Mind the gap

The healthcare world is changing, and you must keep up to find that first job. Gwyn Owen, CSP professional adviser for CPD, offers some advice.

Changes in the design, delivery and funding of healthcare, as well developments in the physiotherapy world, mean that our career structure is less predictable that it was when I qualified a couple of decades ago.

New opportunities are emerging, alongside changes to the well-established career structure, as the physiotherapy workforce moves into new fields of practice and undertakes new roles.

As a result, an individual’s career pathway can be rewarding, exciting, groundbreaking, surprising and challenging – all at the same time.

However, the current economic squeeze is resulting in some posts being frozen, down-banded, or transferred to an alternative provider. This limits the room we have to think critically about career development.

This article is designed to create that space. It will help you work through three key stages of career development planning and will signpost you to some resources that will support you through the process.

Although it’s aimed at students or new graduates who are beginning their careers, the main points will be relevant to members seeking to return to practise following a career break, or to those seeking a new career direction.

Knowing yourself

Before you can start thinking about your future physiotherapy employment and development, you must know yourself.

Do you know what you can offer a future employer?

Can you describe how your past experiences in physiotherapy and beyond relate to your future practice?

Do you have a portfolio of evidence that describes who you are – both as a person and a professional – and demonstrates the values, behaviours, knowledge and skills you would bring to the job?

This process of self-analysis should help you achieve three vital things: it will help you celebrate your current strengths; highlight any gaps in the evidence describing you and your practice; and help you recognise your potential learning needs.

The CSP’s physiotherapy framework (www.csp.org.uk/physiotherapyframework) might be useful.

It describes the behaviours, knowledge and skills used by the physiotherapy workforce at six levels of practice – from brand new support worker to expert registered practitioner.

The framework is mapped to six competency frameworks relevant to physiotherapy – covering clinical, leadership, academic and research roles.

That makes it a useful tool for helping you think about vertical and horizontal career progression.

You will find an interactive version of the physiotherapy framework and associated continuing professional development (CPD)tools in your CSP ePortfolio account – follow the instructions to open the CPD resources gateway at: www.csp.org.uk/webfolio

Physiotherapy as a career

Once you have mapped your current strengths and interests, the next step is to explore physiotherapy as a career.

The CSP’s vision statement (available at: www.csp.org.uk/vision) will give insights into current and future physiotherapy practice.

You can also find relevant information by searching job websites (see Box 1) and by analysing the attributes required in the posts being advertised.

Although it may be tempting, try not to limit your search (whether to geographical region, role, field of practice, working pattern, for example) too soon.

The purpose is to help you think critically about your current learning and development needs by understanding the expectations of your future practice. Ask questions as you start searching.

What kind of posts are available for someone with a profile like yours?

If there are specific posts that interest you, could you meet the person specification – or are there gaps in your profile?

How do employers assess someone’s suitability for a post – do you have the necessary resources and evidence to meet these requirements? 

Minding the gap

Once you have a sense of the sort of role you want to move into, it will be possible to map your personal strengths, interests and needs against the requirements of that role.

Doing that is likely to flag up some learning needs, which you can use to plan a CPD programme to maximise your employability while you are looking for work.

Do you know there is an ‘action planning’ tool available in your CSP ePortfolio account?

This is designed to help you plan, record, and track your progress towards a particular outcome over time.

You will find the action planning tool in the ‘create new’ menu in your personal CSP ePortfolio account.

Filling the gap – meeting your learning needs while looking for a post

Once you have listed your learning needs, start thinking creatively and develop a personalised CPD programme.

This will help you maintain and develop your employability.

The CSP (as does the Health and Care Professions Council) adopts an outcomes-based approach to CPD.

This means that CPD is not limited to formal events (such as study days, training events, workshops).

It can include informal and personal activities (such as reflective practice and critically reading journals).

See below for a list of potential CPD opportunities that members have ‘tried and tested’.

The key issue is that planned CPD activities meet your specific learning needs, and that you can show how those activities have enabled you to maintain and develop your practice.

CSP members have a variety of freely-available resources to support your CPD and career development.

Examples include iCSP networks, the online library catalogue and ePortfolio, Frontline, Physiotherapy journal and CSP-hosted events.

Engaging with the CSP will help develop your understanding of the breadth of physiotherapy practice and how practice is evolving in response to changing demands. fl

Sample of jobs websites

  • NHS jobs website (NHS vacancies – clinical and managerial). Visit: www.jobs.nhs.uk
  • Academic jobs website (university-based vacancies). Visit: www.jobs.ac.uk
  • Guardian jobs (vacancies in health and social care in the statutory, independent and voluntary sectors). Visit: http://jobs.guardian.co.uk
  • Recruitment agencies also advertise temporary and fixed term physiotherapy work. Visit: www.google.co.uk and search for ‘physiotherapy jobs’   

Suggested CPD activities

  • Maintaining and developing physiotherapy knowledge  
  • Visit the CSP’s website – professional and union, press and policy, iCSP, national and regional networks offer a wealth of information
  • Critique your dissertation and contact your supervisor to consider whether it might merit publication
  • Check your local university’s events page for public talks
  • Ask whether you could attend NHS in-service training locally
  • Maintaining and developing physiotherapy handling skills
  • Arrange to practise with peers in the same position as you
  • Contact local physiotherapy providers to ask whether you could join them for any forthcoming practical handling sessions
  • Ask whether your university is recruiting volunteers to act as simulated patients or assistants for practical assessments
  • Look for opportunities to use your handling skills as part of a team of volunteers providing cover at local and regional sporting events

Maintaining and developing transferrable skills

  • If you are considering employment outside physiotherapy while you wait for a physiotherapy post, look for work that is aligned to your learning needs and future physiotherapy practice
  • Develop a network of people in the same position as you. This network could meet (in ‘real time’ or online) to reason through ‘paper patients’, critique literature and practise interviewing skills

Other CSP guidance:

  • Survival guide in obtaining your first physiotherapy post. Visit: www.csp.org.uk and search for ‘first post’.
  • Championing CPD eLearning resource for students and graduates.
  • Physiotherapy graduates taking unpaid internships.
  • For more information, visit: www.csp.org.uk and search for ‘what are issues’.
Gwyn Owen

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