For the majority of my career, I have been a respiratory physiotherapist. Moving from the acute setting of ITU, medical and surgery, I was hugely passionate about my job in chronic respiratory disease management. I loved my job sputum catching. I relished at the debates about inhaled therapies. I felt like an expert in my area whilst still learning on a daily basis.
So, why did I change?
I HATED MSK (musculoskeletal) as a junior. I quickly deskilled and people didn't bother to ask me about their ongoing knee pain anymore, realising I was clueless.
As an athlete, I still had a keen interest in sports and exercise medicine. Working with Run 3D, I found learning about my biomechanics fascinating. It ignited the MSK spark!
Dipping my toe in the water
Initially, I combined part-time respiratory and MSK jobs. Although I enjoyed both, I struggled with the lack of routine and continuity. My working weeks were variable and I needed to find more stability in my life, particularly around being an athlete.
Taking the plunge
A year's contract came up at Flint House Police Rehabilitation Centre. I had heard great things about the place on the physio grapevine. The intensive nature of rehabilitation appealed to me a lot.
To my surprise, I got the job.
It felt like a risk. I was going to leave an area that I had years of experience in and start again, as a rookie. It would also mean leaving the NHS just as I had reached my 5 years of service.
Flint House was willing to provide a great deal of support to help my transition. I realised that despite my lack of experience, I still had a sound understanding of musculoskeletal physiotherapy and my skills from respiratory were transferable and valued.
Where Am I now?
In all honesty, I fully intended to go back to respiratory once my contract was over.
Within a week, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue long term.
Set in the beautiful countryside of Goring-on-Thames, Flint House offers two weeks of intensive rehabilitation to Police officers around the region.
With great facilities, a range of classes and hydrotherapy, we see our caseload every day. Having daily contact with patients allows you to get to the crux of their condition. The intensive rehab environment produces positive results and provides a kick start to their rehabilitation journey.
When my patients leave, I feel that I have covered all basis of their management. This is something I felt I could rarely achieve in the NHS setting due to time constraints.
6 months later, I've now accepted a full term contract. The support I've had from the team at Flint House has been incredible through regular supervisions and weekly in-service training. The team of fantastic physio's and rehab therapists makes it a positive, fun and fulfilling place to develop my career in MSK.
I haven't completely disregarded my years of hard work. From co-authoring a chapter on the management of breathing pattern disorders in athletes with Dr John Dickinson, I've found an interesting cross over between specialities.
From running, I've intuitively observed athletes breathing mechanics and the prevalence of exercise-induced asthma within the sport.
I have become increasingly interested in the niche area of breathing mechanics in the athletic population. It's often overlooked and potentially misdiagnosed as asthma.
Athletes with a breathing pattern disorder will unlikely be referred to a respiratory physiotherapist. An essential part of their management is breathing retraining, aerobic conditioning and education. However, there are many underlying MSK issues which contribute or are caused by impaired breathing mechanics. Addressing posture, spinal mobility and stability play an essential role in the athlete's management plan, therefore a physiotherapist with dual experience is idealistic but a rare find.
Within our chosen speciality, should we make more effort at keeping up to date with the basics of each core area of practice?
Through this process, I've been surprised by how the different areas of physiotherapy have a close interplay. All the key values remain the same and the skills are transferable.
Tips for a Transition
Career changes are daunting but also exciting. These are some points I considered when making my switch.
1) Is this something I really want to do?
Spend some time reflecting on your current job role and consider arranging a supervision with your manager to discuss your career options.
Are you satisfied with your job role?
Do you have work-life balance?
Do you enjoy your job?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Is there anything you can change about your current job role instead?
2) Research job prospects
Become up to speed with job adverts and what they are looking for. Write down the skills that they are looking for and identify any learning needs you may need to address before applying.
Consider shadowing a job role that interests you to gain insight into their daily practice.
3) Don't underestimate your knowledge
Make a list of specific knowledge you may need to brush up on. Sign up to courses, do some self-directed learning and read up on the latest guidelines will quickly refresh your memory from your junior days.
4) Transferable Skills
When applying for jobs and interviews, don't undervalue the skills you have in your current areas of expertise. Interpersonal skills exercise prescription and non-clinical experience are key cornerstones to being a physio, no matter what area you work in.
5) Ensure a job will support you in your transition
When making a decision on a job, ensure that your employer will support your transition. If you're not fresh out of uni and you're fairly experienced, there's a risk that you will be left to crack on without adequate support.
How often will you get supervisions?
Will you get regular in-service training?
Is there a good induction process?
Will you have a budget for going on courses?
What can you add with your specific areas of expertise to the department? Is there a service development opportunity you can offer?
6) Sink or Swim - Keep it simple!
When you first start in a new area, keep it simple. Stick to your problem lists and focus on nailing the basics first before overcomplicating things. If it's weak, strengthen
If it's stiff, mobilise
If it's productive, clear
If there are misconceptions, educate..... etc etc
After all, it's not rocket science, is it? ;)
People seek to change careers for many different reasons. Your career goals or values may have changed; you may have discovered new interests that you would like to incorporate into your job, you may wish to make more money, or have more flexible hours, just to name a few.