A musculoskeletal physiotherapist’s creative research capacity building journey


To describe a musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapist's clinical academic journey involving the unique elements of design and creative practice, focusing on knowledge mobilisation and implementation in line with research capacity building for, within and by practice.


A pragmatic, creative approach to research career development was undertaken. Initially the NIHR funded masters in Clinical Research was completed. A placement with the NIHR Collaborations for leadership in applied health research and care South Yorkshire (CLAHRC -SY) User centred health care design team at the Lab 4 Living at Sheffield Hallam University was carried out where the world of design and creative methods were introduced. This highlighted how designers and physiotherapists have a lot in common. Firstly they are both people (patient) centred, secondly problem solving and thinking' outside the box' are everyday practice. In fact by working together their skills could complement each other, and by using creative co design methods involving service users and providers and blending physiotherapy research and practice knowledge they could develop more implementable, new and innovative ideas to improve patient care.

A research secondment with the NIHR CLAHRC Yorkshire and Humber (YH) Translating knowledge into action theme (TK2A,) a team of experienced health care professionals, academics and design researchers specialising in creative co-design, followed.


The TK2A team work on many health care research and improvement projects. These include many MSK and physiotherapy related projects for example:
'Way forward Doncaster ' developing resources to enable MECC brief interventions into routine MSK physio outpatient practice, improving educational resources for patients accessing MSK therapy in primary care, improving referral pathways into pulmonary rehabilitation for patients admitted with acute exacerbation of COPD to meet international guidelines, exploring interventions to address weight gain after stroke and many physical activity (PA) initiatives including post stroke exercise groups, and initiatives to embed PA into community environments.

TK2A's mode 2 approach to knowledge mobilisation and implementation allows the transformation of research knowledge, in its many forms, into something, visible, tangible and practical that is more likely to be used in clinical practice by those that give and receive it.


There are many opportunities for (MSK) physiotherapists to explore a career in research. Working with designers and using creative methods to co-design usable, practical solutions to enable the mobilisation of research knowledge into practice owned by those that will use it offers an alternative and more innovative approach compared to more traditional 'ivory tower' methods to evidence based practice and knowledge mobilisation. It provides a different perspective to research capacity building and adds to the knowledge base in this area.

Having a physiotherapist working within a team including designers to undertake creative co- design with service users and providers has the capacity to improve the uptake of research evidence into clinical practice compared to other more traditional methods. Further research in the form of a PHD exploring this approach further within MSK physiotherapy is clearly needed and is the logical next step in this research career journey.

Funding acknowledgements

The research was funded by the NIHR CLAHRC Yorkshire and Humber

Additional notes

This work was presented at Physiotherapy UK 2018

The views expressed are those of the author(s), and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.