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As personal trainers, our Scope of Practice upon graduating is limited to fit, healthy, and average aged adults. At Burrell Education, we maintain that further investigation is necessary to ensure that your client fits that definition. While our passion is primarily directed at pre screening women (free course on this subject here), it is a skill that could supercharge your business for any population.

At first, it feels counter intuitive – am I really asking you to delve deeply in to every single client to find some thing “special” about them that means you have to refer them AWAY from your business?? YES. and it will be GOOD for your business, and this is how:

  1. A thorough screening process, one that searches for issues that affect your client’s age, sex, and lifestyle, will turn up health problems before they become huge problems. Whether you’re looking for pelvic floor dysfunctions or prostate problems by screening for symptoms, if you catch them in the early phase of their disease or dysfunction you’ve already changed their life!
  2. This is also powerful when building trust, rapport, and reputation as a professional – as opposed to the hundreds of PT meat-heads out there! Already, in the screening process (which doubles as your first impression), you’ve differentiated you and your business from the masses.
  3. A thorough screening process, and a referral network will build trust and notice in your community. By sending clients consistently to one physio, doctor, or another, then following their advice on your exercise program, you’re developing solid lead generation for your business – in the beginning it feels like it’s only going one way, but give it a year, and prove your methods with their patients, and the tide will turn.
  4. Discovering underlying health issues in apparently “healthy” clients is also a fantastic learning opportunity for you. Every time an issue is uncovered, you add to your wealth of experience and this shines through when you’re training anyone.

So how do you tweak your pre screen?

  • If you don’t already, make sure you’ve got all the compulsory bases covered, as specified by your Duty of Care. These are general health questions that will automatically qualify someone for a GP visit before commencing training with you. You can get a copy of these policies here. The current pre screening form for multiple regulatory bodies (including ESSA, ASCA, and FA) can be downloaded here.
  • Next, run a census on your client base. Vital questions to ask are, in the majority of cases;
    – are they men or women?
    – do they identify as male or female?
    – how old are they?
    – what is their lifestyle like in terms of activity, eating, drinking, and stress?
  • Identify key health issues in that population. For example, if 70% of your client base are sedentary men who wine and dine as a part of their job, obesity and alcoholism would be two fundamental issues to screen for. If 85% of your client base are mums, then pelvic floor dysfunctions are a must. If over half your clients are women who haven’t had kids, then we probably want to know about their menstrual cycle and whether or not they’re on the pill.
    This process will also help you with your marketing – you’ll have a clearer idea of who you want to talk to, what their problems are, and where to find them!
    I can’t stress enough how important good quality research is at this stage. If you’re not familiar with PubMed, Google Scholar, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics – here’s your chance to get to know them!
  • Incorporate questions that screen for these issues; a combination of direct questions, and others that look for symptoms that may indicate an undiagnosed issue are important.
  • Develop relationships with health professionals to correct/treat those issues. In some cases, like that of a physio, you may need to physically go and see them, including booking and paying for an appointment. For others, it’s enough to call or email and discuss a mutual client’s plan. It can take some time to develop this relationship, so be persistent, consistent, and let your good work do your “selling” for you.
  • Over time, this will naturally develop your reputation as an expert, the one person the physio/cardiologist/GP will trust to prescribe exercise for their patients.

We can’t deny that there are many hurdles for asking some of these necessary questions. Whether your client base is male or female, they have health complaints that will apply to their breasts, their bleeding, their prostates, etc and the intimacy of these questions may make you uncomfortable.

This is fair, but are you the right person to be training a mum if you can’t address the very high likelihood of her having some form of pelvic dysfunction? Not asking, doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem, and I think we can all agree that we got in to this career to help people. Some advice for those of you who can’t talk bowels, urinary tracts, or vagina’s is to refer out immediately – make it a pre-requisite of training with you that your mum’s see a women’s health physio or your dad’s get their prostate checked.

Another hurdle is feeling out-of-depth with the answers that you find! This one is my favorite feeling in the world, because it means you’re about to learn something! As a PT, it is out of your Scope of Practice to diagnose. The best thing about knowing nothing, and being qualified only to prescribe movement, is that the best health professionals in each field will teach us a little something with every client. Your client does not expect you to know why their back hurts everyday, but you’ll change her life when you know that it is a sign to see a pelvic physio, and send her accordingly. Similarly, you don’t have to know or decide someone has depression or anxiety to save their life, you only have to notice or screen for the change of mood or behavior, then refer to a GP for a mental health plan. If you’re training adolescents or young adults, the Mental Health First Aid course is highly recommended.

An advantage of an electronic Pre-Screening process also means that you’ll have a chance to research any issues that come up prior to meeting new clients. Google Forms and Wufoo are two examples of free form builders that will streamline your process.

Finally, our last hurdle (for this article anyway), the old “bad for business” chestnut – that referring people out of your business is bad for you. Referring someone out is not bad for you, not only for the reasons outlined above, but because the client feels like their health is your first priority. They’ll be back, I guarantee it!

So take some time out, this week or next, to have a thorough look at your screening processes. Learn exactly who you’re training, and how you can add to the current recommended pre screen to do an even greater service to your customers. Your business will thank you too!

GET THESE SKILLS in our Modern Pregnancy Exercise and Wellness, and Modern Post Natal Exercise and Wellness courses! Download Burrell Education’s FREE Pre Screening tool for Pregnant women here and Post Natal women here!