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Physiotherapy Guide: Where to Start

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​Are you considering a career in Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapists are the third largest health profession after Doctors and Nurses and recent stats show that the number of Physiotherapists has increased by nearly 40% since 2018, indicating that Physiotherapy is a growing field.

Physiotherapy is a very rewarding career; even if you’re a graduate or an established healthcare professional looking for a change, there are several routes available to take.

Throughout this guide, we will be covering the basics and answering many questions including job description, qualifications needed, skills needed and average salary.

What is a Physiotherapist?

A physiotherapist is a healthcare professional who specialises in the management and prevention of pain, injury, impairment, and disability. Physiotherapists are focused on improving health and combine their knowledge and skills to improve a range of physical ailments associated with the body. They also help to prevent these problems from arising in the first place. Physiotherapy allows a patient to find the best ways to use the body to maximise strength whilst putting minimal strain on areas that are weaker or injured.

If you are interested in Physiotherapy, there are a variety of fields for Physiotherapists to work in, including:

Paediatrics

Paediatric therapy involves working with children to treat a variety of disorders and problems which affect functioning/growing. As well as working in hospitals, paediatric physiotherapists also work in schools, rehabilitation centres, and at times in the patient’s home.

Sports

Sports therapy involves working with athletes who have sustained sports-related injuries. Sports therapists can offer insight and provide solutions by focusing on areas of improvement such as improving speed or agility.

Elderly Care / Rehab

A growing field, Elderly Rehab involves treating age-related problems/conditions such as arthritis and joint soreness. Physios aim to improve physical health by incorporating exercises and activities into a daily routine.

Women's Health

Women’s health therapists specialise in treating problems/disorders that women face throughout their lives. Common problems include pelvic pain, back pain, sciatica, menopause and pain in pregnancy.

Orthopaedics

Orthopaedic physiotherapy involves treating injuries and conditions related to the bones, muscles and ligaments. Common conditions include arthritis, osteoporosis and ligament tears. Common methods involve stretching, strength training and electrical muscle stimulation.

Neurology

Neurological physiotherapy involves treating problems with the brain and spinal cord. Common conditions such as cerebral palsy, fibromyalgia and neuropathy, which all have an impact on a patient’s movements and balance. Therapists that work in neurology can help patients to improve function and reduce motor defects.

Respiratory

Respiratory physiotherapy improves the conditions of patients suffering with chronic respiratory problems. Physios work with patients to better manage their condition, prevent further problems and improve quality of life.

Oncology

Oncology physiotherapy involves working with cancer patients to alleviate distressing symptoms of their condition such as pain, fatigue, breathing problems and muscle weakness.

There are many fields of specialty within Physiotherapy and Physio’s are free to focus on a particular passion/interest. For example, a therapist with a passion for basketball may focus on a career in sports therapy and mainly focus on obtaining clients who are basketball players. The therapist will be able to apply their knowledge by suggesting ways to minimise strain on certain areas, thereby preventing further injury. With a relevant history and background, the therapist is able to offer the best solution, due to their expertise.

Another example may be a paediatric physiotherapist with an interest in helping children suffering from cerebral palsy. Following a career in paediatrics, the physiotherapist may open their own practice which specialises in physiotherapy treatments for children with cerebral palsy.

What qualifications do you need to be a Physiotherapist?

To become a Physiotherapist, you must complete either an approved degree-level qualification in Physiotherapy or a degree apprenticeship in Physiotherapy. After successful completing your degree, you must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), in order to practice.

Courses differ but all involve practical placements where you work with patients. You can opt for the 3-year full-time course or the part-time course which varies from 4-6 years. In order to be accepted onto a Physiotherapy course, you will need to have 5 GCSES (which includes English language, Maths and at least one science) and 2 or 3 A-levels (which includes a biological science and/or PE) or equivalent qualifications. Entry requirements do vary from university, so it is important to research and compare to see which suits you best. It is also important to showcase your interest in Physiotherapy and strong capability in caring for others, so providing examples would be a great way to highlight your skillset. In most cases, the interview (video interviews currently) is strongly considered, so it is important to prepare and reflect on your reasoning and motivation for a career in Physiotherapy.

If you are a healthcare professional looking to change careers to Physiotherapy, you may be eligible for the 2-year accelerated program. You will need to have a degree (or the equivalent) in a relevant discipline such as biological sciences, psychology, physiology or chemistry, however other degrees may be considered on an individual basis. The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) have a list of approved physiotherapy programs.

The government has announced that all students enrolled in a Physiotherapy course from September 2020 will be eligible for financial funding of £5,000 a year towards studies whilst at university. You can find out more about financial support here: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-learning-support-fund.

What to Expect:   

  • Working with patients with a variety of conditions over a period of weeks/months

  • Making clinical assessments and diagnoses to treat the problem

  • Design and review clinical management plans which incorporates best techniques/exercises to encourage recovery

  • Review treatment plans and rehabilitation plans

  • Liaising with other healthcare professionals (GPs, nurses, consultants etc) to examine progress of patients

  • Advising parents/carers/family members about recovery plans (ways to assist/improve conditions)

  • Keeping up to date with new technologies and techniques available

  • Be caring and compassionate at all times

Skills needed:

  • Communication

  • Interpersonal skills to establish a rapport with patients and their families

  • Team-worker

  • Time management

  • Problem-solving

  • Organisational

  • Empathetic attitude with a genuine concern for wellbeing

Salary:

Jobs in the NHS consist of nine pay bands, with higher bands receiving higher salaries. Starting salaries for qualified physiotherapists (Band 5) range from £25,000 - £30,000.

Physio roles in/around London will have higher pay rates than in areas outside of London.

You can, however, apply for locum placements which provide great financial and career opportunities. Locums are on hourly pay and usually get paid every week/every other week.

For example, a Band 5 Physiotherapist working in London, 37.5 hours p/w, on a pay rate of £20 p/h would earn £39,000 pro rata.

Already a qualified Physiotherapist looking for your next role?

Check out our live Physiotherapy roles here.