In perspective - Retaining talent in the profession

Andrew Walton, chief executive of Connect Physical Health, explains why he’s decided to train a physio straight out of college

Six months ago, I was unaware of the problems new graduates were having gaining permanent employment in the profession.

But then I met Susie (not her real name!). Susie graduated in 2011 with a 2.1 and was one of almost half of her cohort who had not found permanent employment as a physio by Christmas. She was working as a poorly-paid hotel receptionist.

I would like to share her story and that of the development programme that we at Connect put together for her.

As a provider of community musculoskeletal services where staff are often working alone in GP practices or occupational contracts, Connect had previously considered that it would be unsafe for new grads to work unsupervised. But Susie challenged us to think again and develop a new support and development structure which would protect her, her patients and our reputation.

Susie is dynamic, confident and an excellent communicator but inevitably has less experience than someone qualified for longer, confirmed by a clinical competency assessment. How could we provide additional support to make it a win-win experience for everyone?

She will have an induction period extended from our normal one week to six weeks, a trebling of supervision until both parties are comfortable and she will join Connect’s standard accelerated development programme of three hours’ teaching a week for eight months, and for which Masters points can be awarded by a local university.

Other measures include a daily reflective learning log, emailed to her supervisor.

 So, in these hard-pressed times what is the rationale for doing this and how can it be funded without diverting an unfair proportion of the training budget to one person?

The risk was that we would be viewed by the profession at large as exploiting new grad unemployment, hence my desire to write this article.

Susie has been offered a starting salary of £18,000 which is £4,000 less than a typical recruit with from 18 to 24 months’ experience. She will, however, then progress through competency-based increments, and depending on the rate of her progression, will reach parity with our usual recruits over the next couple of years – approximately £25,000 at today’s rates – a fair deal we think.

Is it worth the hassle? We’ll see. But it’s certainly worth the risk. If it works, we’ll do it again. As a profession we can’t afford to lose these highly intelligent, dynamic colleagues just because of where we are in the economic cycle.

I predict a shortage of physios within five years so we need to nurture those who have graduated.

I would welcome your opinion of what we’re doing. Email me at:
Andrew Walton, chief executive, Connect Physical Health

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