When graduating from PT school and starting your job search, should productivity levels matter? What makes up productivity, and how does it affect your day-to-day tasks as a PT? It all depends on who you ask, and what their standards are.
As PTs, daily tasks are varied. You're juggling educating patients and their families, all while providing hands-on treatment, submitting insurance claims, answering phones, scheduling patients, the list seems never-ending! Depending on where you work, much of this non-billable time is considered non-productive.
The harsh reality of productivity for a new physical therapist
Some facilities and health systems may require 100% departmental activity, meaning that one therapist could get over 100% while another fell below. As long as the average reached 100%, then things are running smoothly. However, in other hospitals, productivity is measured by the individual rather than the department as a whole. This can cause additional pressure, and having to log all of your daily activities to make sure you are reaching your goals.
Then, you come in contact with facilities where productivity is never even mentioned! Most of the time, there will still be reminders and documentation, but it is not as strictly outlined compared to other locations. No matter where you choose to accept a position, ensure that there is clear communication around productivity guidelines, and be confident that it is a guideline you can maintain or succeed. Otherwise, you may feel as though you are setting yourself up for failure.
What does this mean for the new grad physical therapist?
While increasing focus on productivity may sound like a death knell for good PT practice, the APTA is listening to concerns. In June 2014, the House of Delegates swiftly voted to establish resources for PTs and PTAs as they struggle to balance productivity with quality care.
Therapists are writing articles to address the problem and have come up with some viable solutions to measuring physical therapist productivity over the years. Montero Therapy Services wrote an excellent article about physical therapy productivity.
As a new graduate, it is vital not to let productivity expectations dictate your practice. Your managers exist to provide you with the training tools needed to ensure you are productive, yet compassionate and efficient without sacrificing safety or your own well-being. If you feel that you are in an unethical situation, approach your manager and explain your concerns. Open a dialog within your facility and communicate your feelings in a professional manner. Remember that, while you can be reprimanded for having low productivity, compromising patient safety and/or having your PT license revoked is much worse! Maintain your integrity and do what you can!