In the field of rehabilitation, as with nursing, ability to retain employees can be a huge barrier, as there is such a demand for therapists. While we as a company retain employees at a higher rate than many national therapy companies, our latest challenge is to determine how we keep therapists and all of their amazing skills even longer.
Usually, the vast majority of new hires for us are new graduates from various institutions of higher learning. As all of us remember, new graduates want to go out and change the world with their skills and abilities. I remember saying to myself that I was going to be the best speech language pathologist and would truly have an impact on all patients that I treated after graduation.
The question for us — and others like us in the long-term care business — is how do we keep these new grads interested in a field going through such change, with regulations always hanging over our heads? We have pondered this and have taken action to try to gain more dedicated years from staff. We hope to shape their careers and see them flourish while working for us.
One of our latest attraction and retention programs involves loan repayment, specifically for physical therapists. Over the course of this past year, we were able to hire 15 physical therapists due to monthly payments to relieve them of the burden of repaying loans. This program lasts five years, with the ability to renegotiate after that time. It has been very successful and, because employees are potentially here for the duration of the program, it seems they are committed to a greater degree than others have been in the past.
As therapists, we all need to maintain our licenses and/or certifications through attending continuing education classes. Larger companies are slashing these important benefits to save money. We not only offer free events internally, but also have on-line opportunities to obtain all necessary hours for maintaining this precious commodity. We provide time in the clinic as well for the implementation of these new skills and even have programs developed for some areas such as lymphedema solutions. This is another area we hope will result in employee retention.
Therapists, as you are aware, are highly educated. They need and want to feel continuously challenged. To allow our company to continually meet this need, we developed both leadership and clinical pathways in which therapists can keep challenging themselves and gain a sense of accomplishment. This too, costs money; however, if we cannot retain these great therapists, it will be a much greater cost to us and the clients that we see.
While I have talked about a few of the items we implemented to keep our therapists excited about working with us, I always go back to the concept of having to spend money to make money. As the CEO, I intentionally talk with my staff about what else we can put in place to make them believe in what they do and feel a sense of recognition and accomplishment. I listen to my staff and do not have a problem spending money to allow them to become more skilled and proficient therapists that take great pride in what they do.
Kristy Brown is the CEO and president at Centrex Rehab.