I have mulled over writing this post. I have seen my profession take a battering from various places on social media and for once I can see what teachers and nurses have to put up with although it’s only an tiny amount of the vitriol of what these professions have to put up with.
I am a Physiotherapist. I have been a Physiotherapist for more than ten years. I was inspired to become a Physiotherapist after having spinal surgery as a thirteen year old. It was the Physiotherapists who rehabilitated me and got me back to athletics in time for cross country season. From that point on I told everyone that I wanted to be a Physiotherapist. So basically none of that ‘failed doctor’ stuff going on over here.
I studied, as all Physiotherapists do in the UK, on a three year degree course and like the majority of Physiotherapists I entered the NHS to do my junior rotations. I think there’s this image that Physios qualify and then open up private clinics and make oodles of cash. Well if cash was what I was after I would have studied law or business. Instead I went for a vocation where I hoped to make a difference.
Junior rotations for Physiotherapists mean that you move between various specialities throughout the hospital, learning and hopefully developing into better clinicians. I deny any Physio to say that these rotations make little impact on you. Yes, there are those who are intent in getting out into private practice but I think junior rotations teach you so much and give you invaluable experiences. I’ve seen Physios save lives on ITU and on the wards through chest treatment. I’ve cried with a stroke patient and his family when he finally walked the length of the ward. I comforted an end stage MS patient when I was called in to treat her chest. I have taken groups of kids with cystic fibrosis to the Physio gym to play basketball as part of their treatment. And so I feel very passionately about defending my profession when I feel it is being bashed unnecessarily. It is a benevolent vocation and I don’t think it deserves some of the vitriol that has been thrown at it on social media.
One of the things that I always felt was a positive about musculoskeletal Physios is the time that we spend taking a patient history, both subjective and objective. For me it helps to get to know someone and to help me reason through clinically what could be causing their problems. It can help us to determine whether a problem is truly musculoskeletal and that we can help, or if it is caused by another system or indeed a red flag. I am proud that we are trained to recognise when a person might be presenting with a more worrying pathology (it happens very very rarely fortunately) and I know that myself and some of my colleagues have managed to do this and have helped to refer to the appropriate person.
I understand that a group of runners have been to an education session recently and were lectured to by a Physiotherapist about running injuries. What I’ve read is pretty standard and I can’t see any harm done by it. None of it was news to me. What I don’t understand is the interpretation is for it to stop people from running. Rubbish. Every session I have with a patient involves talking to people about their current problems and about their short and long term goals. I might see a runner or a violinist but my goal as a clinician is to try and get someone back to doing what they love.
I also saw someone refer to Physios as ‘experts’, emphasis was on the inverted commas. Well I would say that my education and experience does make me an expert. What I tell people isn’t plucked out of mid air. It’s from hard work, study, master level study, research and science. But I am also never afraid to say that I am wrong or that I can no longer help a patient. I am always learning and I continue to develop. To assume that I was perfect as a Physiotherapist would be dangerous. I am also aware of my scope of practice, something that other fitness professions could do with being a bit more aware of (like the PT who told a woman on diabetes and heart meds to stop taking them. Her GP was furious).
Making an appointment to see any health or fitness professional is a huge leap of faith. You are required to confide your problems, hopes and fears to a total stranger. It is an important relationship and a delicate one. I am not saying that people have always been happy with me and the treatment I have provided but I have always been honest and offered people the best I can offer through my knowledge and ability. If you’re not happy with a health professional then you are perfectly entitled to question their opinion and find someone with who you have a better fit. But please know that for me and the majority of people I have worked with, all we want to do is help and get you back to running or whatever else you have in mind.