I recently graduated from The University of Essex, having studied a degree in Physiotherapy. During my studies I completed 6 clinical placements, the last of which was facilitated by NELFT within the Wheelchair and Specialist Seating Service.
As students, once we finish our final placement and complete our degree, we wait during the summer for our HCPC pin to arrive before we can practice as physiotherapists. After my final placement with NELFT, I was offered the opportunity to work on the Bank as a Band 4 Rehabilitation Assistant. My manager was really helpful, and it was a seamless process – 1 week after finishing my placement, I was working on the Bank and was able to start earning some money whilst continuing my professional development.
Tell us more about the Wheelchair and Specialist Seating Service
The service prescribes and adjusts wheelchairs, ensuring patients have a balance between comfort, ideal posture and function. The Specialist Seating Service relies heavily on Physiotherapists due to the complexities of patient’s posture and anatomy. We work with patients who have learning difficulties, scoliosis, or spinal deformities which often require something more advanced than standard wheelchair seating. The service has the facilities to make a mould of the patient’s back to ensure the seating is bespoke for them and their needs. It’s a dynamic service and I’m constantly learning.
What inspired you to choose a career in physiotherapy?
Whilst completing my A-Levels I knew I wanted to go to university and study a sports-based subject, but I hadn’t considered a career in healthcare. It was only when I attended careers fairs and found out more information about Physiotherapy that I knew it was a career I would enjoy and excel in.
How do you feel your work is making a difference to patients?
We work to give patients a sense of independence that they may lack without a comfortable and functional wheelchair. To be able to give people this independence that they might have thought not possible at times, reminds me of the importance of my work.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
It’s nice to hear positive feedback from patients or carers. I remember one instance where I visited a patient in a care home and adjusted their wheelchair so they could be more comfortable and join in social activities at the care home. After the visit I was told by the patient’s daughter that the patient felt respected, listened to and that I had gone above and beyond to meet their needs.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
In the Specialist Seating Service, we work with patients who have learning difficulties and they often are unable to communicate directly about whether their wheelchair is comfortable and functional. Therefore, we develop more creative ways of communication, and work closely with their parents or carers whilst still involving them as the patient in the process.
What support have you received while at NELFT?
During my placement I shadowed Band 7 and 8 therapists in clinic and in the community. The experience allowed me to develop my own clinical skills, giving me confidence when I joined the Bank and started seeing patients independently. Everyone has an open-door policy and is happy to answer any questions.
What are the challenges that healthcare students and the NHS are facing today?
I found that as a student going straight onto wards in your first placement without prior experience is quite overwhelming. Patients often need lots of support and it can be difficult to find help when unsure as everyone is so busy! This feeling was inflated for me as the majority of my first-year teaching was online due to Covid. I would have benefited from more practical and scenario-based work in my first year of study before beginning placements.
What advice would you give to other students on placement?
Ask plenty of questions - benefit from the knowledge of clinicians around you who have years of experience.
Don’t be afraid, get stuck in. Be confident in your own knowledge, it’s easy to think as a student or new graduate that you don’t have enough knowledge, but all clinicians are constantly learning.
What are your future career aspirations?
I don’t have a set plan, but I would like to specialise in MSK and explore opportunities to practice overseas.