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Our cash pay guru shares tips on getting physician referrals as a new grad PT!

New Grads’ Guide to Physician Referrals

Getting More Physician Referrals

So you’ve passed your boards, you’ve celebrated graduation, and you finally accepted the perfect job offer. You know that PT school prepared you to diagnose movement dysfunctions, how to select appropriate interventions, and how to communicate with your patients. Things are going great, and you are excited to start your career as a physical therapist. That is, until you encounter a situation that PT school may not have fully prepared you for: selling yourself to referral sources as a skilled clinician. There are all types of referral sources at our disposal as physical therapists, but to start, let’s discuss how to communicate and build good working relationships with one of the major referrers to most physical therapy practices, physicians.


Physicians aren’t all that different from physical therapists. We both study hard to become knowledgeable about our fields of medicine, and continue to learn throughout our careers to become better clinicians. We both want what’s best for the patients, and we each bring our own unique skill sets to the table to accomplish these goals. So why do new grads have difficulty communicating with physicians about patients or asking for referrals? I think the big reasons are lack of confidence and having the wrong mindset.

Many new grads are scared to engage with physicians in any kind of debate or discussion about patient care because they fear they may upset the physician, which could close off a referral source. The truth is good physicians like to learn, and they understand that they don’t know everything that a physical therapists knows, just as a good physical therapist knows they don’t possess the same knowledge and skills a physician does.
Being confident in with your ability is an important step to communicating with physicians. Think about talking to a patient: if you aren’t confident in the way you communicate with your patients, the less likely they will be to believe what you are telling them, and their compliance with your plan of care probably won’t be very good.

How to Build Confidence

Confidence has a huge tie in with preparedness.

If you are going to talk with a new physician about referring you patients, come to the meeting prepared.
 Look into what that physicians specialties are, what their clinical interests are, and make a connection between that and your skills. For example if you are seeing an orthopedist who specializes in rotator cuff tears, come to the meeting up to date on the best rehab protocol for post op patients, and even come prepared with the latest research that shows how PT can help certain patients prevent surgery.

Sell Yourself

It’s okay to sell yourself, your services and your practice to potential referral sources like physicians. Physicians are seeing patients every day that they may not even realize could benefit from physical therapy. Take the time to explain what you do, why you do it, and most importantly who is an appropriate physical therapy patient. Not only is it important to make physicians realize what type of conditions you can treat, but also make it clear who is not appropriate for physical therapy. 

Don’t forget that referrals go both ways. With physical therapists having direct access to patient care, we may need to refer someone to a physician if their condition needs care that is out of our scope of practice.

Don’t be afraid to make it clear that you are willing to send some of your patients to the physician’s office if you feel their services are needed.

One important thing to remember is to follow up after a good meeting. Send a hand written thank you card to both the physician and the front desk staff for taking the time to meet with you. You can also send a thank you card for referrals that the physician’s office sends you to show that you truly do appreciate them trusting your skills to help their patients get better.
If you are a new grad or seasoned pro, share with us your experiences on getting new referrals to your practice by commenting here.

Kevin Prue, PT, DPT, CSCS is the NGPT community cash pay expert!
He has already written about physician referral sources, and don’t forget to check out his article detailing how a cash pay PT practice works.


About Kevin Prue

Cash PT owner since graduation. Clinical focus in sports medicine and orthopedics. Publication director at NewGradPT. Adjunct professor and Healthcare business consultant.

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