How To Become A Physiotherapist

By: David Ravech

The requirement for larger numbers of physiotherapists is greater now than it has been for some time. Physiotherapy has been shown to be useful in an increasing number of medical conditions with the emphasis being on the prescription of exercise. There is a very wide range of physiotherapy interventions which cover the entire range of specialities in medicine from pregnancy to care of the elderly, intensive care unit to trauma and from acute strokes to managing patients' pain syndromes. The great scope of the profession permits practitioners to choose an area of specialty to concentrate on in their career.

The changes in modern living standards and the constant developments in modern medicine have accelerated the changes in physiotherapy as new areas of work have presented themselves, from working with overweight adults and children, promoting exercise in cancer units, setting up exercise programmes for kidney patients on dialysis and in rehabilitation programmes for those with cardiac and pulmonary disease. As these opportunities increase this should be feeding through to the number of training places available and the provision of junior training rotations and suitable senior places for specialisation.

Physiotherapy students take three year degree physiotherapy courses which are all now based in centres of higher education such as universities. As the competition is strong to achieve places the educational requirements at A level are high. This is the most common route of entry to physiotherapy courses in the UK, although there are a few fast-track M.Sc. courses taking two years for those applicants who have already completed a degree in a closely relevant area. They will have covered much of the basic science of physiology and exercise so must concentrate on getting the practice of physiotherapy correct, putting in the clinical hours and learning the techniques necessary.

The process of applying for physiotherapy courses is not solely related to the level of academic qualifications the applicant may possess, and success in applying may be enhanced by concentrating on several factors to improve the presentation. Having been employed or volunteering in serving the public in some capacity is positive, even better if a health care establishment is involved. The applicant should be able to show a number of coherent choices in their activities and show creativity in what they have done as an individual.

One of the most successful strategies for achieving a place in physiotherapy courses is to get a job as a physiotherapy assistant in a hospital. This allows direct experience of the work in the profession of physiotherapy and advice and consultation is always available from senior physiotherapists. Day to day work in close cooperation with different physiotherapists in different clinical areas allows a clear view of the profession of physiotherapy to be formed. This carries through in the attitude and confidence of the person and they can have a useful addition to their CV.

To make the best of the application process the applicant has to pay close attention to managing this and the interview. The customer, it has to be remembered, is the university and they are searching for people with rounded personalities who can both state what they want to achieve and give clear examples of what they have done already to get to their goal. If the panel cannot see a convincing history of achievement and training relevant to the application they may consider that the applicant has not fully considered what they are applying for.

NHS hospitals are the major employers of the largest number of physiotherapists, who work with patients with disability, disability and pain whilst many others work in private clinics mostly with musculoskeletal conditions. Sports injuries constitute a very small proportion of patients dealt with by physiotherapists so it makes sense not to concentrate on the desire to be a sports physiotherapist in the initial application stages as it has little relevance to most of physiotherapy.

The course will be very heavily slanted towards other conditions in mostly elderly people (the major customer group in healthcare) and if a student gets any experience of sports injuries they will be lucky. After qualification if may be several years in a rotational junior scheme before a physiotherapist can be ready for more senior work in an area of their choice.

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Jonathan Blood Smyth, editor of the Physiotherapy Site, writes articles about Physiotherapist, back pain, orthopaedic conditions, neck pain, injury management and Physiotherapists in Coventry. Jonathan is a superintendant physiotherapist at an NHS hospital in the South-West of the UK.

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