Need help reeling them in?

Rehab Regs, June 18, 2004

Experts share tips on snagging quality employees

If your outpatient rehab facility is understaffed, not only may your current therapists be burdened with heavy caseloads, but your patients may also be shortchanged of quality care. Recruiting new therapists can be a tedious process, but it's worth the effort to find the right employee.

Use these tips from professional therapy recruiters to fill the holes at your clinic.

Recruiting is a lot like sales, says Steve Passmore, PT, owner of Healthy Recruiting Tools in Murray, KY. When you recruit new employees, you are trying to convince them they will be best professionally fulfilled by joining your facility and will offer a positive contribution to your patients. However, some facilities don't see the hiring process this way.

Passmore breaks down recruitment and sales into the following three types:

Active. This sales pitch doesn't work well in therapy recruiting because it involves convincing prospective employees they want something and just don't know it yet. You want someone to join your facility who knows he or she wants to be there.

Passive. This kind of sales approach, the most common form of recruiting done by rehab clinics, includes newspaper advertisements. "You're relying on someone to walk in and say, 'I want a job here,' " says Passmore. "It's a good technique, but it puts you out there with the masses."

Opportunity. Sales of opportunity represent an effort to attract someone who has an interest in the position, but doesn't know your facility has an opening, says Passmore. Examples include targeted mailings and phone calls, as well as attending job fairs or participating in "student days" when current therapy students can visit your clinic. This is probably the most effective way to harness your hiring potential in a rehab facility.


All rehab facilities are different, but many share recruiting similarities based on geographic location and season, says Passmore.

You may run into difficulties when trying to recruit around popular holidays when fewer people are looking for new jobs, or in September, when many potential hires start school. Conversely, after therapy students graduate in May, there are an abundance of newly licensed professionals looking for work.

Hiring difficulties also depend on the type of rehab facility. For example, one current dilemma in the rehab industry is the lack of therapists available in skilled nursing facility settings.

"With geriatrics, many times you are only maintaining instead of improving [quality of life]," says Julie Couturier, a therapy recruiter with LeaderStat, a long-term care management resource company in Westerville, OH. "Some therapists have mentioned they would prefer working in pediatrics, the hospital setting, or sports rehab instead of the nursing home environment."

It's easier to find employees if you work in an urban setting with easy access to transportation than if you live and work rurally. In this case, you may want to cast your net wider than you normally would-it's possible that therapists would consider relocating for the right position.

Now that you know recruitment doesn't just mean taking out an advertisement in your local newspaper, understand what you should do instead. For professional recruiters, here are a few essential techniques:

Focused mailing lists. Simply sending out blanket solicitations will cost you a fortune in postage and probably won't lead to many potential employees coming in for interviews. Passmore and Couturier typically use licensure lists, then target potential employees by sending postcards to individuals who live within specific ZIP codes.

Focused telephone calls. These calls are another standard way of attracting attention to an open position. From mailing lists, recruiters can contact potential employees as a follow-up to the postcards. Each search sometimes requires 700-800 calls before the right match is found, says Couturier.

Make your facility's needs clear to everyone involved in the recruiting process. This includes expectations of how many employees you want to hire, what their roles will be, and a target hire date.

By organizing a recruitment system for your facility, whether it is outsourced to a professional recruiter or done internally, you demonstrate to your employees a genuine effort to be fully staffed.

"The [therapist] out there working on a daily basis knows he needs help," says Passmore. "He needs to know that administrators are making an effort to hire quality employees."

The employees at the facilities that Passmore recruits for have online access to information on job postings within that facility.

For example, therapists can view the job posting, see when the recruiter or facility mailed postcards, and learn how many responses they received from each recruitment effort. Ultimately, they can rest assured their supervisors are actively conducting an employee search.

There is also an available chat room for administrators to give further updates. "The recruiter is responsible to the organization, just like the clinician is responsible to the patient to document what care is given," says Passmore.

When you find a candidate who is a good fit for your facility, hire him or her fast. Lingering too long over a decision can mean the loss of a stellar employee. Never be hasty if you have doubts-but if you don't, make your move.

First, complete the interviews, obtain the necessary paperwork, and perform any required background checks. Then, make an offer-or someone else will.

"More facilities are looking for therapists, but so often they're not being aggressive and they're not driving their program on accountability," says Passmore. "They're driving it everywhere but in recruiting."

The facility and the employee must be a good match for it to be a smart move. "Find the right fit, because you're facility is leaving money on the table if it doesn't," says Passmore.

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