Case study

Senior physiotherapist — Nicholas Flanagan

Having already completed a health-related degree Nicholas was able to study the MSc Physiotherapy at Teesside University on his path to qualifying

How did you get your job?

I initially applied to South Tyneside and Sunderland Foundation Trust for a graduate position at Band 5, then having completed various clinical rotations I was able to interview and progress to a senior Band 6 role. The interviews are structured to assess a mixture of clinical skills, relevant knowledge and potential. Its sounds daunting but with good preparation and practice they are manageable.

Tell us about a typical day…

We support patients on discharge from hospital and enable them to be safe and independent in their own homes. We start with an assessment of the patients' needs so that we can understand which interventions may be most suitable. This involves understanding what is important to each individual and setting a plan to help them achieve their goals. This often means providing equipment, education and exercises. We try our best to maximise independence for patients by teaching them how to build strength and improve their function.

I also work alongside other professionals such as occupational therapists, nurses and social workers to provide well considered patient centred care.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I hear the most interesting stories from my patients of the antics they have gotten up to in their lives. Mostly, I love looking back at the end of the day knowing that I have listened to my patients' individual needs and championed them to achieve their goals. Even the smallest intervention can make a huge difference for them, and this brings a huge degree of job satisfaction for me.

What are the challenges?

We regularly experience sad and difficult situations. You are exposed to very ill people who really need your support. At times like this you have to maintain composure and utilise the support of your team while developing your resilience practices. I find that talking about these situations with my colleagues at the end of each day helps me to manage any high emotions.

What have been your career highlights?

I had the opportunity to work on intensive care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This was such a difficult time but also a huge learning opportunity. I was able to utilise and implement the best physiotherapy interventions in a new way, working on the cusp of scientific evidence to support our patients.

I was also able to go to Canada as a student to attend an international conference of Rehabilitation in the field of HIV. This was an amazing opportunity and has hugely benefitted my career; I was even able to work with established professionals to publish brand new research afterwards.

What do you wish you'd known before you started your job?

I never realised how broad the scope of practice for physiotherapy is. There are three core areas:

  • musculoskeletal
  • cardiorespiratory
  • neurology.

Beyond them there are multiple interesting specialties which you can get involved with. It is an ever-evolving profession with huge opportunities for development. It is exciting to explore the breadth of roles available.

How do I get a job as a senior physiotherapist?

  • maintain a positive proactive attitude
  • show a willingness to be responsible and accountable
  • consolidate your knowledge of the three core areas (musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory and neurology).

Tell us about a challenge facing the healthcare sector today?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge challenge for healthcare. The landscape of care provision has had to evolve rapidly into unknown territory. Keeping up with fast changing evidence, managing PPE and infection control measures, and supporting our patients to fight this virus has been a crazy experience.

What is the best thing about working in this sector?

There is a huge sense of comradery in the NHS at the moment. Everyone pulling together has cultivated such a strong sense of belonging. I feel part of something big and important. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to help those who need me.

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