Moving forward with intention

Karen Middleton considers the deliberate steps she took along her career pathway, and how a career framework for the profession will benefit others

CSP CEO Karen Middleton
CSP CEO Karen Middleton

This issue of Frontline highlights the career framework project. As I have learnt more about this work, I have reflected on my own career pathway – one which I did not envisage when I first qualified – and I have been thinking about it in terms of the four pillars of practice and also how intentional it has been.

I worked clinically for about ten years and my CPD was very much focused on becoming the best I could be, as well as to be able to teach. The decision to move away from direct patient contact was not an easy one and I have always maintained my HCPC registration because being a physiotherapist is so closely aligned to my identity. But it was made easier by moving into roles where I could definitely see how my impact could affect better patient care. What also helped is realising that those invaluable skills you learn as a physiotherapist are never wasted. Certainly in my management and leadership roles I have used the skills of assessment of problems, data analysis, understanding research, motivation and communication almost every day.

My move into management was a very deliberate move – it was where I saw I could put my skills and experience to best use and what I enjoyed most – and even when I moved into more general management, I seemed to have much greater credibility having had that clinical experience. This was never more obvious than when I moved to the civil service and into policy development –not only did I bring my clinical experience and expertise, but I also brought my extensive professional networks, which meant I might not know, but I knew someone who did!

Throughout my career I have always taught, alongside or as part of my role, whether that is teaching about clinical issues, management and leadership or policy-making and that has more recently manifested itself as I develop as a coach. And coaching is so closely allied to physiotherapy.

So how intentional was all this? Well it might not have been the career pathway I intended, but each move has indeed been intentional, recognising that we all work within the context of our lives, our families and many other, often competing, priorities. In being intentional, however, my career has taken many unexpected turns and that’s because opportunities arose which I could not have foreseen. I do think that a career framework would have helped me to see the possibilities ahead of me; to see how one opportunity can lead to another; and to give me confidence that all that potential could be released within the context of the four pillars of physiotherapy. 

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