An exciting and varied profession ideal for those who relish a challenge, physiotherapy provides a career path full of opportunity.  To join it, it is necessary to have a relevant degree or postgraduate award and to be approved by the Health and Care Professions Council.  Membership of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is also advisable.  Newly qualified physiotherapists can expect to earn around £21,388 a year, rising to as much as £40,000 a year for those in highly skilled or leadership positions.  A physiotherapist’s working week is typically 37.5 hours long, but can involve shift work.

Day to day responsibilities

Physiotherapist jobs vary quite a bit and can be based in hospitals, in clinics, in sporting venues or in the community.  Physiotherapists generally manage their own schedules, so the day begins by going over appointments and usually ends with record-keeping.  In between, it is likely to involve the following:

  • Patient assessments - establishing needs and measuring progress.
  • Exercise programmes - developing individually tailored plans and helping patients to understand them.
  • Direct support - assisting patients who cannot exercise alone and ensuring that patients are undertaking set exercises in the right way.
  • Reading and training - keeping up to date on the latest advances in technique, staying abreast of ethical issues and following developments in assistive technology.

In order to complete these tasks effectively, physiotherapists need to be calm, well organised and in possession of good communication skills.  A positive attitude and a basic understanding of psychology helps as some patients may need support to build up their confidence.

Why physiotherapists matter

The increasing proportion of older people presents a challenge for society, and physiotherapists are in the front line of tackling that challenge by assisting people to remain active for longer.  This reduces dependence and the need for personal care, and it helps individuals to lead much more rewarding lives.  Physiotherapists can also help people with progressive, disabling illnesses to remain independent for longer, and they can help people to recover following accidents.

By making it easier for people to live active lives, physiotherapy reduces the risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  It can also have a significant positive effect on patients’ mental health.

Typical patients

Typical patients who need physiotherapy include the following:

  • People with age-related joint problems.
  • People with muscle wasting illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis.
  • People recovering from severe sprains or broken legs.
  • People recovering from strokes.
  • Disabled children learning how to move around for the first time.

It is not uncommon for the patients that physiotherapists treat to have complicated health problems, whether physical or mental.  They may only be able to exercise on good days and they may have difficulties using standard equipment.  For this reason, every care plan needs to be individual and physiotherapists must be constantly inventive.

Career opportunities

There are many possibilities within physiotherapy, including setting up in private practice or managing a department.  Some physiotherapists focus on academic research and teaching, whilst others find employment with sports teams.

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