A rounded view: physiotherapists have a lot to teach

José Gibbs looks at a physiotherapist’s contribution to the education of other healthcare professions.

The 21st century has seen an emphasis on inter-professional and collaborative working in the health and social care professions. One response has been the introduction of inter-professional learning in universities for these professions. When I was first employed as a lecturer in a local university, friends and colleagues were intrigued – how could a physiotherapist contribute to a range of pathways that included radiography, occupational therapy, nursing, midwifery, mental health nursing, social work and even ophthalmic dispensing? With retirement imminent it seems timely to reflect on my contribution to the education of several hundred undergraduates.
Skills gained working in a large multidisciplinary team on an trauma unit for older people have proved invaluable in collaborative practice modules when facilitating discussions on team-working, communication between professionals, stereotyping and person-centred care.
Teaching anatomy and physiology to radiography students using anatomical models to bring 2D pictures and radiographic images ‘alive’ gave me the opportunity to encourage them to think about the ‘person’ – how did the injury happen, what impact would it have on their everyday lives? To physiotherapists this might seem an obvious thought process, but in a busy imaging department it’s easy to forget that you are dealing with more than a ‘knee’ or a ‘shoulder’. Encouraging students to understand the implications of poor mobility or injury and linking this to the resulting image, hopefully contributed to improved patient-centred care.
Tutors teaching academic reading, writing and referencing skills do not need to share students’ professional backgrounds. Leading seminars and journal clubs to encourage critical analysis not only helped students to develop academically but also contributed to my knowledge of other professions. 
This last stage in my physiotherapy career has been extremely rewarding and I hope I have encouraged students to look beyond their own profession when contributing to patient care. Perhaps it is time to move even further by having inter-professional placements.  
  • José Gibbs is a senior lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University
José Gibbs

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