Changing tracks

Physiotherapy offers a great variety of possibilities and opportunities across your career. CSP professional advisers Nicki Mcrae and Hannah Morley tell of the exciting roles that others have taken when changing their career direction

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Lateral thinking

One reason people consider changing their career is due to a perceived lack of career development opportunities. Could we steer you to think more laterally than a traditional linear career development model? There are more and more varied roles appearing within the physiotherapy profession, providing different challenges and ways of thinking, whilst still holding the same values and goals towards improving patient care.

Have you considered…

  • Different clinical sectors, such as NHS, independent practice, private hospitals, military roles or third sector organisations. How about a different speciality or a more generalist role?
  • Opportunities within your current role. Think about the four pillars of practice (education, leadership, research, clinical) and how your current role fits into each. Is there a particular pillar which is lacking? Could you look to rebalance this? For example, if your role lacks leadership opportunities could you take the lead with a student? If the research pillar is less prominent, could you take up a QI project within your role?
  • Non-clinical options such as those offered by local integrated care systems and health boards, including placement expansion co-ordinators, faculty leads or other workforce project roles. Often offered as secondment opportunities, they can allow a temporary career side-step, giving a wider overview of healthcare systems and strategic level skills.
  • Portfolio careers – these are becoming more popular and common in physiotherapy with clinicians taking up opportunities on a regular basis, such as regional supervision roles for one day a week or ad hoc guest lecturing at their local higher education institution.

Case study: leading in research

Johny Quicke started his career as a MSK and pain management clinician, and developed an interest in research after undertaking an MSc. 

He undertook a PhD further developing his research skills, before working as a clinical-academic specialising in osteoarthritis, with his career journey being supported through fixed-term research fellowships. He now works at the CSP as a research into practice adviser and as a researcher in an honorary capacity at Keele University. Quicke’s journey demonstrates how you can start small, try it out, and then gradually increase your commitment to an alternative career option over time as your interests evolve.

Challenging the status quo

Don’t just look for allied health professional (AHP) or physiotherapy specific adverts. Certain task-specific roles such as clinical informatics, infection prevention or stroke research are often advertised within nursing and medicine. If you meet the criteria, you should challenge why they are directed to a specific profession and apply. By challenging roles that exclude AHPs you are leading the profession and changing mindsets for future physiotherapists.

Case study: leading across systems

Catrin Plews and Beth Morgan are both physiotherapists with clinical backgrounds in community rehabilitation and oncology.

Both now work in cancer services as person-centred care leads. Plews describes how her role was initially advertised for nurses and medics only but then opened up to AHPs. Despite being frequently advertised as requiring nursing or medical backgrounds, these jobs often require skills that physiotherapists have in abundance and challenging the status quo by stepping forward for these opportunities is incredibly important and helps to highlight what the profession has to offer in these roles. Members should challenge roles which have not considered applications from AHPs, as these opportunities can offer members a divergent career path. 

If you (or a colleague) are considering a change we would encourage you to look broadly at what can be offered and the opportunities available.

Engage colleagues and line managers in discussions about your current role and career, utilising your PDR developmental conversations to explore options. Don’t forget to consider the four pillars of practice and how this could influence your career.

If you want a different challenge, look laterally at varied roles that come up. Connect with local AHP organisations, councils and other services in your region to discover roles and challenge those which are not knowingly open to AHPs.

As members, we urge you to seek out these varied opportunities; stepping sideways can be incredibly fulfilling. As managers, you can provide these opportunities and can help your staff gain skills and expertise which will in turn help to retain them within the profession.

CSP Professional advice team

The CSP’s Professional Advice Service gives advice and support to members on complex and specialist enquiries about physiotherapy practice, including professional practice issues, standards, values and behaviours, international working, service design and commissioning, and policy in practice. 

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