The best advice for new grads – just focus on this 1 thing [5min read]

Advice for new grads who are currently or recently emerging from their Physiotherapy degrees is everywhere.

Social media will talk about the best way to be an “awesome” Physio.

Education providers will start spruiking the courses you “must” take to achieve legend status.

But what if the single best piece of advice for new grads was as simple as asking a few questions during your job interview?

What if those few questions determined the difference between an awesome career and a very short, dissatisfied one?


What makes new grads different from early career Physios?

There’s more than just experience separating new grads from early career Physios (ie. have been working for 1-3 years).

New grads are taught hypotheticodeductive reasoning in university – long word but it basically means that you start with the full list of possible diagnoses and gradually work your way through them.

It’s a workable method of arriving at the most likely diagnosis, but it lacks efficiency.

That’s why new grads take longer to complete a standard treatment session.

Compare that to Physios with a few years experience – they use pattern recognition.

Essentially the patient tells their story and the Physio thinks “I’ve seen this kind of thing before, so I know what it’s probably going to be.”

It’s much faster to arrive at a conclusion but it relies on experience with lots of previous cases and a good confirmatory physical assessment.

Along with more time-consuming reasoning, new grads tend to focus on the injury rather than the person.

It’s been shown that new grads have difficulty integrating cultural considerations into their care.

That’s because hypotheticodeductive reasoning is injury-focused – it doesn’t look at the whole picture like pattern recognition.

Again, that’s not the fault of the new grad but it brings us to our single best bit of advice for new grads (drumroll please….)

What’s the single best bit of advice for new grads?

If you don’t ask questions in your first job interview (or worse, you ask about pay), you’ve missed a critical junction point in your evolution.

Our advice for new grads is to ask these questions so you don’t miss your first chance to grow as a therapist:

How do you mentor and develop your new Physios?

Would I be working with a more experienced Physio on each of my shifts?

Is there someone on hand (in person or on phone) to discuss cases with at the time?

What you’re looking for is a customised, on-demand system of mentoring and support (eg. “you’ll have an allocated mentor to approach whenever you need”.) It’s advice on issues as they arise, not discussed a week later.

And it’s definitely not a prefabricated flow of tutorials and workshops (eg. “we run weekly in-services on a variety of topics”.)

Because as a new grad, you need to evolve your thinking towards recognising patterns and stories.

You don’t need more of what uni has already delievered – tutorials on tennis elbow, ankle sprains, osteoarthritis…

It’s more info to feed the basic model of reasoning, not an opportunity to advance your thinking and skills towards higher level reasoning.

Then you need to ask:

What are your goals and expectations of new grads after 12 months?

When you ask about their expectations of you, watch out for KPI and productivity-based measures.

In one year, you should be able to handle more advanced, complex cases and be thinking on a higher level – that’ll advance your career and your job satisfaction.

If their response is “you’ll be seeing 3 patients per hour, you’ll be flat out busy and your retention rate will be over 90%”, smile politely and walk away!!!


Take home message

Don’t waste your years of hard study at uni on a short, boring career!

Follow the single most important piece of advice for new grads – start with a nurturing, supportive job and you’ll have a brilliantly successful career.

If you skip that advice for new grads and dive in to a highly paid production line, you’ll become another bored, dissatisfied statistic – the average career length of a Physiotherapist is less than 7 years!

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