I have to admit it. I’ve thought about it – on more than one occasion too.
Dropping out of physiotherapy, that is. Going back to university and studying something different. Or maybe working in a coffee shop while I determine what’s next.
Sadly, the thought of leaving the physiotherapy profession is a common one. Check out the table below:
These statistics are evidence of a rapid drop in registered physiotherapists. And in a short time frame too. The peak in the 25-29 age group is 6,635 physios. Then, the numbers drop to 5,605 for the next age bracket (30-34). That’s a 16% slide. The slope only sharpens from there before showing some mercy in the older age brackets.
By the time we’re in our forties, half of us have moved on from the profession entirely. And these stats fail to factor those of us who stay registered but who no longer practice.
Of course, there are more new graduates now than in the past. But the figures are still alarming in spite of this. A recent study of new graduates backs this up. It concluded:
- Most grads didn’t predict that they’d stay in the profession for the long run (that is, more than ten years)
- A lack of progression and a limited scope of practice were the main drivers for this short-term career approach
- Poor job satisfaction (particularly in the cardiorespiratory sector and those changing fields frequently) was another reason why people leave
So, what are we doing with these finding?
Very little, it seems. And this is part of the reason why we haven’t been able to arrest the trend of physiotherapists exiting the profession after only a few years. We’re not putting enough thought or energy into it.
This is a gross underestimation of the problem.
I’m outta here
We’re losing good people too early in the piece. And this is having a compounding effect. A loss of talent means the profession doesn’t move forward as fast it could. Compared to other sectors, we’re lagging behind.
A loss of young talent, in particular, is dangerous. It’s much harder to keep up with modern trends without them. An example: our ability to fuse physiotherapy with technology (like wearables and apps) is not up to scratch (apart from a few exceptions, like PhysioApp and PhysiTrack).
And, not only are we losing physiotherapists in number but diversity too. This hurts just as much. We need people thinking in different ways and challenging the status quo. This is what leads to groundbreaking ideas. This is what stops us from becoming sheep. This is how we move forward.
So, how do we arrest the slide?
A quick scan of Google Scholar reveals some interesting findings. Check this out:
- Achilles tendinopathy yields a smidge over 20,000 results
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome chimes in at close to 24,000
- Physiotherapy job satisfaction tops both of these at 24,900
Admittedly, a glance at the job satisfaction papers reveals some of the research is less relevant. But there is still a considerable amount of data out there. Yet, it seems, we’re not doing anything with this information.
This university study is a perfect example. It highlights ‘marketing’ as one area of improvement. That is, improved understanding of marketing, how to market oneself or a clinic or the profession.
Yet, there has been no emphasis on marketing since the paper’s publication ten years ago.
Ironically, the study was carried out by Curtin University on its graduates. So, it would seem like the perfect testing ground. Add a marketing unit, wait a few years then re-test. But no such thing has happened. I don’t get it.
Again, this older paper revealed that mental stress management was an issue. To my knowledge, there’s been no training on strategies to handle this sort of stress.
This seems like a fundamental skill for a new graduate. They’re walking into an environment where people share their life problems. Then, they shoulder this burden because they don’t know any better.
An undercurrent with physiotherapists, in general, is a failure to put ourselves first. We perceive it as selfish. Yet, how can we deliver the highest level of are if we’re not first taking care of ourselves?
So, the first thing we must do is act on what we know. We have the survey findings and studies out there. What are we dissatisfied with? Let’s address these and see what happens.
What are your thoughts? Where do you think the problems lie? What are the solutions? Comment below.