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Sapphire Coast Graduate Physiotherapy Program

Bega Valley Health Service and Sapphire Coast Physiotherapy
Project Added:
14 July 2015
Last updated:
28 July 2015

Sapphire Coast Graduate Physiotherapy Program


This project created an informal public-private partnership with collaborative recruitment, joint management and shared education for new graduates. 

1.5 private vacnacy + 0.5 public vacancy = 2 shared positions


To recruit and retain two new graduate physiotherapists in part-time positions at Bega Valley Health Service and Sapphire Coast Physiotherapy.


  • Attracts applicants to difficult-to-fill positions and delivers certainty in staffing levels.
  • Provides new graduates with a diverse clinical load and increased access to mentors.
  • Increases networking opportunities between public and private organisations.
  • Provides educational opportunities for staff in both organisations.
  • Streamlines recruitment and education processes.

Project status

Project dates

  • 2012 project started
  • 2013 implementation
  • 2014- ongoing.

Project status: Sustained - the project has been implemented, is sustained in standard business.


Recruiting physiotherapists in the Bega Valley was traditionally difficult, with public and private physiotherapists struggling to attract new graduates. Recruitment often occurred when physiotherapists moved to the region for other reasons.

Sapphire Coast Physiotherapy was keen to recruit new graduate staff. It had a history of successfully recruiting new graduates, but was aware that many graduates are looking for broad learning experiences in their first year, including hospital-based skills. Examination of the Bega Valley Health Service physiotherapy staffing revealed the department had been fully staffed for only two years in the previous decade and had an inconsistent history of new graduate recruitment. It had vacant physiotherapy hours, but little chance of recruiting a part-time position.

In 2012, Sapphire Coast Physiotherapy approached Bega Valley Health Service about the potential for a collaborative approach to recruitment.


  • Developed an informal public-private partnership between Sapphire Coast Physiotherapy and Bega Valley Health Service, to recruit two new graduate physiotherapists who would work part-time in both organisations, resulting in a full-time equivalent position for each graduate.
  • Precedents for the proposed model were investigated and industrial issues were considered via consultation with human resource experts.
  • A project leadership team was established, comprising physiotherapy and allied health managers of Bega Valley Health Service and directors of Sapphire Coast Physiotherapy.
  • Recruitment was led by the public sector, using NSW Health’s eRecruit system, with representatives of Sapphire Coast Physiotherapy on the recruitment panel.
  • The positions available were also advertised through universities, targeting final year physiotherapy students.
  • Interviews for the positions were conducted via Skype, with decision-making on successful applicants by consensus and in line with NSW Health’s merit-based selection policy.
  • A cooperative new graduate education timetable was created for successful applicants. Education was shared between sectors and included two tutorials, totalling six hours of face-to-face training each week for the first three months, decreasing to once a week for the next three months. Weekly case review sessions supplemented formal tutorial times. Two new graduates employed in the private sector and two second-year graduates employed in the public sector were invited to participate in the education timetable.
  • Management of the positions was shared between both organisations. It was critical that new graduate rosters met the needs of both sectors; consideration was required in the private sector to allow for management of clients requiring treatment more than once a week, or when graduates were required to participate in the public hospital weekend roster.

Implementation sites

  • Sapphire Coast Physiotherapy
  • Bega Valley Health Service


  • A large number of high-quality applicants applied, with the two successful applicants commencing their roles in January 2013.
  • Recruitment of available positions had an immediate impact on service delivery.
  • Ongoing collaboration between the organisations created a community perception of a single discipline across sectors, with improved cooperation and continuity of patient care across the public-private sectors.
  • The partnership model was formally evaluated in a qualitative research project via focus groups with new and recent graduates, private sector and public sector managers. The evaluation found that the partnership:
    • attracted quality applicants to difficult-to-fill positions, with the number and quality of applicants exceeding expectations. Eight applicants were interviewed and referee reports indicated a high calibre of applicants.
    • provided a broader education and experience for new graduates, with a greater insight into the patient continuum of care, a range of mentoring support, experience in different working cultures and greater awareness of future career choices
    • reduced social isolation by recruiting to more than one position and creating a larger pool of work contacts across the sectors
    • enhanced networking between private and public sectors and created a community of physiotherapists, breaking down the ‘us and them’ barriers.
  • It is anticipated that the partnership would be strengthened by:
    • funding support to allow both sectors dedicated time to training and education
    • developing strategies for improving the transition into a complex work arrangement
    • management of industrial matters such as explicit recruitment and specific position descriptions.
  • The new graduates have entered their second year in the positions and indicate high satisfaction with their roles. Management support for the partnership remains high.
  • The collaboration between sectors has expanded into student placements, with shared undergraduate placements occurring throughout 2013. The shared recruitment was repeated in 2014, and two more graduates commenced in January 2015.


RICH presentation

Lessons learnt

  • Combining the best aspects of public and private practice is an attractive career mix for a new graduate, with the flexibility offered by private advertising adding value to the recruitment process.
  • The partnership model could easily be applied to other regions and is well suited to large private organisations that can allocate time for graduate training.
  • The model would suit other professions that have a large private sector workforce including nursing, medicine, radiography and pharmacy.
  • The collaborative approach was built on mutual respect and openness from managers in both sectors and relied on flexibility from all parties involved in the partnership.


David Schmidt
Physiotherapy Regional Advisor
Bega Valley Health Service
Southern NSW Local Health District
Phone: 02 6492 9104 or 0447 915 863

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