CPD Practice: your physiotherapy career (part 3)

Are you management material and could you be a leader? CSP professional adviser Nina Paterson on ways forward.

This is the third in a set of articles about career development in physiotherapy. We have looked at practice education, first destinations and early career moves. Here, we will be looking at management and leadership. As always, the advice is applicable to everyone, whatever stage your career is at, so we hope you will enjoy them all. 
I am in a fortunate position, in that I meet members regularly. I was in Coventry recently, then Hatfield the following week. In between, I hosted a round-table, drawing colleagues together from as far afield as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Belfast, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Plymouth. 
Leadership within health and social care is crucial. With excellent leadership comes better patient care. Physiotherapists have so much to offer as managers and leaders. When I speak to members about what influenced their decision to move into a leadership position, I often find myself waiting for the obligatory pause, before they explain or apologise for their ‘circuitous’ career choices.  I often hear that it was happenstance, one job leading to another, or a general restlessness with ‘clinical’. 
This unplanned-ness is true of many people’s careers, regardless of the profession. I remember listening to a speaker at a King’s Fund lecture – a chief executive talking about her career path to her current position. I was inspired because this person’s career was a lot like mine. 
As she talked through her CV, I recognised jobs similar to my own here at the CSP. I had never considered that my present role could be a precursor to leading an organisation, but I came away realising that my own skill set was not dissimilar and my career path to date was as meandering as hers. 
The question for me then boiled down to whether or not I was interested in taking my career in the direction of leading an organisation. That is an important question to ask ourselves and it is okay if the answer is no – or not yet.
With the introduction of leadership, business, and management skills into the physiotherapy pre-registration curriculum in 2011, I hope that leadership aspirations will become commonplace within the physiotherapy body at large.  

Fresh perspectives

An organic route into senior positions, however, is still the norm and does have advantages. Working within different sectors, settings, navigating different organisations, all with different cultures, values and ways of working, broadens your perspective and helps you stay fresh, learning and developing as you go. 
It is still possible to stay challenged and develop within one organisation. However, it is crucial that you find ways to network, to learn from others and challenge your own way of thinking and doing things. The continuing professional development (CPD) activities included with this article offer a range of ideas to support you as you do this.  

Invest in yourself

As we have said, most of us don’t actively seek out leadership opportunities, they sort of ‘land in our lap ‘and suddenly you discover that you are good at something new – motivating people, understanding the political landscape, delivering high-quality patient care, innovating, transforming – or not! 
If you do discover hidden talents, it is absolutely worth developing those talents further. Many of the activities are excellent ways to stretch yourself, but you might want to consider being a mentor in addition to being a mentee. 
If you have the chance to undertake a course in leadership and/or management, look for one that gives you plenty of opportunity to network. You may find an excellent scheme in-house (Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust has a great one), or you could look externally – the CSP’s own leadership development programme is one such opportunity. 
The CSP’s 10-month programme is divided into residentials, webinars, speed coaching and action learning sets. The programme takes a values-based approach to leadership, looking at distributed leadership, ethical decision-making, leadership in different sectors and service improvement – all the components needed to develop a successful leader.  

No apologies required

Finally, it is worth picking up on an early point; whatever you path you choose to take, you are still a physiotherapist! 
In writing this, I came across a couple of blogs – one by a doctor blogging for the King’s Fund in 2013, who wondered why allied health professionals feel the need to apologise for not being hands on. The other is from #PhysioTalk’s tweet chat from August. 
The tweet chat was years on from the King’s Fund blog and yet it’s still the same debate. A doctor is still a doctor, regardless of their career choices. The same is true of physiotherapists. fl 

CPD activities

These tips will help you work through points within the article. 

1 Bookmark this series

Add a bookmark to the online version of the series as you may well want to return to it later in your career. You will find templates within the CSP’s ePortfolio if you want to record your initial thoughts to refer back to in future. 

2 Fresh perspectives 

Look for regular opportunities to seek out different perspectives.  If you are looking for ideas, why not connect with peers whose services you have read about in Frontline?
The CSP’s case study database is another helpful source of ideas or get involved with CSP events hosted by the countries and, in the case of England, the regions. Look for opportunities to connect to expertise and ideas outside the profession too – the King’s Fund, for example, has many free events that are multi-professional in nature (www.kingsfund.org.uk). 

3 Invest in yourself 

Look for opportunities to develop yourself. Set aside some time this week to consider your options. 
Become a mentor/mentee: You will find the 4 January article in Frontline useful to refer back. The CSP’s mentoring scheme.
Formal qualifications: If you are interested in applying for the 2018 intake to the leadership development programme, please visit the CSP website here.  
If the qualification you are considering has academic credit then the CSP Charitable Trust might be worth a visit if you need support with funding. You will find details by doing a quick search for education awards on the CSP website.
Nina Paterson CSP professional adviser

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