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How to Find a Great Physical Therapy Mentor

by Meredith Victor Castin

This is a sponsored post by FOX Rehabilitation, a supporter of NewGradPhysicalTherapy & new graduate physical therapists! 😎

The results are in, folks! The number one consideration of new grad PTs when seeking a job is a solid mentorship program.

Fox Rehab great physical therapy mentor

The fact that you prioritize mentorship speaks volumes about you all. You care about becoming the best possible clinicians, not only so you can help your patients as much as possible, but also so you can do your best to elevate the PT profession. But how should you go about finding a mentor who shares your values?

A good physical therapy mentor can be transformative for your happiness, skills, and career longevity for a number of reasons. For those of you deciding whether to pursue a mentorship program, here are a few of the benefits:

Passion – Being a new grad PT is nerve-wracking. A good mentor can take that nervous energy and help you translate it into excitement and passion for your new career.

Confidence – When you’re fresh out of school, it’s easy to find yourself questioning every clinical decision you make. A mentor can instill confidence in you by reminding you what you do know, then supporting you as you hone your clinical skills. They can also be a sounding board for your complex clinical questions and guide you to the proper support.

Competence – A skilled PT mentor is instrumental in helping you become a more competent physical therapist. They can help you to synthesize and think critically about medically complex clients and guide you in your clinical decision making.

Longevity – You’ll last longer in a setting if you feel successful. You’ll feel more successful if you have someone to look to when you have questions. They can also be an avenue for you to discuss any frustrations you might have within a safe environment.

Innovation – Working with another professional will teach you a different way of viewing patient care. Viewing your treatments through another lens will help you immensely when you’re designing creative treatment plans.

Now that we’ve established how important mentorship is, the question remains: how do you find a mentor you can depend on?

Lots of clinics offer mentorship, but few deliver formal programs. In fact, here at we get tons of calls and emails from frustrated new grads who accepted job offers that touted mentorship programs; unfortunately, these PTs were disappointed to find that there was no formalized program, and the “mentorship” they were promised was nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Less savory companies use this tactic to lure new grads into signing up for jobs with low pay. If they’re promised mentorship, a hapless new grad is more likely to accept a lower pay rate because they feel that the payoff in professional growth will be worth it.

So, the real questions are: what is quality mentorship, and how do you find jobs where you’ll receive it?

Here are a few signs of a quality mentorship program:

Experienced mentors. In a quality mentorship program, your mentor will be an experienced clinician who's mentored other PTs in the past—or has had extensive experience teaching or tutoring.

Established hours. If you’re working with a legit program, you’ll know your anticipated hours in advance, and if there is dedicated mentoring time made available throughout your day and week. Knowing that mentors are compensated for the time spent mentoring will ensure they are available to you.

Expectations. Good mentorship programs set expectations from the beginning. You’ll know what’s expected of you in terms of performance, milestones, and any outside projects. This should be available in writing for you to review during the interview process. Don’t be afraid to ask to see what the expectations are for new clinicians.

Here are a few ways to find a quality mentorship program:

Word of mouth – By far, the best way to find a good mentorship program is to hear it directly from someone with experience in the practice. If you have a friend who went through a particular program and raved about it, that’s the best endorsement you can get! Ask around as much as possible. In many cases, a good clinical rotation is a good sign that the mentorship program will be similarly strong.

Researching companies’ websites – Because you’re a savvy NGPT reader, you’re already aware that you should study your potential employers’ websites before you even apply to the job! Most companies with reputable mentorship programs, such as FOX Rehabilitation, are proud to share the details of their programs on their website.

Is that mentorship program going to be a dud?

At the end of the day, you may be promised mentorship, only to arrive on your first day and find that there’s no formal mentorship to be found. After speaking with readers who’ve been down that path too many times, we’ve come up with a list of some questions that you can ask at your interview to ensure that you’re getting the program you deserve.

Who will be my mentor? The more you know about your mentor, the better. Better to know in advance that you’re working with an all-star shoulder therapist or an ICU guru. It’s also better to know ahead of time if your would-be employer is planning to stick you with a disgruntled, checked-out PT.

What type of mentoring/teaching experience does he/she have? You might initially be put off by the fact that your mentor is only a year out of school, but wouldn’t you be happy if you found out that same PT was previously a PTA with 18 years of patient care experience, plus three years of tutoring experience? On the flip side, if the company puts you with a brand-new grad with six months of experience and no teaching or tutoring experience whatsoever, it might not be a deal-breaker but you could consider it a “yellow flag.”

What is my mentor’s treatment style? If you are fundamentally opposed to using e-stim and your mentor is the king of prescribing home TENS units for every single patient, you might want to reconsider working with him.

What’s my mentor’s teaching style? There’s nothing quite like having a mean CI, and the last thing you need is to have a similarly awful mentor. Sadly, it happens, so be sure to ask about your mentor’s teaching style and method of providing feedback. You’re seeking mentorship to learn, not to remain stagnant for six more months.

How is the mentorship program structured? Be sure to ask this one. I once signed up for a job that promised mentorship for a specific style of treating. I was required to treat in this style to work at the clinic (red flag, I know), but I was eager to learn this treatment approach, so I went for it. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the clinic, I was given zero mentorship and the volunteers and aides were the ones teaching me fundamentals about treatment. It was incredibly demoralizing and, needless to say, I did not stay at that clinic very long.

How many hours per week are dedicated to mentorship? A good program has time blocked out for mentorship each week. It’s up to you to use this time to the fullest.

How long does the program last? Don’t accept a lower pay rate for a program that lasts six weeks. I can guarantee that six weeks into your job, you will be kicking yourself. Hold out for a program that lasts at least three months, even if the last month or so is tapered off significantly.

What is expected of me as a mentee? Some mentorship programs have expectations that you might not enjoy. If you hate public speaking and you’re required to attend three con-ed courses and give in-services to large audiences for all of them, it might not be the right fit for you. If you’re expected to accept a pitifully low salary during your mentorship, make sure to ask about a formalized raise upon completion of the program; otherwise, you might be stuck at that low rate indefinitely.

May I meet my mentor in advance? This question can be awkward, but if you’ve been burned by a bum CI in the past, you may want to ask—delicately—about meeting your mentor. Feel free to frame it along the lines of, “I’m really excited about this position, the clinic, and the mentorship program. May I meet my mentor, though? I want to be absolutely certain this is the right fit for us both before I sign up.”

great physical therapy mentor fox rehab

Working with your mentor

It’s easy to recommend mentorship, but remember that you’re signing up for mentorship to keep learning and become a better therapist. There are several golden rules to get the most out of the experience, including:

Be respectful

Your mentor isn’t perfect and she might have a bad day from time to time. Whatever you do, do not be disrespectful to her and don’t embarrass her in front of patients.

Be ready to give back

Working with a mentor is a two-way street. Mentors sign up for mentees not only because they are eager to help you learn and succeed, but also because they are eager to learn from you. Don’t be all about taking. If you have a mentor, be prepared to share exciting things that you learn in con-ed, through self-study, and from speaking with former classmates about their own challenging cases.

Be prepared

Don’t squander your mentorship hours. Use them to their fullest. Ask plenty of questions and remember that you are there to learn.

Check out the FOX Emerging Professionals Mentor Program

The FOX EMPM is one of the most robust and well developed programs that we’ve ever seen. For example, the program offers:

  • A dedicated mentor who reduces their caseload while mentoring you
  • A comprehensive program manual
  • A gradual progression of client care
  • Help establishing goals and expectations
  • Training for geriatric-specific clinical skills
  • Guidance on proper documentation and other admin tasks
  • Eligibility for the FOX 10/10 Incentive Plan

Check out their website to meet some of the clinicians engaged in the program and also to get involved yourself!

What about you, new grads? Do you have any tales of success (or woe) from mentorship programs?

Curious to learn more about FOX Rehabilitation?

You can use the chat bubble on the page to speak with the CovalentCareers PT and OT Success team, who will answer your questions and help provide an unbiased perspective about FOX and if it’s a fit for you. If it seems like a good match, our team will refer you to a FOX Clinical Career Specialist to help you get started in your new career as a FOX clinician.

Learn More


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