Like many of my colleagues, physiotherapy was not my first career choice. My journey started whilst working as a nursery nurse in a school for children with profound disabilities, where physiotherapy treatment was incorporated into the daily routine. I was lucky to work with a physiotherapist who enabled me to understand and see the benefits of treatment first hand. She also encouraged me to think about getting more experience and re-training as a physiotherapist.
As a result of this encouragement, I went on to gain a post as a Community Physiotherapy Assistant (whilst taking A-levels via a number of evening classes) before starting my three-year physiotherapy degree training. The experience I gained as an assistant was incredibly valuable, challenging, inspiring and absolutely fundamental to my ongoing learning and development as a physiotherapist.
In my first physiotherapy post, I sustained a manual handling injury being a bit too overenthusiastic whilst transferring a patient into a chair. From this incident, and thinking about the training delivered to therapists, I trained as a manual handling key worker alongside my physiotherapy role, in the hope of reducing staff injury and improving the training delivered.
Looking back on this now it also planted the seeds of my future interest in clinical governance. I had also developed a keen interest in respiratory physiotherapy and was able to be part of the pilot for a recovery at home system. My role was to assess respiratory patients in the medical assessment unit, facilitating discharge and continue acute physiotherapy treatment for a week prior to handing over to the community team.
All of the previous experience, additional training and support from staff was critical to me having the confidence, knowledge and skills necessary undertake this role – which I loved! Preventing hospital admission and having capacity to provide support to patients at home, seeing the difference this made to them, has remained a positive influence on me throughout my career.
To further my cardiorespiratory knowledge, I was fortunate to gain a senior respiratory post at the Trust, eventually becoming team lead for cardiothoracic physiotherapy; an area and role which remains one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had. I certainly had some interesting encounters.
For instance, I’ll never forget walking into a bay of post-operative cardiac surgery patients to see them all pretending to hide under the sheets to avoid physiotherapy treatment! It was funny, but also lovely that they had taken the time to organise it between them and go on to demonstrate how much improvement they had all made in their post-op recovery – it was wonderful to see. It also provided balance to the often difficult and challenging situations faced when treating critically unwell patients, together with the rewards being part of the healthcare team enabling patients in their recovery.
Physiotherapy is an incredibly diverse profession which always has the patient at the centre of care. It takes a holistic approach and encourages self-management of acute and long term conditions. In my current role I am fortunate to treat respiratory outpatients as well as being the Deputy Physiotherapy Manager. I could not do either without the experiences and support I have gained along the way. Working with and trying to get the best outcome for people – whether patients, carers, students or staff – is definitely hard work, but rewarding work which requires constant listening, learning and development as an individual.
I will always be grateful to the physiotherapist who set me on this path – I hope I have helped others to so the same!
Donna is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Physiotherapy, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.