Undergraduate to New Grad Transition- Ways to Prevent Burnout

We recently finished another round of the increasingly popular Physiopedia Volunteer Orientation Course. As part of the final assignment members were tasked to write an original piece of work to share with the profession, the contributions were of the highest quality. Below is the great piece of work written by Kalyani Yajnanarayan.

After four years of countless exams, assignments, lectures, lab sessions the day has finally arrived when you are pushed out into the big wide world, ready to make a difference that you’ve been longing for, for so long. However, as the years go by, that sparkle in your eyes reduces, the need to make a difference in another person’s life is no longer there, the faith in our career fades away. All in all, you start to look at transitioning out of the clinical environment, look at cutting down your hours and doing more educational based roles. This burn out is characterised by stress related mental, physical exhaustion combined with reduced physical accomplishments (Śliwiński Z et al., 2014). In sample of 1366 physiotherapists, 29% were experiencing high levels of emotional exhaustion and 13% have burn out (Zambo Anderson et al., 2015). According to Health force Australia relatively few physiotherapists stay in the clinical practice. In 2012, there were approximately 23,934 registered physiotherapists in Australia. Out of this, 839 were working as administrators and 1446 therapists were no longer working in the field. So to all the physiotherapy student and new graduates, here are some ways we can stop adding to these statistics.

Continuous professional development

In our final year of undergraduate study, the University drills us on the importance of ongoing education, to improve us as clinicians/healthcare professionals. However, what they should have also mentioned is how it improves our mental well-being. There is something about being in a room full of people, going through similar everyday struggles as you, that is a real stress buster. Whether the sessions, are digital, in a class room, lab room or a conference hall, they are not only informative but also provide an environment where you can network and discuss your experiences. Ongoing learning also increases a sense of personal accomplishment. A study conducted in Poland found that the level of education correlates with professional burn out (Pustułka-Piwnik et al., 2014). A physiotherapist with a higher level of education experience a higher level of personal accomplishment than physiotherapist with a lower level of education (Pustułka-Piwnik et al., 2014). This brings us to the next point.

There is not Magic Wand

Don’t measure your achievements against your patient’s progress (or sometimes, lack off). Just the famous saying goes, you can only lead the horse to the water, you can’t make him drink it, you can only advise and help your patients to a certain degree, but at the end of the day, its up to them to take control of their health and well-being. It’s not your job to “fix” your patient. According to Pustułka-Piwnik et al., 2014. Younger clinicians have a higher rate of burn out due to difficulties of satisfying the needs of the patient. However, in saying that, sometimes your diagnosis or your treatment choice can be wrong, hence, it’s crucial to have a good mentor.


The reported benefits of the relationship between the mentor and mentee include enhancing skills, knowledge and confidence, increased self-awareness, reduced isolation, guidance to manage work-related stress, personal and professional well-being (Physiotherapy New Zealand, 2016). By building this relationship it can enable you to develop an insight into unfamiliar territory and embrace the unknown. One qualitative study done high-lighted the importance of a strong mentor/mentee relationship. They found the level of support provided directly correlated to the motivation level of the therapist (Roe-Shaw, 2006). The lack of a senior staff or mentor meant that graduates had no feedback or supervision and often felt like they were “thrown in the deep end” and “having to sink or swim” (Roe-Shaw, 2006).

If You Can’t Help Yourself Then Help Others

The daily work of physiotherapist has been shown to put considerable amount of stress on their musculo, articular and skeletal systems (Śliwiński Z et al., 2014). Literature has suggested many physiotherapists complain of functional musculo-skeletal pain which is associated with their performance at work (Śliwiński Z et al., 2014). Therefore, take care of yourself, before going out there to help everyone else. The benefits of exercise has been well reported so take the time out to unwind/de-stress and exercise.

With great power, comes great responsibility. Every profression has its advantages and disadvanatages. Physiotherapy is a great, rewarding career. Being able to transform people’s lives is a unique gift that physiotherapists around the world are trained for. It’s important to remember these qualities with the day to day pressure of our profession. So keep calm and carry on.


  1. Health Workforce Australia (HIWA). Australia’s Health Workforce Series Physiotherapists in Focus. 2014. Available from http://iaha.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/HWA_Australia-Health-Workforce-Series_Physiotherapists-in-focus_vF_LR.pdf
  2. Physiotherapy New Zealand. Defining Professional Supportive and Evaluative Relationships: A Physiotherapy New Zealand Perspective. Available From https://pnz.org.nz/Attachment?Action=Download&Attachment_id=464
  3. ROE-SHAW, Maggie. Professional Socialisation into Physiotherapy: The Workplace Realities. 
    Labour, Employment and Work in New Zealand. 2006; 268-277 doi:” href=”https://doi.org/10.26686/lew.v0i0.1583″>https://doi.org/10.26686/lew.v0i0.1583
  4. Śliwiński Z., Starczyńska M., Kotela I., Kowalski T., Kryś-Noszczyk K., Lietz-Kijak D. et al. Burnout among physiotherapists and length of service. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health. 2014;27(2):224-235. doi:10.2478/s13382-014-0248-x
  5. Urszula Pustułka-Piwnik, Zdzisław Jan Ryn, Łukasz Krzywoszański, Joanna Stożek. Burnout syndrome in physical therapists – Demographic and organizational factors. Medycyna Pracy, Vol 65, Iss 4, Pp 453-462 (2014) [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2019 Mar 1];(4):453. Available from: http://ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsdoj&AN=edsdoj.3b715b741cf046a09bad030db40446f6&site=eds-live
  6. Zambo Anderson E, Gould-Fogerite S, Pratt C, Perlman A. Identifying Stress and Burn Out in Physical Therapists. Physiotherapy 2015; 101:1712-3