You may not know it now

Karen Middleton reflects on what she wishes she’d known when she first started out as a physio student

Karen Middleton
CSP CEO Karen Middleton

As we start 2022, it feels apt that we celebrate students and those at the start of their physiotherapy careers – and often beginning their engagement with the CSP, too.

Of course at this point in my career, my student days seem a long time ago, but listening to the worries of students now, it all sounds remarkably familiar.  This prompted me to look back and reflect on what I wish I had known then.

I wish I had known that I would get a good job and have a great career, despite being an average student. Hard work does pay off.

I wish I’d known that the connections I made back then with the CSP – I was a student rep – would set me up for making invaluable connections later.

I wish I’d know that the skills I learned back then would provide me with lifelong skills that enabled me to thrive in clinical work, work for three prime ministers, deliver independent prescribing for physiotherapists (a world first!) and become CEO of the CSP…among other things!

I don’t say all this to boast, I really don’t. I say it because I could never have imagined any of this when I was struggling with my studies and I am sure most students reading this now can’t imagine it either – but I was where you are. 

Perhaps the three most important things I wish I’d known back then, though, are as follows.

Firstly, that I could make a difference to people every day of my working life with my physiotherapy skills: as a clinician, but also as a manager, an educator, a policy official and as a CEO. Physiotherapy is a people profession: learning how to enable people to reach their full potential in all these settings is a wonderful set of skills to nurture.

Secondly, I wish I’d known that the only thing holding me back was me: I could achieve everything I wanted to if I worked hard and took opportunities that came my way.

Thirdly, I wish I’d had knowledge of my privilege and the structural discrimination that prevented, and still prevents, many people fulfilling their true potential. 

We all need to stand in solidarity with those who feel marginalised or who don’t feel they belong, particularly as students.

Extend a welcome into staff rooms, go the extra mile, use inclusive language and do whatever you can to challenge inequity.

At the start of their physiotherapy careers, all students deserve to feel they belong to this fabulous profession. Step up and to play your part in that, too.  

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