Job Description (What the job involves)
Physiotherapists have 2 main roles:
- To use their scientific knowledge base of human movement and function to treat people affected by injury, illness and disability.
- To promote and teach the prevention of poor health and well-being that is commonly the precursor of the health problems they treat.
These roles are achieved through assessment-questioning, observation, physical testing, & analysis, and treatment via movement, exercise, manual therapies, education and advice.
Physiotherapists take a holistic approach to each person, working closely with other health and social care professionals/agencies to ensure client involvement is present throughout the care process, and that the best care is given.
Where do physiotherapists work?
The National Health Service(NHS)
Most physiotherapists work for the National Health Service (NHS) within hospital settings, or community settings .e.g. GP clinics/ rehabilitation centres.
The Private Sector
Private physiotherapists (not working for or governed by the NHS) work in private hospitals, private physiotherapy clinics, sports/health clubs, or for sports teams.
Education & Research
Physiotherapists can also work in the field of education as university lecturers in physiotherapy schools, and as researchers informing the profession of new developments and techniques.
Hours and Working Environment
This will vary depending on the setting in which the therapist works. NHS physiotherapists work 37.5 hrs per week, Mon-Fri, am-pm at present. Exceptions to this are respiratory on call cover (this is usually rotated), and weekend services for critical and post operative patients
In private practice settings hours of work are set primarily to be favourable to the clients, e.g. daytime hours including before and after work and weekends. The working week can therefore be longer than 37.5 hrs at times.
Physiotherapists that work in education as lecturers or researchers will work in the times the universities or research institutions set.
Upsides and Downsides
- Every day is different as a physiotherapist; you deal with different people, age groups, staff and agencies.
- There are flexible employment options. A physiotherapist can work for a sports team, as a physiotherapy service manager, a physiotherapy consultant, or a physiotherapist in their own practice.
- Chartered physiotherapists are autonomous practitioners, and are therefore able to do private work to boost their earnings
- You can work abroad as a physiotherapist
- It’s extremely rewarding to be recognised as part of someone’s rehabilitation back to good health, or their help in preventing injury or disease.
- It can be a stressful job, for many reasons e.g. high client caseloads, lack of resources, high targets, numerous procedures and expectations of performance.
- At times the job requires therapists to discuss, or remind clients and their families about life changing issues that are a result of their physical problems. Physiotherapists must have good communication skills, always being considerate and having a positive manner in these situations, without becoming emotionally attached.
Skills and Personal Qualities
- Sound knowledge of the core specialities in Physiotherapy- musculoskeletal, respiratory & neurology.
- Good observational, questioning and analysis skills needed for diagnosis & treatment.
- Be able to work independently. Continually in clinical practice physiotherapists have to make & justify their decisions about assessment and treatment.
- Have an ability to think quickly and forward plan
- Be a good team player, within physiotherapy and multidisciplinary team settings
- Ability to keep precise, clear records of assessment treatment
- Excellent interpersonal skills to build an effective rapport with clients from different backgrounds and age ranges
- Good organisational skills to efficiently manage a caseload
- A caring attitude to client health problems that encourage and support rehabilitation, and promote and facilitate the prevention of poor health.
All physiotherapists must gain a BSc Hons qualification in Physiotherapy, from one of the 30 plus universities that provide the course. Currently four different types of course programmes are run in the UK:
- The full-time programme (3yrs)
- The part-time programme (varying duration across schools)
- The accelerated programme (2yrs)
- The work based learning programme (3yrs –limited availability).
- Additional scientific knowledge e.g. sports science or biology post A-level is beneficial when studying physiotherapy, but not necessary.
- Acquiring work experience in physiotherapy, or experience relative to it e.g. volunteering in a hospital, is desirable support for a physiotherapy university application, but it is not essential.
Once a qualification in physiotherapy is obtained, registration with the state regulator, Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is required, in order to practise physiotherapy and to call yourself a physiotherapist.
Opportunities and Progression
Junior physiotherapy jobs are still predominately found in the NHS, where knowledge of different specialities can be gained as a base for senior positions. However to increase junior jobs, different routes (e.g. static speciality posts) can aid in gaining specific knowledge and experience for senior roles. These have been developed in the NHS and the private sector.
Progression into a senior role can take between 18-30 months. With this therapists tend to decide on an area of specialism, and may also transition into the private sector to work. At a senior level, roles branch into one of three areas: management, clinical or education (lecturing & research). The NHS shows the most variety of jobs in these areas.
Physiotherapists are autonomous practitioners (they can make treatment decisions independently) which gives rise to the opportunity of being self employed, setting up their own practice or doing freelance work for companies. Working overseas is also an option that can be taken, once any necessary procedures have been carried out in conjunction with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP).
Education (lecturing and conducting research) allows therapists to take different roles in universities and health organisations, which train new physiotherapists and conduct research which informs the profession of new advances in physiotherapy.
In recent times the traditional nature of physiotherapy has changed in career progression, structure and its general approach to treating to people. The lack of junior jobs has caused the field of physiotherapy to create new and different jobs, with partners never before thought of. This has helped, and continues to aid, the increase in the availability of junior jobs.
Government initiatives that encourage the general public to look after their health, have opened opportunities for physiotherapists to be more involved in health promotion roles. Initiatives like ‘work out at work day’ are an example of this. GP commissioning has now allowed private sector physiotherapy companies to more easily offer their services to the NHS, therefore increasing and improving the relations between primary healthcare and physiotherapy.
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Potential Salary and Benefits
The NHS operates a banded incremental pay system, with extra allowances (for accommodation) paid when working in London (London waiting.) The starting salary for a qualified physiotherapist at entry level is £21,175. This rises incrementally with time spent in each band, and requires evidence of career development when promotion to the next band is gained. Specialist physiotherapists and physiotherapy team leaders earn more and principal physiotherapists (consultants) earn considerably more.
Private physiotherapist salaries vary from that of the NHS physiotherapists, depending on who they work for, the skills they have and the local area they work in.
Education and research
Physiotherapists working in education or research have variable salaries, but they are generally seen as specialist and therefore have the ability to earn considerably higher rates of pay than an average physiotherapist. This will be dependent on who they work for and their job role (e.g. physiotherapy programme leader, lead researcher). Salaries for these jobs start at £35,000.
Becoming a member of the Chartered society of Physiotherapy (CSP) gives physiotherapists in all settings a range of great benefits, including public liability insurance, union representation, shopping discounts in high street stores and discounts on UK & overseas travel.