Question time: lead, engage, aim high

CSP chief executive Karen Middleton answers your questions about her student life, and subsequent career

Question time: lead, engage, aim high

@thecspstudents invited physio students to use Twitter to quiz chief executive Karen Middleton. Here’s a selection of the questions that came in, with Karen’s responses, while below, she reflects further on how training has evolved since her own student days

@KMiddletonCSP Thank you for all the diverse questions. Obviously many relate to my experience as a student or graduate and in answering them, I must first make it clear that I trained from 1982 to 1985, and everything about my training and experience is totally different to the way it’s done now. While every experience is individual, comparing mine to yours is like comparing apples with pears.

So, here are your questions and my answers.

Go the extra mile

While my training in the 1980s was very different from the training now, it was fit for purpose at the time. When I qualified, despite having autonomy as a profession from 1977, we were still very much operating ‘under instruction’ from the medical profession and the therapeutic relationship with patients was still very paternalistic. 

Training now reflects not only the evolution of the profession, but also what is needed by the healthcare system and the population. This is why I get quite cross when people of my age say ‘students today aren’t trained like we were’. Of course you’re not trained in the same way – and thank goodness for that!

One thing that was not a feature of my training was leadership development. While it might not be a separate module, as such, I am very conscious that physiotherapy training today is about developing rounded clinicians who are able to lead and exert influence through the way the training is delivered. 

Another aspect of being a rounded clinician is being able to appreciate effectiveness and impact, not only with respect to the clinical outcome you achieve, but also in terms of the value (cost/quality) that you provide. I can imagine that, as students, anything not clinical may feel extraneous, but actually being a good clinician, in my opinion, is no longer enough, so I urge you to engage as much with these aspects of your training as with the others.

Finally, my experience both from my training and my career as a physiotherapist is that you get out what you put in. Be prepared to go the extra mile and the profession and reward will pay you back tenfold. 

Get involved 

Engage with the CSP locally or nationally as quickly as you can, so that you rapidly build networks above and beyond the virtual networks on social media. You’ll get noticed and will gain the advantage when it comes to looking for jobs or further opportunities later on.

Participating in the profession beyond your classroom is easy with the CSP. Get involved with the #LoveActivity campaign. Why not work with your student union to get people on your campus more active? Engage with your local student physiotherapy society and start building your network on campus first. Go to a professional network conference or study day to find out more about a speciality that has sparked your interest and passion? Or why not volunteer with your local regional network or country board, and go to their events, which are generally free?

To top it all off, there’s also our national scientific conference, Physiotherapy UK, which the CSP organises, where students can volunteer, attend, and even present their research to the community. This is also a great networking opportunity, so I challenge you to come and find me, and say hello.

Ours is a fantastic profession. It makes such a difference to people’s lives and choosing a career in physiotherapy was the best decision I ever made. And as my principal, Helen Shaffner, said to me: ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ You are the only thing that can limit you.

Caryl Hunter @CarylAPysio • Aug 12

What is your biggest tip for students attending #physio18 (or any other professional events) this year? #CSPEmpowers
@KMiddletonCSP My tip for attending #Physio18 (or equivalent) is to plan and be purposeful. Don’t leave it to chance that you will meet the right people or attend the right lectures/workshops – make sure you do.

Faye Musk @fayemusk_physio • Aug 7

Did you find there was a big jump between university and practice? #CSPempowers
@KMiddletonCSP There was a jump in responsibility between my training and being qualified – that was what I noticed most when I started work. I really felt the responsibility and accountability when I qualified.

Darragh McGee @DMGPhysio • Aug 9

If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would tell yourself as a new qualified physiotherapist about to start your career? #CSPempowers #StudentToQualified
@KMiddletonCSP I would say: ‘It will be OK.’ I was quite anxious about needing to know everything at once because I realised that my training could only go so far.

Sophie Pyle @SophiePylePT • Aug 12 

What did you find was your biggest challenge as a student? #CSPempowers
@KMiddletonCSP The biggest challenge for me was the sheer workload. Particularly compared to all my university friends from home, who didn’t seem to do much work at all.

CSP Students @thecspstudents • Aug 7

Hi @KMiddletonCSP, can’t miss out on this opportunity so would love to know: what was your biggest fear about graduating and how did you overcome it? Thanks. #cspempowers
@KMiddletonCSP My biggest fear was on-call.  Isn’t it everyone’s? To overcome it, I just had to do it and keep doing it. However, my mum did sit outside in the car the first time I got called in – but don’t tell anyone.

Caryl Hunter @CarylAPhysio • Aug 12

Having just watched the most recent episode of The Big Life Fix, how do you think tech advances, such as 3D printing, will impact our profession (either way)? #CSPempowers
@KMiddletonCSP I think technology is bound to affect the profession and it is important that physiotherapists adapt in response. It may enhance our treatment, it may make us more accessible, it may make us more remote, we may need to learn new skills and there may be conditions we don’t need to treat anymore. The key to success is to continually adapt in response to the population we serve and its needs, as well as adapting to new technologies and other medical advances.

Caroline Slater @CarolinePhysio1• Aug 11

Have you had any international experience within physio? What value do you put on international student placements? #frontline
@KMiddletonCSP My international experience was in my previous role as chief allied health professions officer for England, when I represented the UK at a whole range of events across the world, and taught too. In my present post, I also get to represent the CSP at international events. I think travel in general is extremely valuable but as a manager recruiting students I was more interested in the quality of the placement experience than where people had done it.

Matt Hughes @PhysioHughes • Aug 8

When did you realise that you wanted a career in physiotherapy and why?
@KMiddletonCSP  I was 16 and had been in the Red Cross. I enjoyed working in healthcare and knew I wouldn’t get the grades to be a doctor. I also loved everything to do with sport, even though I wasn’t very good at it. 

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