A military background gives a good grounding

David Williams on how a career in the military helped him prepare for life as a physio 

David Williams Rotational physiotherapist at University Hospitals of Derby  

A decade ago, I would have never imagined I would now be a physiotherapist. My goal in life was to serve in the Royal Marines. I achieved this but several injuries led to early medical retirement. This was a huge disappointment, but my experiences of military rehabilitation inspired me to become a physiotherapist. 

I was looking for a role where I could really make a difference in people’s lives and I wanted to continue to serve the public and my community. With some trepidation I floated the idea with my physiotherapist and he thought it was a good one. I have not looked back since. 

Nevertheless, I could not imagine I would be working in the middle of a global pandemic less than a year after qualifying. As I reflect, over the past few months of working in a busy hospital fighting Covid-19 I have realised my past experiences in the military have helped me immensely. 

The ability to adapt, improvise and overcome is drilled into you in the military and this is what I have had to do.

The hospital and my role would change from day to day as the pandemic took hold. This tested my mental flexibility and the hard-earned lessons of discipline and resilience you build in the military during arduous conditions helped during the long days in uncomfortable PPE. 

There are great similarities between the ethos of the military and the hardworking physiotherapists, I call my colleagues. Communication and teamwork are essential skills in both fields. This teamwork was underpinned by the unselfishness shown by my team and their cheerfulness in the face of adversity that has made long weeks easier. 

I have relied on my hard-earned lessons from the military, but we must learn from the brilliant efforts of physiotherapists throughout this pandemic. It has highlighted the strength and flexibility of physio staff. I am proud to be a physiotherapist but also proud of my military roots.  

  • David Williams is a rotational physiotherapist at University Hospitals of Derby  


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