10 tips for young physiotherapists
All of us at one point in our careers were young physiotherapists who were not sure how to start our careers and in which direction to orient ourselves during our careers. It is normal when you graduate from college / medical school that you are not sure in which direction to further educate yourself, where to work, and who to turn to for help.
In order to make this whole process easier for you, we decided to share with our young colleagues the 10 (in our opinion) most important tips that we would personally like to have received after official education.
The advice will contain numerous topics from how to best adopt the material at the faculty, to where and how to educate yourself, how to start with the individual courses itself, whether you need to open your own practice or initially work for someone, and other similar advice. These are tips from our personal experience and of course, they can vary from colleague to colleague or from physiotherapist to physiotherapist.
These tips are our best intention to help young physiotherapists easily and quickly become the top experts we need in our profession.
1. Get the most out of the official education
It is already a normal belief in today's society that formal education, whether in this case a medical school or a physiotherapist college, is a necessary evil from which we cannot get much and which we simply have to do in order to become physiotherapists and to be able to legally perform the work of a physiotherapist.
Although we would partially agree with this statement in the sense that we will never use a good part of the elective courses and parts of the material we learn in school and university, there is a part that is literally necessary for this profession and without which we cannot continue.
Of course, there are Anatomy and Kinesiology subjects in the first place without whose superior knowledge we literally have nothing to do in this profession. As harsh as it may sound, in order to be a top physiotherapist, you need to have a high level of knowledge in anatomy and kinesiology in order to understand the basics of the profession and not do additional harm to the patient.
In addition to anatomy and kinesiology, there are closely related professional subjects such as physiotherapy assessment, introduction to physiotherapy, physiotherapy in certain branches of medicine, physiotherapy skills and others that can create a top foundation and knowledge for further career continuation.
Make the most of your official education and learn everything that could be useful to you throughout your career.
2. Upon completion of official education repeat Anatomy and Kinesiology
As we have already mentioned in the previous chapter Anatomy and Kinesiology are the basics of physical therapy and medicine. In order to continue with additional education and/or internship, take the literature that has proven to be of the best quality in school or university and repeat the anatomy of the locomotor system and kinesiology of the whole body.
Well-established knowledge in anatomy and kinesiology will be a great advantage and a very strong basis for further education and work on your own internship or somewhere else. Without well-established knowledge in these 2 areas, you will have a big problem with following further education, even when working with patients, because you will never be sure why you are doing something, whether you are doing it well and whether it will harm the patient or help him.
Well-mastered and established knowledge in anatomy and kinesiology is the most important basis for the continuation of the career of a physiotherapist after official education.
3. Do your internship (or don't)
An internship is something that the state (in Croatia) " forces” us to do in order to get a license as a physiotherapist and be able to independently perform the job of a physiotherapist in official institutions and most sports clubs.
But why did we write in bracket “or not”? Depending on where and how you plan to work in the future will also depend on whether you need an internship or not. If you see yourself in the future in an official institution such as a hospital, private polyclinic, top sports club, etc., an internship and passing a professional exam will be necessary and you will not be able to avoid them.
If you decide to have your own private practice (we will talk more about this in the following chapters) and work with individual athletes as we at Ad Sacrum do personally, you will not need an internship and a physical therapy license (in Croatia).
If you are planning a career in hospitals, official institutions, and sports clubs, an internship is required.
If you plan to work for yourself and with individual athletes, an internship is not necessary in Croatia.
4. Do you need additional education?
Additional education is extremely necessary if you want to be a top expert and help your patients quickly, efficiently, and long-term. Unfortunately, physiotherapists (like most other professions) at the faculty do not get enough practical knowledge to work with patients and it is necessary to attend additional education in order to improve their knowledge and to be more confident in the physical therapy that we apply to our patients.
As you probably already know, there are a number of additional training offered on the market for physiotherapists and some of them are extremely useful and some can prove quite useless.
The exact education that you need to attend will depend on the direction of physical therapy and what kind of physiotherapist you personally want to be. We'll talk more about that in the next chapter.
We need additional education if we want to become top experts and help our patients quickly, efficiently, and long-term.
5. How to direct yourself as a physiotherapist?
There are many directions in the field of physical therapy and medicine. Part of the physical therapists goes in the direction of Orthopedics, part in the direction of Neurology, while others decide to work with children or direct themselves in the direction of Pediatrics.
Whatever direction you decide to take, it will be a key factor in how and with which additional education to start and in which direction to improve yourself.
We believe that to be the top expert in this business it is not enough to work with all types of patients, that is, the profession of a physiotherapist is so extensive that if you decide to work with orthopedic, neurological, and pediatric patients within your office or business, chances are that you will not be the top expert in any field. You will be average in everything.
An important factor in your career is in what direction you decide to move forward and learn. Opt for the direction of orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics or some other direction in order to be the top expert in that particular field of physical therapy and medicine.
Learn more about specializations in our blog: Types of specialization for physiotherapists
6. How to get started with additional education?
Again, depending on which direction you want to take, you will start your education in the same direction.
It would certainly be advisable to start with diagnostic education in order to be able to more precisely determine which problem exactly is bothering your patient and in which way you can most effectively help him. This is especially important if you have your own private practice as you will often have to diagnose the patient's exact problem yourself (although usually a medical doctor should do it).
Once you have established the knowledge of diagnostics, it is time to start with therapeutic education. There are a large number of therapeutic education courses and depending on which direction you are heading in physical therapy, the same direction you will go within your therapeutic education. That is, in the neurological specialization you will go with neurological education, in orthopedic specialization orthopedic education, in sports specialization sports education, and so on.
Start with diagnostic education first to know how to determine the exact problem of your patient. After you have established the diagnosis, start with therapeutic education related closely to your orientation as a physiotherapist.
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7. Which physiotherapy courses to attend?
Here we will mostly talk about education related to orthopedic and sports orientation of physical therapy because we in our do this part of the profession and we have a lot of experience in it. But we will also mention some other courses such as neurological and pediatric courses.
If you are focusing on orthopaedic and sports orientation, it is necessary to start with diagnostic education related to the assessment of orthopaedic and sports injuries and conditions. This means education related to the assessment of injuries of muscles, tendons and joints and overstrain syndromes that are very common in this direction. One of these education is Palpation Anatomy and diagnostics through which you will learn a thorough functional anatomy and palpatory diagnostics. These types of diagnostic education will significantly help you in further solving problems in patients.
After diagnostic courses, start with the most effective therapeutic courses for specialization-specific problems, which from our experience would be dry needling education and manipulations (HVLA) that will very quickly and effectively reduce pain and restore the range of movement for your patient.
In addition to the above education, it is very important to undergo education related to kinesitherapy or therapeutic exercises, which are by far the most important segment of patient rehabilitation.
High-quality neurological and pediatric courses that you can attend are Bobath, Wojta, and similar specific courses aimed at the neurological system and the development of a child or a man.
In orthopedic and sports orientation, start with diagnostic courses aimed at orthopedic and sports injuries and continue with courses for manual therapy and kinesiotherapy.
In neurological and pediatric orientation Bobath and Wojta are the highest quality courses that will give you the best results.
8. Should I open my own office?
This is an extremely specific question and will depend on your goals and ambitions for your own career as a physiotherapist.
If you plan (as we do) to work with top athletes and orthopedic patients and gain experience as quickly as possible and shape yourself as a physiotherapist, we would advise you to open your own private physical therapy practice. In your own practice, you will be able to direct the therapy in the direction you want it to go, and no one will impose their way of working on you. However, in order to be able to work independently with patients it is necessary to have some experience and knowledge and we would definitely recommend you complete numerous courses and improve your work and knowledge by working in other clinics/hospitals until you are 100% sure of your knowledge and expertise.
If you have no ambition for your own private practice and feel comfortable working in a team, a hospital, private clinic, sports clubs, and smaller private physical therapy practice are your options.
Hospitals are the worst option here in our opinion, both with working conditions, financially, and with the " expertise” with which your “mentors” in the hospital will guide you.
Private clinics can be of high quality and low quality depending on the owner and the direction of the clinic itself.
Sports clubs are a very good option for a resume, but in most cases financially they are not the best option.
Smaller private offices can be a phenomenal option if you work with highly professional and capable colleagues with whom you can progress in your career.
Your own private practice is the greatest opportunity for independent work and progress, but to be sure of the quality of your practice and work it is necessary to have previous experience and to complete quality physical therapy courses.
Alternative options are hospitals, private clinics, sports clubs, and smaller private practices that all have their drawbacks and advantages.
9. Will I be able to help all of my patients?
Unfortunately, you will not be able to help all patients. Occasionally, a patient will come to your office whose diagnosis may not be related at all to the sphere of physical therapy and medicine. And sometimes you will simply overlook the exact problem in the patient for various reasons. Maybe you had too many patients that day and you're tired, perhaps this problem is not part of your narrowest area of expertise. However, it is very important when you notice that you are not able to solve this particular patient's problem, to direct it further to a specialist medical doctor or a colleague who you think might know how to solve the problem.
Never let your ego come before the health and well-being of your patient. It's not a shame not to know, it's a shame to pretend you know and make your patient's initial condition worse.
It is impossible to help all patients for a number of reasons and if you are not sure that you can solve the problem, direct the patient to further tests to determine what exactly the problem is.
10. When does the physical therapist's education end?
Physical therapist education never ends.
We work in a profession that develops, and progresses, new research is coming, better techniques are established and problems are solved faster and more efficiently. For all of these reasons, the education of a physiotherapist never ends and it is necessary to improve and study literally until retirement.
Never allow yourself to lag behind younger and more ambitious colleagues regardless of your experience and the success of your therapies. There will always be new and better techniques, and new and better approaches and you need to learn them and improve throughout your life.
Education of physiotherapists never ends and it is necessary to learn and improve throughout your career because physical therapy and medicine are constantly changing and improving.
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