min read

Four Key Physical Therapist Characteristics To Look For When Hiring

There are a few critical physical therapist characteristics to look for during the hiring process to ensure you're hiring the right fit. Here's how to spot them.

puzzle pieces
Table of Contents
Book a Demo

Four Key Physical Therapist Characteristics To Look For When Hiring

When hiring a physical therapist to join your practice, it's important to evaluate their characteristics to ensure that they are a good fit for your clinic and the patients you serve.

Practice owners and managers must consider the applicant's personality and communication skills in addition to their education and clinical competency. In this post, we will discuss four of the most important characteristics to evaluate when hiring a physical therapist: collaboration, compassion, respect, and communication.

1. Collaborative

Throughout the course of their work, physical therapists are required to collaborate with others to deliver optimal patient care. The therapist you hire will collaborate with primary care physicians, surgeons, sports medicine providers, schedulers, physical therapy assistants, and others. A therapist skilled in recognizing and leveraging the talents and skills of those around him is set up for long-term success.

To measure a candidate's ability to collaborate, consider selecting one or two of the following interview questions:

  • Describe a time you had to collaborate with primary care in a complex case.
  • Tell us about a time you had to work with somebody who didn't contribute meaningfully.
  • Describe your last professional disagreement.

When gauging candidate responses, look for a candidate who transparently shares an example from their professional experience (or from their education and training). Look for candidates who consider how the other person may have thought or felt and recognize what others bring to the table. Collaboration also requires us to understand our areas of opportunity and recognize our thoughts and feelings. Here's an example:

Tell us about a time you had to work with somebody who didn't contribute meaningfully.

Several years ago, I had some difficulty with our scheduler. First, I shared my concerns with her, and then I asked her if she was alright, as these issues were uncharacteristic. She shared that the schedule stopped displaying phone numbers the prior week, and IT had yet to respond to her ticket. I apologized for the difficulty she faced with IT and assisted her in tracking down the right person to resolve the issue.

2. Compassionate

Physical therapists typically work with people who are struggling. They're often in pain and cannot do what they usually do. Compassionate physical therapists show concern and empathy for their patients and sincerely desire to help them improve their pain levels, range of motion, and quality of life.

Compassion can be hard to gauge in the interview process. Still, you can ask a few behavior-based questions that help you understand how the candidate has demonstrated compassion in their previous employment or during their clinical hours for new graduates. Here are some questions that can help you screen candidates for this characteristic:

  • Tell me about a time you had to deliver difficult news.
  • Describe a time you could tell a patient wasn't invested in their own success. What did you do?
  • Tell us about a time compassion helped you solve a problem.

A strong response that indicates a candidate possesses natural compassion will provide a specific example and demonstrate the candidate's ability to identify and understand the feelings of others involved in the situation. Compassionate people can quickly put themselves in another's shoes, slowing negative judgment and improving collaboration and outcomes in physical therapy. Here's an example.

Describe a time you could tell a patient wasn't invested in their own success. What did you do?

About six months ago, I had a college patient who desperately wanted to get back on the field but never completed his home exercises. When he came back each week, his range of motion had decreased, and his pain level had increased. I asked the patient what was preventing him from following through. Teary-eyed, he explained that he was under a lot of pressure to get back on the field but that he was overwhelmed with work, school, and sports and was afraid he would fall behind again when he was cleared to return. Understanding the patient's barriers helped me connect with him differently. I explained how vital exercises were to his future quality of life - with or without football - and his compliance improved.

3. Respectful

Respectful physical therapists accept their patients exactly as they are despite their differences. Likewise, they accept the expectations laid out for them in the workplace and ask questions to understand or explore better options.

Using behavior-based interview questions, you can better predict a candidate's potential behavior by looking into their past behavior. Questions that might reveal a candidate's respectfulness include:

  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a policy change at work. What did you do?
  • Describe when a colleague or patient shared constructive criticism with you. How did you respond?
  • Have you ever reported to somebody who was ineffective, and how did you cope?

When the candidate responds, look for evidence that they remained calm throughout the experience, looked inward for ownership and accountability, and communicated directly (assuming positive intent) with the other party. Here's an example:

Tell me about a time you disagreed with a policy change at work. What did you do?

At my last practice, a policy was implemented that limited our direct patient contact time to 15 minutes per patient. I was concerned that we were sacrificing a positive patient experience - and effective treatment - to increase revenue. I asked the practice manager about the intent behind the change so I could better understand it, and he confirmed it was financially driven and shared more information with me. I realized then what a challenging environment we're in and that I would need to change how I work to be effective and efficient.

4. Communicative

Physical therapists communicate with healthcare providers, patients, and support staff throughout any given day in the field. Communicative physical therapists can convey information effectively verbally and in writing. They can also listen and interpret the information they receive verbally and in writing.

You'll evaluate a candidate's communication skills throughout the interview. Are they making eye contact? Are they speaking clearly and accurately, conveying their thoughts? Are they listening thoughtfully and asking questions as they arise? What is their body language telling you? Aside from that, you can ask specific questions to evaluate communication skills better. Examples include:

  • Describe a time you had difficulty communicating with a patient.
  • Tell us about a time you felt misunderstood.
  • Describe the greatest miscommunication you've experienced in your work.

As the candidate answers the question, look for a strong desire to improve communication and ownership over how they deliver the message and what the recipient hears. Here's an example:

Describe a time you had difficulty communicating with a patient.

I was caring for a patient who was in his 80s and hard of hearing. I used a notepad to communicate when I noticed he had difficulty hearing me. It improved our ability to share information and ultimately improved his outcome.

The Bottom Line: Spot Vital Physical Therapist Characteristics

In summary, when hiring a physical therapist, it is crucial to evaluate candidates on their collaboration, compassion, respect, and communication skills. These characteristics are essential for a physical therapist to work effectively with patients, as well as other members of your healthcare team. By carefully considering these qualities using behavior-based interview questions during the hiring process, you can ensure that you bring on a therapist who will provide high-quality care and support for your patients. MWTherapy offers tips, tricks, and practice management tools to support your success. Request a free demo today!

Related Resources

No items found.
No items found.

Join us for a fast demo

The path to an automated PT practice starts right here, right now. We invite you to join us for a personalized demo.