Leadership: top tips for students

Student leader Luke Tobin offers guidance on blowing your own trumpet as an undergraduate.

Leadership – it’s one of those buzz words we all bandied about when we were writing our personal statements. But now we’ve made it into university and are busying ourselves with the ins and outs of physiotherapy, how many of us actually demonstrate it? A daunting task, perhaps? Something that only comes with experience once you’ve qualified? Wrong! Here are 10 top tips on how to demonstrate leadership as a physiotherapy student.

1 Become a learning champion

CSP learning champions support their peers’ learning and development, encourage good continuing professional development (CPD) habits and inform their peers about CPD resources and events. Learning champions get lots of support from the CSP, and there isn’t a set time commitment. Why not sign up and organise a CPD evening once a month? ‘Pizza and portfolio night’ is a popular choice, I’ve been informed!

2 Volunteer

There are loads of volunteering opportunities within your university and with other external third sector organisations that can be an ideal proving ground for your leadership skills. Many will give you skills that relate well to your degree, such as working with people with a disability or leading information sessions with your peers or the public. A great example is the Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘Dementia Friends’  initiative. For more information, see www.dementiafriends.org.uk Become a Dementia Friends champion and be equipped with the knowledge and resources to lead short information sessions that inform your peers and the public about a condition we will all encounter as professionals and students. 

3 Get involved with CSP campaigns

The CSP always have two or three campaigns running at any one time, and you don’t have to be qualified to get involved. Be it lobbying your local MP through #BackingRehab or running a Workout at Work event at your university or even on placement, CSP campaigns are a great place to demonstrate and hone your leadership skills. There is plenty of guidance and advice on how best to get involved, so you’re not thrown into the deep end. There has been a huge involvement from some students in these campaigns in recent years, so get involved and get creative!

4 Represent your peers

Stand as a CSP student rep, academic rep, welfare officer, a committee position on the physio society. There are many ways to represent your peers, and nothing says ‘leadership’ like being one of a handful of people who are willing to speak up for the best interests of your colleagues. 

5 Engage with the wider profession

It’s easier than you might think. There’s been a big shift towards using social media in health care, and physios are at the forefront of the healthcare twittersphere. Get yourself a ‘physio’ Twitter account, start following and start tweeting. Regular tweetchats like Physiotalk are a brilliant way of engaging with the wider profession, and can even count as CPD when transcripts are available to print following the discussion. Not sure where to start? Look at the CSP’s social media guidance here or tweet @thecspstudents for some tips.

6 Attend CPD events

Yes, I admit that this can be easier said than done – some events can be rather pricey, especially for a student. However, there are some fantastic deals that are available to students, so shop around and make the most of it! Many of the CSP’s regional networks and professional networks hold events that are often cheap or free of charge, and keep your bargain-hunting eyes peeled for volunteering opportunities at other larger events as a way to bag a discounted entrance fee. CPD events are a great place to network and learn about the profession we’re going into – you could even present a quick summary of all the best bits to your peers when you are back at university.

7 Submit an abstract or poster

Thought the CSP asking you earlier this year to ‘show us your abs!’ at Physiotherapy UK 2017 meant submitting a beach bod selfie? Incorrect: it was a call for abstracts for this major event, which is being held in Birmingham this year from 10-11 November. For more information, see www.physiotherapyuk.org.uk Thought you’d have to be a graduate to submit an abstract or a poster to a conference? Incorrect! Make the most of those many hours of work you’ll put in perfecting your dissertation or research project and put together something to present to other physios from around the country. There is plenty of guidance on how to go about it from the CSP – not as daunting as you might think.

8 Champion an improvement project

If you’re in the position where you spend a considerable amount of time on placement in the same department, take the opportunity to think about something that you might change – there might be nothing, of course, but there might be an idea you’ve had that could make a big difference to how the service is provided long after you’ve left. We students have plenty of fresh ideas, and we have the skills to start shaping the profession now.

9 Blow that trumpet, beat that drum!

Sudents do amazing things.
  • Fact. Physiotherapy students are often too modest to acknowledge these achievements and tell people about them.
  • Fact: physiotherapists are just as guilty for this as students.
  • Fact: be a leader and sell yourself, your peers and the profession – you definitely don’t have to be a graduate to do that!

10 Say ‘yes’!

It’s been said before, and it will be said again – saying yes to an opportunity can open up a whole load more doors to you. Uttering that initial word of acceptance can be a daunting prospect, however. After all, we’ve all got a lot to manage at university, juggling the academic workload and enjoying ourselves socially. Sometimes, though, all it takes to show a bit of leadership is to say yes. Be that one person who does so and end up gaining some fantastic experience as a result. Just be wary of becoming too akin to Jim Carrey and turning into a ‘yes man’ … fl
  • Luke Tobin, who is about to start in his third year as student at Cardiff University, chairs the CSP student executive committee. To follow Luke on Twitter, see @LukeTPhysio

Luke Tobin student leader

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