Physio workforce research

With the 2018 PNZ Remuneration Survey raising a number of questions about our workforce, PNZ contracted independent researchers BERL (one of the country’s leading providers of economic research, analysis and advice) to fully understanding potential workforce issues and how they can be addressed.

In late 2018, BERL commenced a thorough research process to build a complete understanding of potential issues. This included a review of existing data, focus groups (held in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington), a feedback session during the November 2018 PNZ Leadership Day and direct insights from PNZ members.

A summary of research findings is below and the full research report from BERL is available here.

Research findings highlight there is no evidence of an overall shortage in the profession and workforce issues are not about recruitment but relate more to retention or possibly attrition.

There is a steer to shape PNZ’s work in this area (pp 34-36), including:

  1. Retention issues (career pathway; return to practice; measure and track retention)
  2. Attrition issues
  3. Some work on remuneration, particularly in Auckland
  4. Address graduate expectations
  5. Promote needs of physiotherapists inside DHBs (including tracking the change to the Multi Employer Collective Agreement on remuneration)

Other recommendations align closely with our existing advocacy strategy and include:

  • Build workforce issues into our stakeholder relations discussions
  • Maintain our relationship with ACC as a primary funder of physiotherapy
  • Improve the place of physiotherapy in primary health

Workforce Retention

Following research to identify issues facing the physiotherapy workforce, it was recommended that further investigation should look to understand the barriers and enablers to retaining talented physiotherapists. To achieve this current and past PNZ members were invited to complete a survey in August 2019, including questions on work demands, job satisfaction and security, flexible working arrangements and continuing professional development. This was again conducted by independent researchers BERL.

With the survey receiving over 1,200 responses, thanks to everyone who participated.

Key insights include that there are a number of factors that can contribute towards retaining physiotherapists in the profession. These include help with CPD, meaningful work, promotion / pathways, support from leaders, recognition and role clarity. This helps identify areas where leaders in the profession can help with retention, including where PNZ can offer resources and further advocate for members. Read the full report.


The research identified three cohorts of participants: those who have left the profession, those who are considering leaving and those not considering leaving.

Those who had left the profession were more likely to agree their job promotion prospects were poor, and that their work was draining and had a negative effect on their life. They did not look forward to another day as a physiotherapist, and considered their income was inadequate for their efforts. There was a strong relationship between the quality of leadership they experienced and their overall job satisfaction. CPD was taxing on all levels for this cohort.

For those who were considering leaving physiotherapy, CPD was also a drain, particularly on their time and finances. Quality of leadership was a key factor, with those who stated their superior seldom offered help and support more likely to consider leaving. In addition, this group was less likely to report being well-informed and appreciated in their workplace, and to have clarity about their role.

The group who weren’t considering leaving reported less work-life conflict than the other groups and didn’t feel CPD was as taxing on their resources, although it still required changes to family plans. They were largely satisfied with their job, and found their work personally rewarding and fulfilling.

BERL’s recommendations include that those in leadership positions consider the implications of the survey findings regarding the quality of leadership support and positive workplace practices to job satisfaction and turnover intention. Strategies to improve these include providing mentoring opportunities and support for those undertaking CPD, having clear processes for sharing information, and developing strategies to monitor, prevent, and manage workplace stress.

Recommendations for PNZ include greater support for individuals and businesses on Flexible Work Arrangements and CPD and the development of an overall career pathway.


Following this research there are some key areas where PNZ can focus on behalf of members.

  • Help provide access to best practice leadership, including how to support physiotherapists in their work and foster positive workplaces that encourage recognition, role clarity and Flexible Work Arrangements.
  • Further determine how CPD can be made easier for members and help facilitate professional development.
  • Consider overall career pathways for physiotherapists that support progression and promotion prospects.

Page updated November 2019