Bumpy starts and interesting journeys: the twists and turns of physiotherapy careers

It’s time to be truthful, says Naomi McVey

by Naomi McVey

I’ve got a confession to make...I nearly didn't make it to physio school.

A roaring social life, father in hospital and intense dislike for chemistry A-level and it was very nearly BSc physiology for me. Fortunately I scraped in and spent three brilliant years studying in London and can honestly say I’ve not looked back. I’m proud of my physiotherapy background. It's given me a diverse and fascinating career so far, great colleagues, good friends and constant learning.

Years later I suspect some might argue I'm not a real physio. It's true I've not worked in hands-on clinical practice for a few years. A series of steps while looking for career progression and work I enjoy, whilst needing flexibility around a young family, mean that I’ve moved into different roles along the way. However, my education, approach and identity as a physiotherapist and allied health professional (AHP) gave me strong foundations and have stayed with me throughout. When a senior manager told me a few years ago I needed to ‘let go of the physio thing' I thought ... no, no way, it was hard earned.

So, why blog about this?

To all those waiting for exam results this summer, whether to get into university or to progress to working life as a physio: bumpy starts affect many aspiring physiotherapists and AHPs, and our careers can have twists and turns too - and be better for it. Many people now in well-established roles had complicated journeys to get there, but we don’t always see the challenges people experienced on the way.

Determination, inspiration, good leadership and peer-support are key to overcoming hurdles that get in our way. Academic performance alone doesn't guarantee the best healthcare professionals. Passion, purpose, relationships, resilience and much more - we need a range of knowledge, skills and values, as well as strong networks, to provide great care and services whilst continuing to learn and develop throughout our working lives.

I also know there are times when I have performed well and other times when I've really not done brilliantly. The difference? Culture and support. The culture of organisations and teams, and the support of our managers and peers, can make or break our performance and progress, and it's influenced by every one of us, not just senior management.

Physiotherapy education gives us a wealth of skills and experience that can make a huge difference in health and care. As we welcome new students and graduates to physiotherapy this summer let’s make sure we share our professional journeys - warts and all - and commit to supporting colleagues and friends at times of both celebration and challenges, and on the twists and turns of our diverse and rewarding profession.

Naomi McVey, one of our regular bloggers, wrote this blog in a personal capacity. Follow Naomi on twitter @NaomiMcVey

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