Physiotherapy has been an official profession since 1884 when the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy was established. Since then it has grown significantly but with this growth, challenges have become increasingly common and continue to arise because of the dynamic nature of healthcare.
1. Stress and professional burnout
Physiotherapy can be very stressful because there are so many mental and physical demands of working with numerous clients,
This, like other healthcare professions, can lead to burnout and exhaustion so physiotherapists constantly need to find new ways to cope with the expectations of their clients.
The combination of working for long periods of time and the mental impact of dealing with injuries or conditions can lead to stress and poor performance if not managed. Burnout can even result in treatment errors or failure to properly document and record everything.
The best way to address this at the moment is to find a work-life balance and separate your personal life from your work as much as possible.
If you are really struggling mentally then reaching out to someone who can help you with your mental health is important, or even just talking to other physiotherapists if you’re more comfortable with that.
2. Increase in Telehealth
Although Telehealth appointments are actually decreasing, these kinds of appointments replaced face-to-face appointments and assessments during the Coronavirus pandemic and for some clients, this is still their preferred means of contact.
Luckily, face-to-face appointments are the norm again. Still, the number of vulnerable clients or clients with severe conditions opting for online appointments is likely to take a little bit longer to decrease to pre-pandemic levels.
This means that although there are a lot fewer Telehealth appointments now, the clients who usually opt for these require more care and more in-depth assessments.
There’s not much that can be done about this but naturally over time, these types of appointments will become less and less common. You can however encourage any clients that still opt for these types of appointments and reassure them that face-to-face appointments are always in the best interests of their health.
3. Emotional Stress
Although we've already discussed how physiotherapists can suffer from stress, this is mainly related to the demands of their role as a physiotherapist and health professionals.
Another very important source of stress is the emotional side of providing healthcare which can have a big impact on physiotherapists
This is because a lot of injuries or conditions that Physiotherapists deal with are either traumatic or very serious which has an emotional impact on the person being treated. Physiotherapists, therefore, have to get emotionally invested in their clients, their treatments and recovery journeys.
Providing emotional support and becoming strongly involved in someone's else health which you are ultimately responsible can of course be draining and lead to emotional exhaustion which is also a sign of burnout which we discussed earlier.
You could approach how you care for your clients differently by trying to distance yourself as much as possible without sacrificing a good relationship with them and trying to think of them more as clients and less as friends.
Optimism and a generally positive attitude about your own abilities and the power of physical therapy can help reassure yourself and your clients that you will get the results you are hoping for and help to avoid taking on too much emotional responsibility for the future health of your clients.
4. Retaining Staff and Turnover
Physiotherapy, in general, has a high turnover among young recent graduates. Sometimes these physios are simply not enjoying their role but there is a very high number of qualified physios who don't end up actually practisng. This leaves a void for young talent which is constantly in short supply.
Physios, therefore, face a lack of assistance and can become overwhelmed with client management as they try to meet all the needs of their clients and support their wellbeing as much as possible.
Introducing virtual assistants to the industry that can help Physios to manage their admin work as much as possible
Keeping up with official healthcare legislature and abiding by the proper guidance requires Physios to keep extensive documentation on the treatment process. Every time laws change, these processes have to be updated which further complicates them.
In some parts of the world, this causes so many issues because in most cases records and documents are not digitally managed which created an administration nightmare every time there is a major change. This is supported by a study on the main challenges faced by physiotherapists.
There is also a lot of pressure from governing bodies and government regulations which require physiotherapists to document and record everything accurately.
Ensuring full digitisation of the recording and reporting processes for each treatment and more static laws and regulations that can allow physios to keep up with the ever-changing demands of the local government and various governing bodies.
Not only are initial education costs very high for physiotherapy, but physios are also required to stay up to date with the most recent trends and changes within their field. This demands a minimum number of 'CPD' hours and similar ways of staying informed.
This expectation to continuously learn new things can be very taxing and draining for people that don't have a natural drive to learn or educate themselves. This is understandable given that physiotherapy is a very dynamic and broad field so it can be difficult to stay on top of everything that is happening, especially as we get older.
It can be mentally, physically, and financially demanding to be a physiotherapist. There are so many expectations from various stakeholders and our clients still have to be the first priority, this often leads to physiotherapists feeling underappreciated and overworked.
There are various ways to approach the different challenges faced by physiotherapists but they are not guaranteed solutions and more needs to be done to make the job of a physio a lot more manageable and rewarding.