What do physiotherapists do?
- Physiotherapists help people of all ages, who are affected by injury, illness or disability, through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice
- Physiotherapists identify and maximise movement potential through health promotion, preventative healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation
- Physiotherapists help to encourage development and facilitate recovery, enabling people to remain active and independent for as long as possible
- Physiotherapists work in a variety of specialisms in health and social care. Additionally, some physiotherapists are so involved in education, research and service management
Which areas do physiotherapists practise in?
- Many physiotherapists work within hospitals; here they are needed in virtually every department. From musculoskeletal outpatients to intensive care, where round-the-clock chest physiotherapy can be vital to keep unconscious patients breathing. Hospitals often have physiotherapy gyms, hydrotherapy and high-tech equipment so that specialist therapy can be carried out
- Nowadays, more physiotherapists work outside the hospital setting, in the community. Treatment and advice for patients and carers take place in their own homes, in nursing homes or day centres, in schools and in primary care centres
The following are just a few examples:
- Hospital outpatient clinics
- Sports clubs
- Private clinics
- Hospital wards, including intensive care, acute medicine, orthopaedics, day surgery
- Women’s health
- Neurological rehabilitation centres
- Elderly care homes
- Palliative care and hospices
- Paediatrics, including special needs schools
- Mental health facilities
- Cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation
What are the different career opportunities/jobs available in your sector?
Physiotherapy in the Gibraltar Health Authority – In the GHA, physiotherapists work in a number of different areas and are categorised into the following four teams:
- In-patient team
This team provides physiotherapy services to all in-patient wards within St. Bernard’s Hospital. Working closely with medical staff and allied health professionals, the in-patient team are involved in the assessment and treatment of patients with respiratory and physical problems across all the wards, including the intensive care unit. Patients who have had both orthopaedic and medical surgery may also require physiotherapy to help their recovery. Whether it is through the improvement of mobility and functional activity after repair of a broken bone or joint replacement, or teaching someone breathing techniques to maintain clear lungs after abdominal surgery. In-patient physiotherapists play a key role in the early rehabilitation and discharge from hospital. The team are also involved in providing neurological rehabilitation to patients who may have suffered a stroke.
- Musculoskeletal outpatient team
The outpatient physiotherapy team receive referrals from GP’s, orthopaedic consultants, specialist nurses and A&E doctors, for people with all types of musculoskeletal pathologies. Patients are assessed by the physiotherapists to diagnose their problems and are then given exercises, advice and/or receive manual or electrotherapy treatment, to correct their problems. Various exercise classes also run in the physiotherapy department gym. Patients are reviewed regularly to progress their exercises as their condition evolves. Outpatient physiotherapists also play a role in trauma clinics, run by orthopaedic consultants, giving advice and exercises to those who have suffered a traumatic injury. There are on average 600 appointments made every month to the outpatient team.
- Adult community team
The adult community physiotherapists see patients away from the hospital setting, if someone is physically unable to get to the hospital for treatment. Patients vary in levels of mobility, from the very ill who have become bedbound at the end of their lives, to those who are normally fit and well who are recovering from surgery. Community physiotherapists can practise tasks that the patient finds difficult away from the hospital, such as walking outdoors, using stairs, getting in and out of bed, getting on buses etc. For the less mobile patient, community physiotherapists can teach the patient’s family, or carers, exercises to perform. A community physiotherapist will also look at the environment where someone lives to ensure they are not at risk of falls. The team here also helps to run the cardiac rehabilitation class and lead falls prevention classes and neurological rehabilitation groups, catering for conditions like multiple sclerosis, motor neurone and Parkinson’s disease. They also see patients at the Ocean Views mental health hospital. Community physiotherapists work closely with occupational therapists, social workers, GP’s and district nurses to ensure patients have access to all services from home.
- Paediatric team
The paediatric physiotherapy team treats children and babies. They can treat a wide variety of conditions ranging from flat feet to developmental delay. Paediatric physiotherapists work in a variety of different locations, including the primary care centre, hospital, mainstream and special schools and in some cases the child’s home. Therapy for young children has to be age appropriate. For example, toys and play can be used to encourage the type of exercise or movements that the physiotherapist is seeking. Children may be seen individually, or within groups, depending on their needs. Physiotherapists work closely alongside other paediatric team members such as paediatricians, health visitors, occupational therapists, speech therapists and educational psychologists.
Physiotherapists also have a major role in orthotic and prosthetic clinics, which run frequently in the department.
Job progression within the department:
- Senior II physiotherapist (rotational)
- Senior I physiotherapist
- Advanced physiotherapy practitioners
- First contact practitioners
- Physiotherapy services manager
Physiotherapy assistants (non-qualified) also help the physiotherapists in the department, with both clinical and non-clinical duties.
What’s interesting/fun about your sector/industry?
The use of the title ‘physiotherapist’ is protected. This means that only those registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) can use it. You must have a qualified degree in physiotherapy in order to apply for registration with the HCPC. This gives the public a measure of confidence that those practising in the physiotherapy profession are safe and adequately trained.
Why should a young person want to work there?
Physiotherapy is a profession which ‘opens many doors’ and offers you a variety of flexible employment options. The role is highly rewarding as it provides the opportunity to make a positive impact on a person’s life. One of the best things about physiotherapy is the unpredictability of each day, as no two days will be the same.
The physiotherapy department in the GHA, despite being a very busy and professional environment, provides a safe and enjoyable place to practise as a physiotherapist. The department has become more dynamic and flexible in recent years, facilitating the opportunity to manage the work-life balance.
The scope to progress from senior II to senior I, or specialise as an advanced physiotherapist in an area within the GHA is limited (compared to working in the NHS). However, there are equal opportunities to develop knowledge and skills, by rotating within the key areas of the profession and attending internal and external courses.
What skills/qualities do you seek in someone wanting to join your sector?
- Time management, organisation and flexibility
- The ability to build a rapport with patients from a variety of backgrounds and communicate with their relatives and carers
- Tolerance and patience
- Respect and empathy
- Good physical health and fitness
- Interpersonal relationships
- Team working and work ethics
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking and problem solving
- Observational skills
- Understanding of the human body, motor function and disability
- IT skills
What is demand looking like in your sector? How do you think this will change in the future?
Our physiotherapy department relies heavily on over sea applicants due to shortages in local trained physiotherapists. At present, we have under graduate and postgraduate prospective students who are gaining the training and experience they need to be able to join the GHA work force. To ensure a robust service in Gibraltar, we will need to continue attracting more people into the profession.
What is the approximate salary range people can earn?
- Physiotherapist senior II grade £32,208 – £42,439
- Physiotherapist senior I grade £39,754 – £47,474
- Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioner £41,697 – £54,482
- Consultant Physiotherapy Roles £56,164 – £65,262
Note: physiotherapists also earn extra allowances for working on the on-call rota
What career pathways are available for a young person wanting to join your sector? (University and non-university routes)
University entry requirements:
- Five GCSE’s (or equivalent) including English, Mathematics and Science
- Three A’ levels, including at least one Science or Physical Education
**You will need to achieve high grades, e.g. ABB/BBB. It is essential to check the entry requirements of the university/universities to which you wish to apply. Different universities ask for different grades and/or different A-level subjects**
Applications for degree programmes are submitted via UCAS.
- Training consists of a recognised three or four year university-based course, leading to a degree in Physiotherapy
- Other routes into the profession involve a degree in a related subject i.e. sports science, sports rehabilitation etc. with a subsequent two year masters course in Physiotherapy
On completion of your degree and/or masters in Physiotherapy, you would then be eligible for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which is essential to working as a physiotherapist in the NHS or GHA.
Post-university requirements to work in the GHA:
A minimum amount of 18 months full-time work experience (post-graduate), in an NHS trust is required before returning to work at the GHA physiotherapy department.
Any advice to a young person wanting to join your sector?
Before you invest time and money into pursuing a degree, or other training, it is equally important to try to figure out if physiotherapy is the right career and right fit for YOU. Therefore, it is important to get a good understanding of what being a physiotherapist entails and to consider if physiotherapy is aligned with your interests, personality, and life goals.
If physiotherapy is a career you think you would be interested in pursuing, we recommend taking on many different observational or volunteering opportunities within physiotherapy, to help you gather a better understanding of the profession.
Job shadowing is a great way to learn about a potential career in physiotherapy as you can gain valuable, first-hand experience of what a typical day looks like for a physiotherapist. Volunteering is another method of gaining experience, as it allows you to work closely with a physiotherapist, interact with patients, and potentially be given responsibilities that help give you a glimpse of what it would be like working as a physiotherapist.
Gaining experience prior to applying for university can allow you the time to gain vital experiences that can help you stand out among other applicants when the time comes to apply to a physiotherapy program. The physiotherapists you come across may also become valuable references for your physiotherapy degree application or for future jobs.
Pursuing a career as a physiotherapist can be very rewarding. It is a challenging and diverse field that will require hard work and dedication. If you are passionate about helping people to regain their health, then this may be the perfect career for you.