Signing bonuses, generous education allowances, flexible hours,
soaring salaries - medical institutions have offered just about
everything except maybe limousine service to entice physical
therapists to work for them.
"We can kind of write our own ticket," said Kate Crandell, a
physical therapist. She recently left a hospital job to direct a
small clinic in the Central West End owned by MedRehab Inc., which
has outpatient clinics in seven states.
At a time when workers in other occupations are getting laid
off or having to settle for less desirable jobs, physical
therapists have it made. The demand for their services is much
greater than the supply, and that is not likely to change soon.
The occupation is expected to continue to be one of the
fastest-growing in the region and the nation. Nationally, the
number of jobs is expected to grow 76 percent from 1990 to 2005,
according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the St. Louis area, including the Metro East side, the
growth in jobs is expected to be somewhat less, about 46 percent by
the year 2000, according to a study by the Missouri Division of
The shortage is less acute here because three area universities
offer physical therapy programs - Washington University, St. Louis
University and Maryville University. In fact, the three
universities graduate more therapists than the region has openings
each year. But many of them go elsewhere.
Nationally, starting salaries average about $37,000, says the
American Physical Therapy Association. In St. Louis, new therapists
start at around $30,000, recruiters say. Less attractive workplaces
sometimes offer several thousand dollars more.
Physical therapists don't know what a tight job market is.
Tammy Davis' experience is fairly typical. Now 23, Davis said
she felt sort of like a baseball player when, as a 20-year-old
college graduate, she got a signing bonus of $8,000 for her first
job, at a hospital in the Metro East area.
When she left that job six months ago, Davis found another job
in a couple of days with higher pay and better hours - and it was
closer to her home in Florissant.
On a Tuesday, she made five phone calls and got five
appointments for job interviews. After the third appointment, she
canceled the other two. By Thursday the same week, she had accepted
a job. She started work the following Monday.
Why do physical therapists have it so good?
Demand for physical therapy is up.
Increasing the supply of therapists is difficult because the
training is costly and takes four to seven years. …