Opportunity knocks

Karen Middleton recommends seizing opportunities – as the CSP has done with first contact physiotherapy.


I decided a while back that this column would focus on opportunity. I heard it mentioned many times at Physio 19 – in presentations about innovations or career pathways, or successes that you were celebrating. It was often used with ‘lucky’ – a word I often take issue with!

When people tell me I am lucky to have had the career I have had or the job I have now, I am quick to assert that luck had nothing to do with it. It was a lot of hard work and effort, making connections and taking the opportunities that came my way.

Opportunity is a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something, and making the most of it takes preparation and effort. If luck = opportunity and hard work, then yes, I am lucky.

Often the opportunity itself is not planned for so there can be an element of risk or some unknowns. That makes successes as a result of opportunities even more praiseworthy because you’ve managed the risk and probably a large dose of courage too.

Last year, when I met with the CSP first contact practitioner (FCP) network, opportunity featured in many conversations: some in relation to local circumstances, which provided opportunities to move ahead with FCP, some the national drivers that gave the CSP the opportunity to push forward with its influencing plan.

None of these opportunities could have been taken without preparation. Locally this might have been about the relationships between general practice and the local physio service or perhaps data demonstrating what was happening. Nationally it was the years of work on self-referral or direct access, on prescribing, on red flags, building relationships with policymakers, the BMA and the RCGP, and collating evidence.

I’m not suggesting that everything was in place to start the UK-wide roll out of FCP, but circumstances made it possible to do something. We could have waited longer for more physiotherapy staff to be in the system, for more to be advanced clinical practitioners and for more to be independent prescribers, but I fear the opportunity would have passed or someone else would have stepped in and made good use of the set of circumstances.

Mitigation was critical: influencing workforce planners and others to increase physiotherapy training places; collaborating on the MSK clinical framework and that for advanced clinical practice; and setting up a network to share best practice and problem-solve. Opportunities arose and we took them. And many of you are doing the same.

I sometimes wonder about consciously not taking opportunities. In my career, when I have not taken opportunities it’s usually out of fear - and I’ve regretted it afterwards.

So, at the start of 2020, how are you going to prepare so that when an opportunity arises you can take it? Will you study something new or make new connections? Get involved in your local CSP networks, or council and the committees? Will you review your service? No one else can do this for you, it’s down to you. Whatever you do, don’t rely on Lady Luck! 

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