Lorna Pullin, band 6 physiotherapist in a community rehabilitation service, shares her experience of returning to practice in the UK after working abroad.
Why did you leave the register?
After I graduated I worked for different trusts and health boards around the UK to gain my band 5 rotations. I really wanted to go travelling and to work abroad and so as I was doing my band 5 rotations I completed my registration process to work in New Zealand and Australia.
I spent a few years travelling and working in Australia and New Zealand. I had to give up my Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration because I had been away from practice in the UK for more than two years.
I settled in New Zealand but decided I wanted to come back to the UK to raise my little boy. When I arrived back in the UK I wanted to get back into physiotherapy in the NHS. My situation was different from when I moved away because I now had my son, so I was worried that it would be difficult to find work and get back on the register.
How did you start your return to practice process?
I contacted my local physiotherapy manager and told them my situation. I hadn’t worked in the UK for a number of years so I had lost a bit of confidence. I decided to start working as a support worker to rebuild my confidence and because that was the most flexible position available near my home, which suited my personal circumstances.
After a few months I had really settled in and was enjoying the team and the flexibility of working part-time. I enquired with my manager about how I could get a physiotherapy job and she contacted the Health Education England return to practice team. They supported me and my manager to understand the process, and my manager suggested I do a six-week return to practice placement that my manager arranged with a local team.
This was a great option because it meant I got more experience in other specialities but was still able to stay local for my family. After my placement I applied for my full registration and was successful. In the meantime, a band 5 position came up in the same team where I had been working as a support worker, and I was successful in applying for this. Less than six months later, a band 6 position came up in the same team and I was again successful.
How long have you been working as a physiotherapist since going back on the register, and what has the experience been like for you?
It was about 12 months from arriving back in the UK to getting back on the register, and I’ve now been back working as a registered physio for 12 months. It feels fantastic that within two years of returning to the UK and worrying about how I would get back to my career I am working in my local area, with hours that suit me and my family, in a band 6 role in a team I really enjoy.
What advice would you give to others about returning to practice?
I would suggest that you reach out to physio colleagues and managers in the area where you want to work. Tell them your situation and be upfront about what you can offer and what you’re looking for. Start with any opportunity that comes up and the likelihood is that the right doors will open for you in time.
This work has been partially funded by NHSE (formerly HEE).