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Abstract

Purpose: Community health organizations are expanding in many countries to meet the health and care needs associated with an aging population, an increase in recognition of children with developmental and mental health needs, and escalating healthcare costs. Singapore is no exception. Community organizations, however, are facing challenges in recruiting and retaining early-career therapists to these positions due to competition from acute services and a declining foreign talent pool. At the same time, early-career therapists encounter challenges during the transition from student to professional. Community organizations, therefore, need to identify what makes their organization attractive to early-career therapists and what makes them stay. This study explored factors that attracted and retained early-career therapists in community organizations in Singapore from the perspectives of early-career therapists and supervisors. Methods: Appreciative Inquiry was adopted as a strengths-based approach to guide this qualitative study process. Focus groups were conducted with three groups of early-career therapists and supervisors, to explore perspectives of what attracted them to work in a community health organization and what factors retained them in their roles. Two phases of focus groups were held three-weeks apart, giving early-career therapists and supervisors the opportunity to consolidate and expand their ideas. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed, and thematically analyzed. Results: This study highlighted three key factors which attracted and retained early-career therapists to the Singapore community health organizations: (1) a culture that values learning and professional development; (2) structured supervision that is timely and individualized; and (3) a system that supports job satisfaction and promotes staff wellbeing. Conclusions: This study highlighted that community organizations could enhance their attraction and retention of early-career therapists through a focus on opportunities for early-career therapists’ formal and informal learning and professional development opportunities. Having a clear supervision framework and continuing development for supervisors is another key attraction for early-career therapists. Finally, time and opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with colleagues and clients enhances job satisfaction and wellbeing of early-career therapists. Making explicit the offer in these three areas could enhance applications and the retention of early-career therapists to these services.

Author Bio(s)

Karina M Dancza, BAppSc(OT), MA(SEN), PGCLT(HE), Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in Health and Social Sciences at Singapore Institute of Technology. ORCID ID http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3291-4467

Yik Ming Choi, BSc (Hons) PT, MMT, DClinPhysio, is a practicing physical therapist and an associate faculty in Health and Social Sciences at Singapore Institute of Technology.

Kaisah Amalia, BSc (Hons) OT, is a graduate in Bachelor of Science with Honours in Occupational Therapy from Singapore Institute of Technology and practicing occupational therapist at Woodlands Health Campus, Singapore.

Pei Shan Wong, BSc (Hons) OT, is a graduate in Bachelor of Science with Honours in Occupational Therapy from Singapore Institute of Technology.

Jia Hao Hu, BSc (Hons) PT, is a graduate in Bachelor of Science with Honours in Physiotherapy from Singapore Institute of Technology-Trinity College Dublin.

Li Wen Yap, BSc (Hons) OT, is a Principal Occupational Therapist in AWWA Ltd, Singapore.

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge with gratitude Mr. Justyn Tan and Ms. Fanyi Foo from AWWA Ltd for their contributions as site coordinators and the therapists from AWWA Ltd who willingly shared and participated in this study.

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