Are our universities selling our new graduate physio’s short?

In a recent coffee catch up with a colleague whom had also been actively recruiting for a physiotherapy role within the aged care sector, I enquired as to the success of her endeavours, only to be have my own experience disappointingly echoed in her complaints. That despite it being “New Graduate” session there was just no physiotherapist applying. Like many of us, she had tried all the traditional and even some non-traditional recruitment avenues and had resorted to placing the vacancy with a number of recruitment agents. But to no avail. This got me thinking, is this same trend and shortage apparent in other areas of physiotherapy?

After making a number of enquires, interestingly it’s not the case. By stark contrast one private practice I spoke to said they had over 50 applicants for a new graduate position in the outer Melbourne suburbs. Similarly, a larger metro based hospital also enjoyed a good response and spread of candidate for their advertised grade 1 role. After hearing this I was left contemplating why?

The aged care industry now represents approximately 60% of physiotherapy jobs being advertised but yet there appears to be very few therapists wanting pursue a career in gerontology physiotherapy. I am left wondering why this is the case when typically positions within aged care offer greater flexibility, better work/life balance, higher pay rates, greater diversity and opportunities for career progressions that do not typically exist in traditional hospital, rehab or private practice roles. Is the short sightedness of our universities partially to blame?

When I trained as a physiotherapist over 10 years ago, the undergraduate degree content was heavily focused in preparing physiotherapists for entering the profession in the very traditional areas of physio; acute hospital, rehabilitation or private practice settings.

A decade on it appears that despite massive change in the areas of demand for physio, our universities seem to be blissfully ignorant of the industries needs. In the setting of a rapidly aging population, still very little of the current undergraduate physiotherapy degree focuses on appropriately educating and positively promoting to our future physio’s the unique opportunities for employment and the complex challenges inherent with the aging process, such as those associated with progressive diseases such as dementia. The shear lack of interest of our new graduates to even entertain the idea of aged care being anything more than a transient employment option prior to an oversea trip is depressing and an attitude that has plagued the industry for years. I implore our eastern seaboard universities to take a leaf out of their colleague Notre Dame University, Western Australia’s book and redevelop a physiotherapy undergraduate course that is contemporary and meets the demands of the healthcare industry.

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