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Physical Therapy Staff Motivation: 4 Tips To Motivate Your PT Staff

Create a positive work environment for your PTs and PTAs. Read our best practices for combating employee burnout and motivating physical therapy staff.

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Physical therapy staff motivation can be hard to come by these days, but it’s certainly not for lack of passion. Between overwhelming COVID-19 complications and ongoing changes to healthcare regulations, APTA reports that approximately 82% of therapists have experienced burnout, with 34% of therapists saying feelings of exhaustion have negatively impacted their patient care. If you’ve spent recent months wondering how to motivate burned-out employees or boost morale among your hardworking staff, you’ll be happy to know there are quite a few best practices to do just that. Here’s a look at the importance of physical therapy staff motivation along with the best practices for how to motivate unmotivated employees and reignite their passions.

Importance of Physical Therapy Staff Motivation

It’s entirely understandable for office staff to feel a bit burnt out, especially as COVID-19 obstacles continue to create staff shortages in an already stressed healthcare industry. However, by failing to address an ongoing lack of motivation across your PT office, your practice could suffer from reduced staff productivity and decreased quality of patient services, increasing the chances of negative reviews. A bad rap can have lasting impacts on long-term practice success in the medical field. With this being said, it’s more important than ever as a physical therapy private practice owner to increase physical therapist staff motivation. General motivation tactics can increase employee satisfaction and drive staff to maintain top-tier quality patient care. Even more, when you invest in the well-being of your employees, you can help reduce feelings of burnout and influence a more positive, productive workplace that works in favor of both patients and staff.

4 Tips to Motivate Your Physical Therapy Staff

Even the most passionate, dedicated physical therapists can fall victim to burnout, especially with ongoing staff shortages and pandemic complications. While many are quick to offer extrinsic motivators, like bonuses, most fail to realize that motivation in healthcare is largely intrinsic. In other words, to motivate physical therapy staff, you’ll need to tap into what matters most to them. Here are four tips for how to intrinsically motivate employees, help therapists reconnect with their passion for healthcare, and generally improve your PT practice.

1.  Provide Manageable and Realistic Workloads

When navigating how to motivate employees to come to work on time and ready to perform, it’s best to start with restructuring daily staff workloads. With ongoing staff shortages in private practice and acute care, physical therapy staff are often bombarded with unmanageable workloads that can create significant stress and exhaustion. To enhance physical therapy motivation, it’s essential to recognize, reconfigure, and reduce workloads where possible. Rather than haphazardly scheduling therapists with patient management whiteboards, invest in a PT EMR software that offers smart-scheduling capabilities. Adopt a system that prioritizes task levels from urgent to non-essential to lessen the level of stress put on staff. You may also want to consider hiring new physical therapy staff members to offset the amount of work being placed on your current team and increase practice-wide productivity.

2.  Demonstrate Appreciation

As with any workplace, demonstrating appreciation towards your staff is critical in maintaining a motivated and positive team. With loads of tasks already on their plate daily, the last thing therapists want is to feel underappreciated or overwhelmed. PT practice owners can curb these negative, unwanted feelings by demonstrating general acts of appreciation. For instance, extrinsic displays of appreciation could include offering bonuses to high-performing staff, which can also drive productivity. Likewise, consider employee appreciation lunches or dinners, where you can gather staff and vocalize your appreciation and treat them to a nice meal. If financial limitations prevent you from these extrinsic factors, lean into the intrinsic with a positive, ongoing conversation with staff that routinely recognizes their top performance.

3.  Cultivate an Open-Door Policy

As we’ve previously mentioned, the current state of healthcare has placed an enormous mound of stress on PT staff. However, work is just one piece of the puzzle. Without compassion and caring, core values for PTs, there’s no way to truly understand what’s happening in your staff’s lives that could ultimately impact motivation. This is why it’s essential to remain accessible to your staff and be aware of their needs. From family illness to financial struggles, there are countless reasons outside of work why even your best staff members could be suffering from burnout and a lack of motivation. To help improve motivation (and the comfortability of your workplace), have open ears for all your staff and consistently demonstrate understanding toward everyone's work-life balance. What might seem like an unmanageable issue to them could be a simple fix or form of assistance to you, so always remain open to the PTs on your team.

4. Schedule Out Some Team Bonding Time

One of the quickest routes to a poorly productive and unmotivated staff is team disconnection. When day-to-day operations only ever seem to consist of tackling patients' needs and catching up on backlogs of paperwork, it can be easy for staff to become disconnected, impacting motivation. That's where the need to find time for some team bonding comes into play. In a fast-paced physical therapy practice, it’s important to schedule time where you can gather your team without the day-to-day stress. Whether this means blocking out appointments one afternoon a month or taking the team out for dinner, creating time for a bit of formal team bonding can help you build and maintain a well-motivated team. Encouraging everyone to get together helps build strong relationships amongst your staff, further driving workplace productivity and appreciation.

How To Motivate Employees As A Manager

Unlike a physical therapy practice owner or operator, a designated manager may not have as much power to implement the best motivation practices discussed above. However, from a professional standpoint, there are still numerous general physical therapy motivation practices on-duty managers can adopt to encourage staff, including:

  • Praise staff for their hard work and top-tier patient care
  • Encourage teamwork and assistance of other staff members in the workplace
  • Regardless of the situation, treat everyone with equal respect and listen to concerns
  • Encourage two-way constructive criticism 
  • Always offer a helping hand when staff falls behind

When learning how to motivate PT staff as a manager, it’s vital to position yourself as part of the team — and never above anyone in the practice. Your job is to ensure all necessary operational components of the PT practice run smoothly, and therapists are the critical piece of that puzzle. So, ensure you always make yourself available to any therapist needing assistance or a morale boost.

The Bottom Line

Physical therapy motivation comes down to creating a workplace that encourages productivity through solid work relationships, manageable workloads, and routine staff appreciation. Using the top tips discussed above, physical therapy practice owners can better eliminate employee motivation lulls and create a more positive workplace that therapists are passionate about. Fortunately, you don’t have to implement motivation tactics alone. With MWTherapy’s robust software capabilities, including smart patient scheduling, medical billing, and practice management, this elevated EMR platform can help workers streamline their processes and reduce burnout-inducing stress. Book a demo with MWTherapy today to learn how our services can enhance PT motivation.

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