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Your physiotherapy career – the next step

Looking to advance your career as a physiotherapist? There's a range of avenues open to you, from specialisation to taking on a management role.

With new multi-disciplinary models of care and increasing use of self-referral, physiotherapy plays a hugely important part in modern healthcare. As a result, opportunities for career advancement have increased significantly. But how do you decide what's best for you? And how do you ensure you're best placed to take advantage of the wide range of physiotherapy job opportunities available?

If you're working in an NHS setting, you're probably already receiving clinical supervision and mentoring support to encourage reflective practice. The next step is to put together a personal development plan, perhaps in consultation with your mentor. This will help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and decide what your goals are, for example whether a particular specialisation could be the way to go or you feel ready to take on more responsibility in a management role.

It's also worth familarising yourself with the professional framework published by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). It contains a wealth of information on the values, knowledge and skills you will need to take your career to the next level. The CSP also has an online list of available post-qualifying study programmes, ranging from injection therapy to neuromusculoskeletal physiotherapy.

If you're working in an NHS hospital, there will be a defined career path. This may take you into specialist care, such as geriatrics or pediatrics, and then on to advanced level practice, which can include taking on responsibilities previously undertaken by doctors, such as requesting investigations, minor surgical procedures and referring patients for major surgery. As an advanced practitioner you can join the Advanced Practice Physiotherapy Network (APPN), which offers networking and learning opportunities.

Another option is to move into a management role, either within physiotherapy services or in general health service management. As well as providing leadership to team members, you will be responsible for strategy, budgets and cost control. Many of the skills used every day by physiotherapists are transferable to a management role, for example effective communication, good decision-making and analytical ability. The CSP runs a Leadership Development Programme to help members develop key skills and knowledge.

Research is another possible route for career progression. As well as funded research programmes, there are some charities, such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society, who offer full-time research posts. Alternatively, you can combine research with a clinical career pathway. The Council for Allied Health Professions Research (CAHPR) has regional hubs which can provide you with more information about research opportunities.
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