PT Burnout is at an All-Time High, According to a New Study
Stress Awareness Month has been recognized every April since 1992, but this year it seems particularly pertinent. The impact of the last two years can be felt around the world, including in the physical therapy industry. In fact, according to a new study, physical therapists feel more burnt out now than they did pre-pandemic.
The study by WebPT, The State of Rehab Therapy, surveyed over 6,700 rehab therapists in the U.S. to understand how COVID-19 changed the professional landscape. It found that 46.8% of physical therapists feel more burned out now compared to pre-COVID. A mere 19.6% of PTs reported that they did not feel burned out now or pre-COVID-19.
Let that sink in for a second.
Keep in mind that burnout goes beyond normal stress. It’s a state of total emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. Those suffering from burnout typically have “an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment,” according to researchers.
So, why are so many PTs burnt out?
According to the survey, the major increase in burnout since the pandemic began comes down to three factors: 1) Fear of contracting COVID-19, 2) Change in the number of hours worked per week, and 3) Change in clinic morale.
Even before the pandemic, PT burnout was on the rise. A great quote surfaced from the study offering an explanation:
“Burnout at its core is the loss of control and meaning in our life. It is a problem that extends well beyond rehab therapy, and our response to this will be transformational for our profession and society. We have become inundated with noisy and negative social media coupled with poorly designed electronic medical record interfaces and burdensome regulatory requirements. These take us away from the magic of our profession, which is human connection.” - Tim Flynn, PT, PhD, OCS, FAAOMPT, FAPTA Principal Evidence in Motion
The magic of the physical therapy profession was slipping away before COVID-19. Thanks to a largely outdated paradigm, many PTs were already facing long hours, limited time to connect one-on-one with engaged patients, and hours of documentation during their time “away” from work. It simply wasn’t sustainable.
Now, more than ever, PTs need hope and a future
When asked about their outlook towards the future of the rehab therapy industry, 37.2% reported feeling less optimistic, and 39.1% reported feeling equally optimistic compared to the previous year. Surprisingly, the majority of therapy professionals do not plan to make any career or retirement changes as a result of the pandemic. Physical therapists may be more burned out and less optimistic than ever before, but they still have hope.
“Luna saved me from burning out as a clinician! I get more one-on-one time with my patient and have flexibility in setting hours that work for me. I get to be my own boss without the hassle of opening up my own clinic.” - Physical Therapist at Luna
At Luna, we want to help stop the spread of PT burnout by giving therapists an entirely new way to engage in the physical therapy profession. We help therapists increase their autonomy, maximize their earning potential, and reconnect with what brought them to this profession in the first place—making a true impact in the lives of their patients.
It’s time for a change
The stress and anxiety most physical therapists have experienced since the start of the pandemic aren’t magically disappearing. In fact, if ignored, they’re likely to compound and show up in more significant ways later on. For PTs to find meaningful relief, something has to change.