Continuing our series on career development, CSP professional adviser Nina Paterson looks at opportunities for support workers in the first of two articles.
We have looked so far in this series at practice education, first destinations and early career moves, management and leadership roles within clinical, education and research settings. Here, we focus on support workers. In part two, we’ll introduce Claire Fordham, who is the CSP’s new associates officer.
Feedback from a recent associate member survey revealed that support workers are just as interested in developing depth or breadth of skills to support the development of their current roles, as in vertical career progression.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you aren’t interested in vertical career progression. In fact, some of our most popular sessions within Physiotherapy UK in recent years have been discussions on ways to develop career structures for support workers.
With this in mind, we’re covering principles that will help you to progress upwards as well as develop within your existing role. As always, the principles outlined here are applicable to all, so if you are a physiotherapist, you’ll find useful nuggets of information too.
There is lots of helpful job-hunting advice available. Often, the process is similar across different fields, so don’t worry about picking up careers advice from outside healthcare.
Tap into any resource you can – I often find it invaluable to bounce my plans off someone I trust and respect, who has no connection to my current job. Their perspective of me is often more rounded, and this exercise helps me to remember skills I might have overlooked because I’m not using them just now. This is especially true for anyone who has had a varied career.
Be clear about the requirements of the new role. It is also worth remembering that certains skills – the ability to communicate, motivate, build trust quickly with people who are vulnerable, keep accurate records and work alongside colleagues with different roles to you – are transferable but they can also be developed through many different routes.
You might also want to think back to feedback from patients and colleagues. What have they said about you? Use the appraisal system to seek out feedback from your manager on what you’re good at. By gathering the evidence, you’ll have a clear idea of your strengths. In addition, doing these things will supply you with a ready supply of examples to use when you get to the interview.
In terms of dealing with gaps in your knowledge or experience, you’ll find links to articles on this topic in the CPD Activity Box, if you’d like a reminder. But here are some ideas to get you started …
I mentioned appraisal – be strategic, use the system to set objectives with your manager that will benefit patients, the service and yourself in terms of filling those gaps.
Put yourself forward and either grab opportunities or create them. If the next grade up, for example, is asking for line or team management experience, what could you do within your current role to work towards it? Mentoring others, supporting students, planning inductions for new colleagues demonstrate many skills you need, such as goal setting, helping others learn and develop, orienting staff within a team etc.
Stay and grow
If you’re happy with your current job, and would rather keep developing where you are that’s great. We’ve heard that many of you feel very much part of the team you work in, and are able to make the most of CPD opportunities available within your workplace. If that’s how it is for you, you may want to prioritise what you want to learn. Take time to think about how you want to develop and, again, use your appraisal to help you achieve it. If you can show how something benefits patients and the service, it makes a strong justification for any training needs you identify.
Look out for opportunities – particularly if you can see a need within your team/service, or a way to improve it. You are often in the unique position of being able to spend most time with the patients and might also be the one member of the team who sees how all the pieces fit together ... or not! You therefore have a great deal to offer.
A colleague who leads a specialised cancer service told me recently about one of her staff, who is in a band 3 role, whose communication skills and ability to connect with and motivate even the most reluctant or distressed patients was the talk of the organisation. She said that, with a little encouragement, this person has been running successful communication sessions for colleagues at all grades. She initially needed some support to plan and run these training sessions, but they proved so popular that they want to schedule more for those who missed them first time round.
By sharing your experience and expertise with others, your ideas and suggestions could lead to changes that you can help deliver. What a great way to keep stretching yourself.
Whether you choose to stay and grow, or to move on, I hope this article sparks some ideas. In the CPD activity box you’ll find links to three previous Frontline articles to drill down further into some of the discussion points.
Nina Paterson CSP professional adviser
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