We asked different physiotherapists this question, and here’s what they had to say:
Listen carefully, care deeply, question everything, be inquisitive, be brave and playful, find a mentor you respect and who is kind, distrust those who promise cures and quick fixes, be kind to yourself, find your passion and work hard – be relentless in the pursuit of excellence….enjoy the journey and have fun on the way.
Be patient with yourself! It’s ok not to know everything right away, to make mistakes, and you’re not going to be able to practice at the same level as experienced clinicians right away, but that’s ok! =)
Embrace uncertainty, don’t expect to know it all and don’t judge yourself when you realise you know very little.
Focus your next few years of continuing education on how to communicate with and understand your patients. Learn about pain science, the biopsychosocial model of care, and begin to appreciate the complexity of helping people in pain. Your manual therapy skills and knowledge of high level exercise will only get you so far. Sure, they need to be improved, but the most important thing you didn’t learn in school was how significant and lasting your words can be. The most important part of any intervention is effective and empowering communication.
If I could go back in time to when I was a new grad physio, I would tell myself to be realistic, patient and flexible.
I’d tell myself to be realistic in my perceived ability to “fix” people. As a new grad, I felt that I could “fix” everyone from their pain that walked in the door. The reality was that I couldn’t then, and I still can’t now. The best we can do is help people “manage” their pain and help improve their function.
I would tell myself to be realistic and patient in my perceived ability to work within a professional sports team environment. As a new grad, I expected to be the head physio for a professional sports club within 1-3 years. The reality is that only now, do I feel like I have the clinical skills, clinical experience and “softer skills” (interpersonal and communication skills) to be the head physio now.
Finally, I would tell my former self to be flexible in my career options. As a new grad, I had only seen myself working as a sports physio for a rugby league or cricket team. Although I worked in rugby league for a few years, in years afterwards I worked in soccer and netball; with each previous sporting experience allowing me to grow my skill set and be a better physio in my next role. Funnily enough, now that I have 2 young children and see the importance of family over working life, I honestly wouldn’t be bothered if I didn’t work in professional sports as a full-time physio ever again.