a wide variety of time-saving tools like templates and automations, but your staff can’t use them if they’re not trained on them. Regularly audit your operational procedures to make them more efficient.

It’s tough market for practices hiring staff. If you need help navigating recruiting, download our free guide.

  • Creating a supportive work environment helps therapists feel valued and connected. Nurturing teamwork, open communication, and mutual support among team members can contribute to the reduction of burnout. Create an atmosphere where staff feel comfortable discussing their challenges and implement solutions based on their feedback.
  • Recognizing therapists’ contributions and appreciating their efforts is essential for job satisfaction and reducing burnout. Acknowledging their achievements, providing feedback, and expressing gratitude can foster a positive work environment. Celebrate milestones like continuing education or helping a client achieve a goal.
  • Building resilience skills among therapists can help them effectively cope with workplace stressors and prevent burnout. Training programs focused on stress management techniques, mindfulness, and self-care strategies can be beneficial.

Compensation Challenges to Increase Staff Retention

On your end, low reimbursement rates and inflation make it challenging to hit revenue targets and offer competitive salaries, compounded by a workplace shortage that gives job seekers the advantage.

On your staff’s end, high costs of living, increasing school debts, and unrealistic salary expectations mean they often feel they’re earning too little for too much work. In addition, low raises mean employees sometimes feel the only way to increase their income is to leave their position and start a new one with higher compensation.  

What You Can Do About It

  • Obviously, competitive salaries and benefits are essential in attracting and retaining talent. Conduct regular market research to ensure therapists’ compensation packages align with industry standards. Moreover, offering benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and professional development reimbursement demonstrates an organization’s commitment to its therapists’ well-being and growth.
  • If you’re struggling to provide competitive salaries, think out of the box. Alternative compensation models like revenue sharing can help your staff feel invested in your practice’s growth. Be honest with your staff, and open to discussion. For example, someone might be willing to be paid less money if they can leave work an hour earlier to pick up their children for school, or if they can complete some tasks at home.
  • Providing opportunities for career advancement and mentorship programs can foster a sense of professional growth and job security among therapists. Creating clear career paths within the organization and offering guidance and support from experienced therapists can motivate staff to stay long-term to achieve their career goals.
  • Encouraging and facilitating ongoing professional development is key to staff retention. Offer opportunities for therapists to attend workshops, conferences, or pursue advanced certifications to expand their knowledge and skills and make them feel valued and recognized. Organizations can also provide in-house training sessions, webinars, or lunch-and-learn events to improve therapists’ professional growth.

Staff turnover is a real problem for physical, occupational, and speech therapy practices, but not insurmountable. Be honest, flexible, and open to discussion with staff. Use employee feedback to improve, and don’t forget: you’re stronger together. By being empathetic, you’ll be open to their struggle – and your staff will be open to yours. And lastly, think outside of the box when faced with limitations. A little creativity can go a long way.

If you want more in-depth information about how to face recruiting challenges in physical, occupational, and speech therapy, you’re in luck! We wrote this eBook on the topic. We also have tips for providers looking to start their private practice.

Smooth practice management is essential to retain staff. Fusion is an all-in-one EMR designed specifically for physical, occupational, and speech therapists, with tools designed to lighten your administrative burden so you can focus on clients. Schedule a demo to see why we’re trusted by more than 36,000 providers.



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