Among the list of 10 hardest-to-fill occupations in the United States for the third quarter of 2015, physical therapists land at No. 8.

The list, identified by the American Staffing Association’s Skills Gap Index, according to a media release from the American Staffing Association, also includes such healthcare positions as podiatrists (No. 1), occupational therapists (No. 3), psychiatrists (No. 5), general internists (No. 7), speech-language pathologists (No. 9), and occupational therapy assistants (No. 10).

The ASA Skills Gap Index uses a hiring indicator developed by CareerBuilder that measures the level of difficulty (on a scale of one to 100, with lower scores indicating harder to fill) to fill a specific occupation based on demand, supply of active candidates, and all individuals working in that occupation. The index concentrates on hiring indicator scores of 50 or less with a demand of 2,000 jobs or more to determine the top hard-to-fill occupations.

Physical Therapy Demands the “Right Fit”

Physical therapists typically enjoy very low unemployment, and job growth is projected to explode 34% through 2024, according to Bureau of Labor statistics. Though few would argue there is a surplus of physical therapists, the challenge many clinics may face in hiring a PT is not always a simple matter of a slender ratio of available workforce to unfilled positions.

The difficulty, especially in smaller private practices, says Brian J. Adams, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, is finding a PT who is the “right fit.”

Adams is not only an owner at Adams Sports Medicine & Physical Therapy, PC, Novi, Mich, he is also a practicing therapist. This puts him in a position to maintain a keen understanding of his clinic’s DNA: its clientele, their needs, and the therapists who serve those needs. To maintain a happy customer base in city of fewer than 60,000 means his therapists must deliver treatment that fits what the area demands. Therefore, Adams says, his approach to hiring must take a different tack than some of the large “corporate chain” clinics that may sometimes accept a candidate who simply looks good on paper.

“I look to hire therapists who fit the specific practice model we have,” Adams explains. “We treat a ton of triathletes and runners, and when I made a recent hire I had to find someone who talked the talk and walked the walk.”

Adams’ pick was endurance athlete, Hannah Smith, PT, DPT, CSCS. Smith is an Ironman Kona triathlete and former swim team captain at University of Michigan.

“I wasn’t just going to hire a warm body to come work next to me,” Adams says, “I needed someone who could actually bring in their own clientele. Hannah fit that mold for me. Finding someone like that is a little bit tougher, but you have to know where to look.”

Network to Find Your Candidate

One strategy for attracting therapists who fit specific criteria, Adams suggests, is for the hiring party to be active in professional organizations and leverage networking opportunities that may be available within those groups. Adams is active in the Michigan Physical Therapy Association and says he has the opportunity to meet many people and network through the association’s functions.

“People will come to me and ask if I’m hiring, and if I’m not, they’ll ask who I would recommend. I’ve found networking that way to be pretty effective in helping practice owners and therapists connect and fill a position that demands a certain type of person or clinician,” Adams says.

By Frank Long and Debbie Overman