Hiring and Retention Tips for Pediatric Therapy Clinics

March 12, 2024   |   Healthcare Professional

Like so many healthcare businesses, the biggest challenge the team at North Shore Pediatric Therapy (NSPT) faces is supply and demand. “We have so many kids that we need to service that as soon as we fill a role, we have to open another one because more kids are coming in,” says Liza Bodner, MS, BCBA, the regional clinic director at NSPT.

In pediatric therapy, in particular, there aren’t enough licensed therapists available to service the number of kids who need support. This is true in metropolitan areas like Chicago, where NSPT is located and especially in rural areas. 

A typical pediatric therapy team includes several clinicians, including: 

  • Speech and language pathologist (SLP)
  • Occupational therapist (OT)
  • Physical therapist (PT)
  • Behavioral therapist (BCBA)

Many kids will need to see a combination of therapists for support, increasing the need for more clinicians. 

NSPT recently opened its tenth location, with clinics in Chicago and Texas. Expanding their reach has always been a priority for the practice, especially to find ways to reach less populated areas with fewer services. In the past year alone, they’ve added over 100 employees to their team that now nears 400. Once hired, many of their therapists stay with the company for years. 

Here are five key strategies that have helped NSPT attract and retain top talent in the pediatric therapy field:

Give employees clinical autonomy

While it’s important to ensure clinicians practice best practices, pediatric therapists thrive when they have clinical autonomy. Hiring expert clinicians means allowing them to be the experts they are. No two children are alike in pediatric therapy, so treatment plans vary for each client. 

Bodner recommends designing a clinical structure where clinical leads support clinicians in each discipline while trusting therapists to make their own decisions for clients. “We hire the best, so we trust them to make the best decisions for what’s best for the client and the family,” says Bodner.

Embed collaboration into your clinical model

Most children in pediatric therapy tend to see multiple clinicians. Working in a silo can duplicate efforts. Instead, Bodner recommends designing an open space where clinicians see and hear about one another’s work all the time. Desks at NSPT are set up in one long table in one room so clinicians can easily collaborate. They intentionally meet to discuss treatment plans in a weekly team huddle. 

A lot of the therapy at NSPT takes place in a shared gym space where clinicians see each other during sessions. “Since all services happen under the same roof, it’s really easy for us to go observe each other’s sessions and even just pipe in because we’re working alongside each other,” says Bodner.

Double down on recruitment efforts

The NSPT team finds prospective employees through all the usual channels, LinkedIn, Indeed and career fairs. They also offer a referral bonus to current employees. “Obviously, we hired them, so we want to hire more people like them,” says Bodner.

NSPT also hires part-time therapists with a day job, like working in a school district. These clinicians can come a few evenings a week to increase the number of outpatient appointments available.  

Celebrate therapists’ side hustles

Not only does NSPT not make employees sign a noncompete contract, but they celebrate when employees start a therapy practice on the side. This makes employees less likely to leave the company. “There aren’t enough of us, so if they can do something super specialized or offer services where they live, we celebrate that for them,” says Bodner.

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Focus on company culture

NSPT is a bigger outpatient pediatric practice, but Bodner says it still feels family-owned. One clinician in Chicago’s Northshore still typically knows clinicians in the city. Therapists collaborate and learn together through internal continuing education courses. The communications team makes a point to share news, birthdays, anniversaries and to recognize professional excellence.

They also try to design fun and silly events based on the annual calendar and holidays.

As long as the demand for the best talent outnumbers the number of clinicians available, those pediatric therapy practices that create the most positive work environment will be best positioned to meet kids’ needs.

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