FCP career scenario: I'm a newly qualified physiotherapist

If you are looking to develop your career towards a First Contact Physiotherapy (FCP) role in the future, there are a number of steps you could be taking now to move closer to your goal.

A newly qualified physiotherapist who is interested in FCP

I have a rotational job. My employer doesn’t offer rotations in primary care, but I’m really interested in these roles and I’d like to work in primary care in the future. What development steps towards FCP can I take now?

Steps you can take towards a career in FCP

Rotation variety

A wide range of rotations will set you up well for a role in primary care – including those in medical, community, mental health, surgical and outpatients settings. This variety will enable you to develop your understanding of long-term conditions that are common among patients interacting with primary care services. Patients with multiple co-morbidities are becoming more typical, and it is important that you have a well-rounded early career in order to develop your knowledge of different conditions and understanding of how they impact patients' lives.

Patients in primary care will also be attending other services and having procedures outside of primary care. It is therefore very valuable as an FCP to have an understanding of the pathways and procedures your patients will be engaging with.

For example, as an FCP, you may refer someone to orthopaedics. Your patient will likely have questions about how this pathway works, who they are likely to see and what the procedure will be like. If you have had a rotation in trauma and orthopaedics, you will have a better understanding of the system in order to explain it to your patient. Equally, you may have a patient who has just been discharged from hospital and now has different needs from when they were initially admitted. If you have completed a community-based rotation, you may have a better idea of what services will be available to your patient and you will be more able to explain the process to them.

Tailor your experiences and opportunities

If you are interested in a career in FCP, you should think about who can support you with your development. Your line manager or workplace supervisor is a great place to start. You should speak to your line manager about your aspirations as they may have a developmental route into FCP already established that you could work towards. You should tailor the objectives and projects from your rotations to fit in with the relevant FCP or musculoskeletal (MSK) framework in your country. See our country-specific guidance for more information on this.  

You could also seek out a mentor within or outside of your workplace. Mentorship is a very helpful way to understand more about your own motivations and help you to plan your development options. You could use the CSP mentoring platform to find a mentor who can support your career plans.

More ways to develop into an FCP role

See our essential information page for tips on increasing your understanding, evidencing your experience and enhancing your education.

And for information about how FCP works in your local area, see our country-specific guidance.

Multidisciplinary teams

Primary care is a multidisciplinary environment, and physiotherapists in primary care work closely with clinicians from other professions on a daily basis. Any opportunity you have to learn more about primary care services, community services or other professions such as nursing or pharmacy would be very valuable at this stage.

You could talk to your line manager, supervisor or mentor about opportunities to spend time in primary care. Perhaps you could shadow an FCP, an advanced nurse practitioner, a clinical pharmacist or a GP. You could offer an educational session to primary care teams about your physiotherapy service or about a clinical condition your service is involved with. 

FCPs also refer to secondary care, and it is important that clinicians understand the services they are sending patients to. As such, you could seek out opportunities to spend time with advanced practice clinicians in MSK orthopaedic triage services or frailty services.

Transferable skills

There are many skills you can develop while at this early stage of your career that will be transferable to a primary care setting later on. Primary care is focused on population health, and this is an area you can bring into any physiotherapy context by looking at the population of patients served by your team and adapting interventions and communications to meet their needs. 

Preventative health is equally important as patients often interact with primary care as a first port of call. Therefore, developing your understanding of preventative healthcare and how physiotherapy can support someone at an early point in their patient journey will be very valuable to your development towards FCP. You should also look at wider system pathologies and public health principles, which can be considered in all your rotations or roles including in non-MSK contexts. 

FCPs use skills such as behaviour change, motivational interviewing and active listening to support patients. They give self-management advice to most patients and are skilled in exercise prescription. These are skills that can be developed and honed throughout your physiotherapy career. 

As well as clinical skills, you should also seek out opportunities to develop skills in the non-clinical areas that fit within the four pillars of advanced practice – education, leadership and research (with clinical being the fourth). Although you are currently at the early stage of your career, it is a good idea to develop habits in seeking and evidencing non-clinical opportunities as this will support you as you progress, especially if you aspire to work in FCP or advanced practice. For example, you could take part in an audit or quality-improvement project or publish dissertation work.

Educational opportunities 

There are also formal educational routes towards FCP. You should discuss these with your line manager, supervisor or mentor. Formal educational options may include MSc modules to develop your knowledge and skills in areas such as research, MSK, personalised care or advanced clinical practice. You can find links to post-qualifying programmes that have CSP accreditation and check the HEE landing page for updates on modules that have been mapped to the FCP roadmap.

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