Physiotherapists work with people to assess their mobility levels and then provide information, advice, equipment or rehabilitation to enable the person to be as independent as possible.
Many physiotherapists work in the National Health Service (NHS) within the United Kingdom and provide care to in-patient and out-patient service users. Increasing numbers are working in a community setting or in GP surgeries and a number work in private, independent practice or for sports groups (football clubs etc).
Not just looking at how well a patient may walk or move, they are also concerned with the function of the body and have a vital role to play in intensive care units, medical emergency units or on cardio-respiratory wards working with patients with breathing difficulties, where they use their medical knowledge and positioning skills to try to keep airways as clear as possible and prevent a build-up of fluid on the chest.
What is life on the ward like as a physiotherapist?
Busy! If you work on an acute ward there will be an unending roll-call of patients who need your assessment. For some it will be a short review to see if the patient is mobilising at their baseline (how they were before they came into hospital) and if this means they are fully independent they will not need any physio input so can be discharged from you.
However, other patients will need specific assessments or advice and may need a lengthy amount of input from you involving practising movements to regain lost confidence or learning new skills where necessary.
You will attend multi-disciplinary meetings to find out the medical condition of the patient and what work other specialities such as Occupational Therapy are doing with the patient, as all of these factors will have an impact on the work you do and the goals you are aiming for. You will report how the rehabilitation is going from a physiotherapy point of view.
Many wards have meetings where the patient and their family attend along with the physiotherapist, occupational therapist, nurse and doctor to set goals. Again the families view may not be realistic and you will need to communicate your findings after working with the patient.
There is also a lot of paperwork, as you need to write physiotherapy notes so there is a record of the work you have done, any progress, any difficulties and any plans or goals to be achieved. You also need to write in the patients medical notes, making sure your entries are legible and accurate as they will be kept for several years and are a legal document.
What skills do I need to be a physiotherapist?
Communication plays a vital part in the role of a physiotherapist. Following an accident or illness, the patient may find it difficult to accept that their mobility levels have changed and you will need to be motivational but realistic. Sometimes they will never be able to walk or move like they did before so you need to be able to assess what the patient can do and make sure that they are aware of their limitations and abilities.
You also need to be able to communicate well with your work colleagues and the rest of the multi-disciplinary team – you need to let the doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, etc know what your plans with the patient are and this may mean sometimes you need to put your point across if a doctor is trying to discharge a patient that you know will struggle if they go home.
You will need a good all-round medical knowledge and an awareness of medical terminology in order to assess the patient and make sense of the entries in their medical notes. Whilst working on their symptoms you need to take the persons wants and needs into account and what is important for them in their daily lives, to ensure you are setting person-centred goals.
How much will I earn as a physiotherapist?
Brand new graduates into the NHS will start on the first point on Band 5. Check out the NHS payscales here.
Where can I train to be a physiotherapist?
Information on university courses within the United Kingdom can be found here.