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Diary of a graduate

Getting your first foot on the physiotherapy ladder can be tough.

Jennifer Trueland spoke to two physiotherapists who graduated in 2007, and heard about the highs and lows of their journey to becoming fully-fledged professional

Karl Rudkin graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2007

June 2007

I’ll soon be finishing my course and there aren’t many jobs around. I’ve been applying for voluntary work – something that will give me a bit of experience and be good on my CV. I’m a bit older than some of my peers (27 ) as I did a few things before starting my course, so I’m keen to get going as a physiotherapist.  I’ve actually been offered a few jobs: the bar where I worked when I was a student asked me to stay on as a manager; and I’ve considered the private physio

route. But I’m a big fan of the NHS and that’s where I want to be.

July 2007

I’ve got a job! I’ve moved back home to Lincoln so I’m staying with my parents again – got a few debts after uni, so staying at home gives me a financial breather. The job is as a band 5 physiotherapist at the trust where I used to work as an assistant [now called Lincolnshire Partnership foundation trust]. 

It’s great in a way as I’ve an idea about the organisation and the way it works, but I’m a bit apprehensive

in case they see me as an assistant and not as a qualified physio.

August 2007

I needn’t have worried. The team has been brilliant and my manager has been particularly supportive. It’s a small mental health trust, so I’m the only band 5 on the team. A few of the people were here when I worked as an assistant and they’ve been great – they know how hard I’ve worked and they’re excited for me. The first day when I walked in wearing my uniform and name badge was just brilliant: the same kind of elation as running a marathon.

November 2007

The job is great and I’m really enjoying it. I’m treating people with all sorts of conditions, including schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder, for lots of different things, including lower back pain. I’m also spending some time working in prisons. The first time I walked into a prison was a bit scary – you realise there are seven locked doors between you and the outside world. There’s also a lot of depression in prison: one of the places I’m working is a women’s prison and many of the patients are non-EU nationals; some of them don’t understand English and don’t understand the legal system in the UK, so they need holistic care.

December 2007

I’m on the move again. I was enjoying my job and learning a lot, but it’s a static caseload and I feel, having just started my career, I’d like to get more experience in different areas, before I decide what route I want to take. So I’ve been applying for jobs and actually have several to choose from. I think it makes all the difference having six months’ experience as a band 5.

January 2008

I’ve just started work at Leeds teaching hospitals trust – one of the biggest in the country. It’s a real change for me: at my last job I was the only band 5, but here there are 50. I started the day after Boxing Day as I was keen to get going as soon as possible. It’s a rotational post, so I’ll get really varied experience and, fortunately, some of my friends from university are working here too, so we can share a house.

June 2008

My second rotation, respiratory, has just started, so I’ve moved on from elderly care. It’s different, but still similar – a completely different caseload but the skills required are transferable. I feel I’m getting more confident and it helps that everyone is so supportive and friendly. I’ve got a really nice lifestyle as well – our house is 250m from the hospital so I just have to fall out of bed and I’m almost there.

February 2009

I’ve just started on a cardiac rotation: it’s a bit different from some of the other rotations as the patients can be really quite poorly. It’s quite upsetting knowing some of your patients can die. I’m not sure how I would have coped with this when I first qualified, but I feel I’m more prepared for it now, mentally. It helps to be able to talk things over with my housemates, and with my girlfriend, who is a nurse.

June 2009

This rotation is orthopaedics: it’s a really innovative service, with a big emphasis on ‘pre-hab’ – getting people in for knee or hip schools so they know what to expect. And I’ve been helping to look after my first students, which has been really great. I went on some rubbish placements when I was a student so have made a real effort to make sure they are integrated into the team, and I’ve had some great feedback. Next it’s neuro, then I hope to do paediatrics.

I still love it and I feel a lot more competent and confident than I was two years ago. My skills have definitely developed, but I’m still the same person.  I still love that feeling of going into work every day, and I’m sure I’ll always have that enthusiasm.

Samantha Haw graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2007

July 2007

I’ve just graduated at possibly the worst time in terms of available jobs. I’ve been applying for nearly every

job that comes up in England and Wales; but then so is everyone else. There are hundreds of applicants

for every NHS post and we’re up against the graduates from 2006 as well.

August 2007

Okay, so I’m a qualified physiotherapist, but I’m working as a personal assistant at Manchester city council – it’s fine, but not what I want to be doing.  I’m still applying for physio jobs.

September 2007

Really delighted to have been offered a post in Abergavenny. It’s a long way from home but I’m so excited to have got this foot on the ladder.

Later in September

Feel quite fed up: was so pleased to be offered the job, but then I looked into the cost of relocating and realised I couldn’t really afford to move there and to live on my own; it was frustrating, but I had to turn it down. Now I’m focusing my search on the Manchester area, where at least I know people I can live with. Back to square one.

October 2007

My old university has offered me a research contract. I’m involved in two pieces of work: looking at quality of life in people with cystic fibrosis and researching depression in patients. It’s great for learning research skills, but it isn’t ideal: I’m not utilising my core physiotherapy skills, which I think is really important when you’ve just graduated. I’m looking for clinical jobs again. I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones – some people who graduated at the same time as me are working in bars.

May 2008

On the advice of a contact made during an undergraduate work placement in Manchester, I’ve been in touch with a locum agency. The agency provides the hospital bank service, so could be the way in. It will also mean I use my clinical skills again. Keeping a working relationship with clinical educators seems to be very important – they’re your link into the hospital and can let you know when jobs are coming up.

August 2008

Thanks to the locum agency, I’ve been working with South Manchester university hospitals trust in the non-invasive ventilation service. It’s pretty specific but I’m really enjoying it: it’s an expanding team, so an exciting time to be in this service.

September 2008

Still no permanent job, but the experience I’ve gained so far has really been helping. I’ve just started a short-term rotational contract at Manchester royal infirmary, where I did student placement and it’s been great. It’s challenging as well, because I’m having to slot into the different teams as best I can, but I really feel I’m learning.

June 2009

My short-term contract has been extended, and I now have experience of a number of different areas.

So far, I’ve been working in critical care; general surgery; adults with learning disability and falls and now rehabilitation. The general rehabilitation unit is great. There’s a real variety of patients and they’re coming to be rehabilitated – that’s why they’re here. The unit is very therapy-led and you’ve got time to look at the patients holistically. On surgical wards, for example, you just don’t have the time to build up that rapport. I also feel physiotherapists are well respected in the team, and the facilities are fabulous.

August 2009

I’ve got my first permanent post. Hurrah – it’s only taken two years. I’ll be working at the University hospital of South Manchester trust.

I know I’ll have to ‘slip in where needed’, but hope to get some musculoskeletal and neurological experience before making a decision about where my career goes next.

It’s been an interesting two years. My advice to new graduates is to be willing to be flexible on where they work. That may sound hypocritical coming from me when I decided I couldn’t afford to relocate, but that might not be the case for everyone.

Also, when I was applying for jobs I’d do my research: I’d look at the trust website and ring them up and ask them to send me a newsletter if they had one. That meant I knew what the current issues were and, if they asked me if I had any questions, I could use that knowledge.

The last two years have made a real difference to me and my practice. I feel more focused in my clinical work. When you first come out of university it’s overwhelming and quite frightening: you’re going into different places and think that everyone is going to be so much better than you. But people are so welcoming and willing to give support. Now, I feel much more confident about what I’m doing and also that I’ll be supported – so instead of spending time worrying about whether I’ll get things right, I can focus on what I need to do for the patient. FL


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Jennifer Trueland

Issue date

21 October 2009

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