Blog for Clinicians

How to Set Your Physiotherapy Career Up for Success

Posted on: February 16th, 2022 by Dan Sivertson

This blog series is for any clinician starting out in private practice, be it Physiotherapy, Massage Therapy or any other allied health profession. So when I say “physiotherapy”, you can insert your chosen area.

With the recent completion of the UBC- run “BC Registration Evaluations”  there is a large cohort of new physios about to earn their first paycheques as Physiotherapists.  The same is happening in other provinces, and other health care professions,  as registration bodies pivot to deal with moving people from Interim/Student to Registered status.  If you are new to the profession, then Congratulations! You are entering an awesome career. As you have already hopefully seen, and are beginning to experience, you get to help and empower your patients to reduce their pain and to improve their function.  You are likely aware that movement is truly the best antidote humans have to poor physical functioning, many lifestyle diseases and pain. Physiotherapists are in an incredibly fortunate position to truly help people to live better, to feel better and to live longer. Not a bad job if you can get it! 

That said, you may be deciding where to begin your career. You may have already started working, but research shows that university-educated younger people move jobs more frequently than people did in the past. You can read more about millenials and job-hopping here. I would suggest that choosing where you spend the first 5 years of your career is vital to the success you experience, and therefore to your level of job satisfaction. 

Before we get into it, why should you even listen to me?

I have been a Physio since 2001 when I graduated from Curtin University in beautiful Perth, Australia.  Before that, I completed a BKin degree at UBC in Vancouver, BC.  After working for 2 years in the hospital system in Perth (ICU, ortho inpatient, Gerontology), I completed a Masters degree in Manual Therapy.   When I came back to Canada, I worked for 6 years in private practice with Diane Lee and Associates , learning the Integrated Systems Model and becoming certified in Gunn IMS.  In 2011,  my wife and I opened our own clinic,  Pure Form Physiotherapy in Langley BC.  In 2018 we opened a second clinic as we had grown a bit too big for the original space.  I still treat about 20 hours a week clinically.  My interests are broad as I am more interested in assisting the people I treat than what their complaints are. Someone with a concussion from a car accident,  or someone that wants help with their lower back pain so that they can go mountain biking, can both use my help.  I have treated Olympic medal swimmers and weightlifters, and people that were in the final days of their lives. I have learned something from each one of them.  I spend the rest of my work week mentoring new graduate physiotherapists, talking to young people that want to get into physiotherapy school, and working on the business. The smoother the business runs, the more people we can assist to move and feel better.  This all said, I have spent a LOT of time pondering and discussing with colleagues young and not so young what can lead to a successful career in physiotherapy. I have also seen what can take people off this path. Finally, in 21 years in the profession and 33 years as a physiotherapy patient, I have seen a massive transformation in the profession (some good, some bad), many of which were accelerated by the Pandemic. 

In this Blog Series, I will share with you the factors I consider to be integral to your decision. I would also suggest many of these issues were not discussed in your physiotherapy program at university. 

Here is the outline of the blogs to follow this one in the Series: 

  1. Clinic models:   I will discuss different types of clinics including mobile physio clinics, multi-disciplinary clinics, MSK – Ortho clinics, third party (insurance) focussed clinics, and specialized / niche clinics.
  2. Models of Professional Development (PD):  osmosis mentorship, 1:1 mentorship, co – treating with a senior physio, group PD sessions, financial support for courses, and online courses. 
  3. Contracts: Not exciting but Integral: Independent Contractors versus the Employee model and how the “Tax Person” might have an opinion on which contract you sign. 
  4. Other things to consider and ask about in a job interview: commute time from home,  workplace expectations such as volunteering and marketing, the clinic’s historical level of staff retention, the clinic’s reputation (reviews), the EMR platform they use, and the optimal (busiest!) shifts to ask for.

Once you get through all of that, then you have hopefully chosen a job that works for you and your career goals and your interests. Now it is time to get a full caseload !! So the last two blogs in this series will be: 

  1. Building a caseload of patients that you WANT to treat: How do you create a niche where you get to be the local expert in chosen condition ( e.g. shoulder pain in throwing athletes) so that you can do the most good and be excited to go to work each day ?
  2. How to run an Initial Assessment so that the patient comes back to see you (so they don’t book back in with the guru Physio you work with).  What can you do to make sure you are addressing the patients “why”? They may say they want to get rid of some pain, but once you dig deeper and you help reveal why they are really there, you will become the only physio they want to see. Hint: being able to do IMS or manipulate the lumbar spine is not the secret, even if it does help.

I am excited to write these and I hope you will join me.  Your input and questions on the various digital platforms will be appreciated and enrich the knowledge share for all of us! 

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about joining our team at Pure Form Physio please check out this page and video

All the best, 

Dan Sivertson, February 2022 

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