New therapist graduates need an employer who can help them get settled into their first job but also continue learning. Physical and occupational therapists and speech language pathologists will need a first position that provides plenty of training, mentorship and support — the building blocks that will mold them into successful therapy professionals. As an employer hiring new grads, you can take the following steps to set your new employees up for success.

Important ways to onboard new therapy grads

Your goal as a rehab department manager is to navigate the fine line between stretching and stressing your new hire. On the other hand, you need to support, but not smother him or her, as well. As each therapist is different, this may feel like walking a tight rope that keeps moving.  However, outlining a basic onboarding framework is a good place to start. You can eliminate the steps that you don’t need for a confident new grad, and add more steps if you need them for a timid new grad. Here’s what you can do to help your new therapy graduates get up to speed as fast as possible in his or her new job.

  • Prepare a welcome kit. A warm welcome makes all the difference. Gather important information like benefit information, computer log in credentials, co-worker contact information, and any other protocols in a folder that can be given to the employee on his or her first day. Include a “Welcome” or “We’re glad you’re here” card that has been signed by the whole department.
  • Prepare your staff for the new therapist’s arrival. Before a new grad begins with your facility, let all your staff members know he or she is starting and when. You don’t want to blindside any of your current therapists. Let them know your new hire is freshly graduated and ask for their support and patience when the new therapist has questions. Plan some social time – a coffee break or company lunch, so that the therapist can get to know his/her co-workers when they aren’t distracted with patients.
  • Make time for one on one training. A newly graduated therapist should work one-on-one with a supervisor for a specified amount of time after he or she starts with your facility. This extended training period will allow your new hire to become acclimated to job expectations, your facility and equipment, and especially your documentation requirements. This training supervisor should also introduce the therapist to your facility’s philosophy and values, your therapy team, any ancillary departments the new therapist may be working with, and his or her patient load, and all equipment.
  • Assign a mentor. Speech Language Pathologists are required to complete a clinical fellowship year in which the practice under a supervising speech therapist for _____ hours after they graduate. Although law doesn’t require this kind of formal mentorship for Physical and Occupational Therapists, employers that have a formal mentorship program find it to be an effective recruitment tool. After a new therapist’s one on one training period has ended, assign an experienced therapist as a mentor, even if you don’t offer a structured program. This mentor can answer questions as they come up, and prevent problems before they start. Assigning a job mentor to help and advise the new therapist paves the way for questions to be answered in a timely manner.
  • Touch base on a regular schedule for feedback and evaluation. Rehab managers should check in with new employees once a week for the first 4 weeks. You’ll want to let your new hire know what he or she is doing well, and also offer constructive criticism for ways in which he or she can improve. This time also provides another avenue for the therapist to ask any questions he or she may have. New employees typically have a 30-day, 90-day, and then one year review. After the first year, annual reviews begin.
  • Invest as much time as you can in this process. All these steps sound time consuming and impractical because they are. Onboarding is an overhead expense that pays off in employee retention and productivity. Each rehabilitation employer has different margins and expectations. Budget your time to provide the best onboarding experience that you can offer as an investment in your new employee, and in the future of your profession.
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Did we miss anything?

What ‘s your favorite way to welcome new therapists to the profession?  What onboarding activities have your therapists found most helpful?

If you are a recent graduate – please share with us your first job onboarding wish list

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