CPD practice: your physiotherapy career (part 4)

In the fourth of a series of five articles on career development, CSP professional adviser Nina Paterson looks at moving into education.

Welcome to the latest in our series of articles on career development. We have already looked at practice education, first destinations and early career moves, and leadership and management roles. But one of the commonest queries to our team inbox is from members who are thinking about a non-clinical career. Most members are interested in research or education. We’ll look at research next time – in this article we’ll focus on a career as an educator.  

Passion is vital

As someone who has been involved in education for most of my working life, I’m passionate about helping others to learn. Whether it’s teaching a five-year-old child the concept of numbers, re-integrating excluded teenagers into the school system, helping staff to develop a new skill or ensuring that pre-registration physiotherapy programmes are fit for purpose, I get excited about it. So, first point: if you are going to make such a significant career change, you need to feel excited about helping others to learn.  

Transferable skills

It’s worth remembering that it’s not a major leap to go from treating patients to teaching. Physiotherapists make great teachers. So much of the profession is tied up in helping others to learn – patient recovery often depends on your ability to communicate, explain and persuade. You only have to look at the CSP code of professional values and behaviour (4.3: CSP members strive to achieve excellence by supporting others to learn and develop) and quality assurance standards (3) to see that it is knitted tightly into being a physiotherapist. The collective commitment to offering high-quality placements for the next generation is further evidence. It is no surprise that many physiotherapists consider formally shifting their career into education.  

Experience and credibility

You already do many things as part of your day-to-day job, such as delivering in-service training or in-house lectures, that will help you gain experience. Often these activities also bring an opportunity to formally recognise the skills you have acquired. I won’t dwell on practice-based learning (you’ll find the links to the recent Frontline articles here), but remember that university training or refresher days are a great way to gain a deeper understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses as an educator. These events are also a valuable chance to network with potential colleagues. They also run modules and courses that carry academic credit, which are well worth looking into. 
All academics (including physiotherapy lecturers) are expected to be fellows of the Higher Education Academy. The academy has an associate category for those in the early stages of their career or not working as lecturers. You might find it useful to see the requirements to give you an idea about what they look for.
Finally, dip your toe in the water. The best way to decide if education is for you is to try it. Speak to a university near you that offers physiotherapy training to see if it needs guest lecturers. If there is no university locally, don’t be afraid to be creative and offer an online session. A colleague in the CSP’s Welsh office, Ruth Jones, is about to take the plunge with an online lecture for students in Cardiff. By Ruth’s own admission, she is not a ‘techie’ at all, but that hasn’t stopped her.
If you’re looking for other ideas – get involved in the countries, regional or professional networks. Instead of attending continuing professional development events, why not deliver them? You will soon be immersed in aims, learning objectives, course design and assessments.
If you decide that academia is not for you, there are other avenues. The practice-based learning articles, mentioned above, offer insights on roles such as practice education facilitators – trust-based roles responsible for placement learning across professions. Other jobs, such as learning and development officers, might appeal if you have a passion for staff development. There will be opportunities on the NHS Jobs site at www.jobs.nhs.uk We have covered the issue of how to approach career changes – a simple way to get started is to look at sample job descriptions and match yourself to the specification. Look at where you excel and where you need to develop further. Set yourself an action plan. 
The same advice applies if you are looking for a university post. Just look at websites: 

Made the leap? Keep going

If you have made the transition, you will be aware of the types of the formal support available to you. Make the most of it all – teaching qualifications, mentoring or peer observations.
It’s also important to broaden your strategic management and leadership capabilities. Internally, roles such as admission tutor, module lead or being part of a curriculum review team offer great experience. Step outside physiotherapy into school or university roles, even if only for a secondment. Being an inter-professional learning  lead, or working on a cross-school strategy group, will give you exposure, as well as allowing you to bring good practice back to your own programme.
If your line manager ‘hints’ at external examiner roles or suggests you think about becoming a CSP education representative, consider it seriously. These roles give you a national (even international) perspective. 
In a CSP education representative role for example, you will work closely with another programme team, advising, but also helping to unpick and address local issues. I hear first-hand from line managers who see this role as an excellent opportunity for staff development and often notice a spike in applications around the time of university performance development reviews. 
If you are interested in any of the topics covered in these articles, get in touch. You can email us at learning&development@csp.org.ukfl 

CPD activity

We have threaded the activities, suggestions and ideas throughout this article, so why not follow the prompts and set yourself an action plan. Find action plan templates within the CSP’s ePortfolio to support you in this
Nina Paterson CSP professional adviser

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