What year did you graduate?
What course did you study?
What is your current role?
Clinical Lead Physiotherapist Medical Rehabilitation and Frailty at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust
How did you get into your current role?
I graduated from St George’s in 2012, and initially spent just under a year working in private practice whilst searching for my first NHS post, which proved quite hard to come by. I joined Croydon University Hospital in 2013 as a band 5, and rotated through several areas over the following two and a bit years. I left in 2015 to take up a Band 6 role at Lewisham University Hospital, and it was here that I developed an interest in Intensive care and respiratory physiotherapy, which is a far cry from the pitch side sports physiotherapist that I had envisioned myself being as a student. Working at Lewisham for just over three years, and acting up a couple of times as a Band 7, I moved to West Middlesex University hospital in 2018 to take up post as the team lead physiotherapist for A&E and admission avoidance. Although I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of working within a busy A&E, alongside the unique challenges that it presents as a therapist, I felt that my ability to fully utilise my skills was limited by the time pressures placed on that area. As luck would have it, an opportunity came up in the trust to work between the two main sites at West Middlesex and Chelsea hospitals as the Clinical Lead for Medical Rehabilitation and Frailty, and I was successful in gaining that post early in 2019.
Can you describe a typical day?
My typical day is now largely filled with meetings both internal and external to the trust, alongside the administrative workload associated with line managing a large number of staff across two busy hospital sites. It is fair to say my current role is very detached from the ward based patient interactions that filled my time as a junior. I aim to work from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday with occasional clinical shifts on the weekends as needed, but frequently something will need actioning that leads to a late night here and there. Having passed my independent prescribing course in 2019, I am looking to find time to utilise those hard earned skills, but at present I struggle to regularly commit to clinical hours. I’m not sure a typical day exists within the NHS, and I certainly rarely know where the day might take me from supporting a team member with a difficult patient, to dealing with a staffing crisis, to trying to hit a last minute deadline, to bailing out water from the department due to an overflowing hydrotherapy pool – miraculously no electrotherapy machines died that day.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I enjoy being in a role that lets me take the lead on the development of services, and in setting direction within therapies at a large London trust. I also enjoy the challenge of managing teams across two very different hospital sites where a solution for one might not fit the other. I do still enjoy getting to see patients every now and again on the wards, and remembering why it was I became a physiotherapist in the first place. I think most of all I love working for the NHS, and am fiercely proud of the difference we all make to people’s lives every day of the year.
What do you find challenging in your current role?
There are frequently not enough hours in the day, and often the presence of time critical tasks means that I work beyond my contracted hours. I found the step up to being a clinical lead was a very steep learning curve, and my clinical expertise is being slowly replaced by an encyclopaedic knowledge of policy, national directives and HR processes. I have enjoyed taking on extra responsibilities, but sometimes miss the camaraderie and unpredictability of the wards. Nobody is interested in the story of the pretty spreadsheet I just made…
What advice would you give to a current student at St George’s who is keen to get into a similar area of work as you?
From walking out of the door at St George’s as a graduate in 2012, to signing my first note as a band 5 shortly after (I still remember the place and setting), to taking on a Band 8 role 7 years later, it has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows. I set out initially to become the best Musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapist to have ever lived, but through rotations at Band 5 and Band 6 level, I quickly realised that I just didn’t like that area, however much I wanted to. In fact, MSK is the only rotation I have been on where I did not enjoy coming to work. Do please recognise however that this is my experience, and before I get a lot of angry MSK therapists after me, I would add that there are plenty out there who wouldn’t do anything else.
This would lead me to my best advice for any new graduate, and that is however certain you are of your career path, make sure you do your rotations as a junior. From there, it is really a case as with most things in life of how hard you want to work, alongside a little bit of luck. I put in a lot of extra hours volunteering for overtime to improve my clinical ability (and my band 5 pay), and took it upon myself to seek out weekend courses and shadowing opportunities with people from all professions.
I took weeks of annual leave to write essays and study for masters exams as opposed to going on holiday, and also grasped any opportunity I could to act up to a higher band. With my current role, it just so happened that I was in the right place at the right time and an opportunity came up, but had I not swapped my easy 15 minute commute for a miserable hour long one in 2018, I wouldn’t have been in that place. It is quite easy to get comfortable somewhere, to know the trust inside and out, and to have a lot of great friends which is fantastic, but you should also view change as a positive and something that can push you to develop yourself in ways that you never thought of. The NHS is a fantastic organisation, and there are excellent training and development opportunities regardless of your personal or professional background, but you need to actively seek them. Allied Health professionals are often under-represented in leadership roles, and I am excited about how I might play my part in shaping the NHS of the future.
Which aspects of your degree are relevant for your current role?
In all honesty, very few. Leadership and management was touched upon, but I remember most of the degree programme being focussed around clinical skills, which in all honesty is what you would both expect and want at an undergraduate level. My old lecturers will be happy to learn perhaps that I do still touch upon knowledge gained during my studies, and have dusted out my dissertation a couple of times to give students on placement an idea of how to frame certain ideas, but it isn’t often that I get to put on my physiotherapy uniform and engage with patients.
Do you have any advice or a message for current students at St George’s?
Respiratory physiotherapy is not a dark art, or something to be afraid of. It will one day at 2am in the morning with a very sick patient all make sense, and like me, you might even find you quite enjoy it!
Do you have any advice or a message for students considering studying at St George’s?
I fondly remember my time at St George’s, and still meet up regularly with old classmates for a night out. The course itself was very well structured, and I always felt supported by the academic team with any problems that I came across. It is a fantastic place to study being situated in the middle of a busy London hospital, and I still occasionally return to assist with careers days or to attend courses. As a mature student, I wasn’t a regular at the union bar, but the location gives you easy access to the wonderful curry restaurants of Tooting, and the surrounding nightlife of London. I maintain links with the university through the students who come out to placement within my teams, and all are similarly happy with their place of study. I’m sure on one of the few trips to the student union I did make, I heard a song along the lines of ‘George’s, George’s, finest in the land’, and they seemed very sure of their convictions.