How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
I was always interested in sport when I was growing up.
My Father worked in a Management Role in NHS and so I had an interest in Health Care.
Initially, however, I chose my work experience placement in an engineering role since I also had an interest in this field and enjoyed maths and physics. However I did not enjoy my work experience, as I realised I wanted a people focussed role in my future.
Careers advisors at school and a friend of the family suggested Physiotherapy. I obtained information about the University Courses and then organised independent work experience with two different physiotherapists – one working on hospital wards and one working in an out-patient clinic and I really enjoyed both experiences therefore decided to follow this path.
What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I went to school in Northern Ireland so at the time the requirements for entry to Physiotherapy Courses were 3 ‘A’ Levels, 2 of which had to be sciences. The required grades were 3 B’s. I then undertook a 4 year BSc Honours Degree course. All the courses in Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen) are now 4 years Honours Courses.
I qualified in 1991 and consolidated my knowledge by taking on a junior physiotherapy role at a large teaching hospital in Northern Ireland. This is a great way of starting your career because you are in a rotational role, which allows you to spend anything between 4-8 months in each clinical area.
Physiotherapists have many different roles:
· Sports Injuries in an out-patient setting;
· Neurological Rehabilitation – helping people regain function after a stroke, traumatic brain injury or neurological condition such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease;
· Chest Physiotherapy – helping people with Cystic Fibrosis or breathing difficulties such as asthma or Obstructive Lung Disease;
· Orthopaedics and Trauma – helping people regain function after joint replacement or a broken bone;
· Care of the Elderly- helping elderly people to stay as independent as possible and deal with health issues;
· Paediatrics – working with children:
· Lifestyle Management Programmes – helping people to manage long-term conditions using their own resources and local community assistance – reducing their dependency on the health-care system.
After working for two years to consolidate knowledge Physiotherapists will then often choose one of the specialities to work in and will then progress their career in this field. However there is scope to change as many of the skills learned are transferrable. I for example first specialised in Orthopaedics and Trauma but then changed to working in Neurology and have now taken those skills into Lifestyle Management and Private Practice Role.
Throughout your career there is a responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest research and evidence based practice so Continuing Professional Development and attendance at post-graduate courses is essential.
I have gained qualifications in acupuncture, mobilisations and manipulations for treatment of joint and spinal conditions, specialist neurological treatment techniques and have also trained as a Pilates Instructor especially for people with joint and back problems.
Once qualified there is also the opportunity to travel. I have worked in both Canada and Australia, however to practice as a physiotherapist in both of these countries now does require you to sit further exams set by their registration bodies.
Talk me through a day in your life... what sorts of things would it involve?
I have various roles
My role within the NHS is on a Lifestyle Management Programme for people with myalgic encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so is very much an education role where I am assisting people to tap into their own resources to manage the multiple symptoms that this condition presents with. I work as part of a team with Psychologists which is proving very interesting. I assess people and find out how their symptoms affect them, I then work collaboratively with these people over a few weeks to relieve the impact of their symptoms and use health behaviour change techniques to educate them on how best to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
I also work on the weekend rota on the Orthopaedic and Trauma wards assessing and treating patients following joint replacement surgery or musculo-skeletal injuries. This involves teaching people exercises to regain muscle strength and range of motion and to mobilise/ walk independently again following surgery.
I also work in a Private Practice where I teach Pilates to people after back or limb injuries or to people with Neurological Conditions. Pilates is used to regain core/ abdominal muscle strength and balance and help people move more easily. I also treat people with Neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease or Stroke or Brain Injury. This treatment is often about gaining movement and strength/ control of limbs affected by the condition. It can also involve teaching exercises to help with Balance or walking ability.
I also work for a Case Management Company writing reports for legal cases for people who have sustained injuries and need on-going Physiotherapy. This assists the Courts in deciding how much funding a person may need for on-going care. This involves assessing clients and reporting on the effects of their injuries and how this will affect them in the future and therefore what Physiotherapy Care they may need.
This means I have a very varied career and goes to show some of the different roles a carrer in Physiotherapy has to offer.
Was it your planned career when you were 18?
I had considered a career in Engineering but decided it was not people focussed enough to hold my interest.
Working as a Physiotherapist has been really enjoyable and my career has changed a lot over the last 10 years allowing me to try lots of different things.
What did your mum and dad want you to do?
Mum and Dad encouraged me to work as a Physiotherapist. They both believed it would be a very rewarding career – and they were right
What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
I would say arrange a work-place visit with a physiotherapy department and get a feel for what the job involves. Try to arrange this visit at one of the bigger hospitals so you can find out about all the different specialities that Physiotherapists work in.
What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
As outlined already there are many different roles within Physiotherapy itself.