Physiotherapy careers and the research pathway

‘What is the research pillar in physiotherapy careers and why is it relevant to me?’

Helen Harte
Helen Harte, professional adviser for East of England and project lead for innovations

The physiotherapy career pathway is based upon four pillars of practice that are echoed across the UK in AHP career frameworks.

Paying attention to these pillars can help you develop your knowledge, skills and expertise in line with your chosen career aspirations. 

The four pillars are:

  1. Clinical
  2. Leadership and management
  3. Education
  4. Research

They might seem straightforward but CSP members tell me that one pillar in particular – the research pillar – is the one that creates the most anxiety. Let’s take a moment to look at it in a little more detail. 

The research pillar is about being able to demonstrate the quality, safety, productivity and value for money of our services.

We all have a role to play in ensuring this, regardless of our experience level.  Activity in the research pillar isn’t necessarily academic in nature. It is not completed in universities, subject to ethical approval and written into journals. It’s not just about those big randomised controlled trials – important as they are. It’s about improving services in real life practice. 

You don’t need to embark on a clinical academic career, unless you choose to.

For example: 

  • Do you attend a journal club?  Yes? Then you are using critical evaluation skills
  • Have you participated in an audit? If you have, then you are contributing to the safety and quality of your service 
  • Do you use NICE/SIGN guidance to inform your work? If you do, then you are using evidence in your service design

That said, being more research active can be enormously fulfilling and could perhaps open up a new career path for you. 

Want to know more? Take a look at the Council for Allied Health Professions Research resources on becoming more research active and check out the Advice Clinic in this edition of Frontline for a deeper dive into the world of quality improvement.

Key links:

AHP career frameworks outline the 4 pillar of practice in more detail: 

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