Which physiotherapy course is right for you? Let’s look at your options in this article written in collaboration with the We are the NHS campaign.
Pursuing a career as a physiotherapist? Then it’s important to have the right knowledge and skills in order to provide your patients with the best possible care. That’s why we’re collaborating with the We are the NHS campaign to provide information and resources about physio training.
We spoke to Nicola Moore and Rachel Thomas, Senior Physiotherapists at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, to get their expert input. Let’s explore a range of physiotherapy courses that will supplement your skillset and help you to become the best physio you can be.
What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a branch of medicine that deals with restoring the movement or function of the body. To put it simply, physiotherapy is about physical treatment, so physiotherapists work on a patient’s muscles, joints and ligaments.
What does a physiotherapist do?
Physiotherapists spend their time examining patients and determining the causes of mobility problems. They’ll then recommend exercises and other interventions designed to address them. The profession is mostly hands-on working with the patient. A physiotherapist works with a patient’s needs, much like a doctor, but also incorporates aspects of massage and personal training, too.
“You could see a physiotherapist for many different reasons”, Nicola and Rachel explained, including “rehabilitation following surgery, an injury, a specific condition or chest physiotherapy.” They clarified further, “this can be inpatient, on a hospital ward, and outpatient. A physiotherapist can help you move more, gain new skills and build independence.”
Given that every patient is slightly different, tweaking your approach to who you’re caring for can speed up recovery time. That’s the role of the NHS course: Understand Personalised Care. Through it, students can learn about the impact of increasing demand on NHS services, and about how the NHS is delivering more personalised care to patients who need it.
Benefits of physiotherapy
As well as removing pain and weakness, physiotherapy benefits the patient in an indirect way by facilitating exercise and healthier lifestyle changes. For example, if you aren’t suffering from knee pain, you’ll be more likely to go for a walk.
This lowers your risk of a whole range of medical problems. We’ve covered the broader benefits of exercise in our article on the importance of exercise for health and wellbeing. Give it a read!
Physiotherapy also helps patients to recover from surgery and get discharged more quickly from intensive care. This eases the burden on the system and frees up beds for more patients. Learn about the importance of recovery in our open step about assessing patients before discharge.
There are also benefits for those working as physiotherapists themselves. Nicola and Rachel spoke to us about the best parts of their work. “Physiotherapy is really rewarding when you make a change in someone’s life. There are lots of opportunities to specialise in a huge range of areas and patient groups such as intensive care, paediatrics, orthopaedics and neurology.”
“The scope of practice for physiotherapy is expanding and diversifying with lots of exciting opportunities such as becoming a prescriber, completing courses and participating in research.”
Physiotherapist vs physical therapist
If you’re in America, you might hear the term physical therapy. This is, by and large, synonymous with physiotherapy and is generally considered the same thing. While you might have heard some people try to draw a distinction between the two, in practice, they are one and the same.
Confusing as it might be, this isn’t the only time you might find yourself tripping over the jargon. For a look at more terminology, take a look through this glossary of useful terms and concepts in healthcare. It’s part of a course on futureproofing the health workforce, from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.
Careers in physiotherapy
As a physiotherapist, you’ll have a rewarding career helping people recover, manage pain and focus on long-term wellbeing. You’ll have the opportunity to choose between exciting careers in both the NHS and the private sector.
“Be motivated and ensure it is something you want to do, as it is a vocation job”, Nicola and Rachel suggest. “Try and get as much experience and shadowing to understand the wide breadth of the physiotherapy world.”
Working as a physiotherapist for the NHS
According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, around 70% of registered physiotherapists in the UK work for the NHS. For those new to the profession, working for the NHS provides a respectable salary, a generous pension scheme, plenty of opportunities to learn and progress, and fewer barriers to entry.
The NHS unveiled its Health and Wellbeing Framework back in 2018, identifying personal health and wellbeing as key components of an effective service. The reality is that if medical professionals can’t look after their own wellbeing, they might find it difficult to look after others. In another piece, we’ve run through five online courses to support workplace wellbeing in the NHS.
To work effectively as part of the NHS, you’ll want to acquaint yourself with healthcare systems more broadly. You can do this with the help of this open step on defining a healthcare system, part of Coventry University’s course about Understanding Systems Thinking in Healthcare.
Working as a physiotherapist outside the NHS
Working outside of the NHS will mean working for a private healthcare provider or for yourself.
For those considering a physiotherapy career outside of the NHS, take a look at our detailed blog on the healthcare industry. It’s also worth acquainting yourself with the ‘wellness’ phenomenon, which is all about adopting healthy habits. For inspiration, take a look at our article on the global wellness industry.
The average physiotherapist salary
If you’re thinking of becoming a physiotherapist, it’s natural to consider how much you can expect to earn. The good news is that physiotherapists are in high demand and you’ll have great career opportunities.
The NHS calculates salaries with the help of a system of banded pay scales. As a newly qualified physio working for the NHS, you’ll sit on the NHS’s Band 5. This will put you at around £25,655 p/a. As you gain experience, you can move up through bands 7 to 8c, at which point you’ll be in a management role.
At this point, you might be earning around £75,000/year. Working in the NHS, you’ll be supporting a wide range of patients, creating a dynamic work environment that is incredibly rewarding.
Top five physiotherapy courses
To practice as a physiotherapist, you’ll need to qualify through one of the following routes: by completing a degree in physiotherapy or undertaking an apprenticeship.
Once you’ve qualified as a physiotherapist, there are plenty of opportunities for further learning. Through additional online training, you can fill any gaps in your knowledge, learn to deal with more specialised problems, and develop your practice as a physiotherapist. Check out our top physiotherapy courses below.
1. Physiotherapy Exercise and Physical Activity for Knee Osteoarthritis (PEAK) by the University of Melbourne
While working as a physiotherapist, you’ll be sure to encounter your fair share of knee injuries. This goes especially if you’re working with older patients, among whom osteoarthritis is a more common problem.
The PEAK program was devised by researchers and physiotherapists at the University of Melbourne. It allows physios to deliver care through in-person sessions and teleconferencing platforms, like Zoom.
This course brings you up to speed on the PEAK program and what it can offer. It puts a special emphasis on dealing with knee osteoarthritis and provides guidance on what kinds of exercise can help to fend it off.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Exercises for Hands by the University of Exeter
SARAH, or Strengthening and Stretching for Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Hand, is a program that’s undergone rigorous clinical trials. It’s been shown to improve both the function of the hand and the quality of life of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, can be a severely debilitating condition. It causes the synovial joints to inflame, causing problems in the hands and feet. It’s more common in older people and women. If you find that you’re often dealing with patients in at-risk demographics, this course from the University of Exeter is a great way to enhance your knowledge.
3. Cognitive Behavioural Skills to Treat Back Pain: The Back Skills Training (BeST) Programme by the University of Exeter
The lower back is a notorious source of complaints, especially among sedentary office workers. This area of the body comprises a series of intricate muscles and ligaments that, if mistreated, can become imbalanced.
The Back Skills Training Programme focuses on this area of the body. It provides physios with the tools they need to fight against common misconceptions and is informed by rigorous clinical research.
While working as a physiotherapist, you’ll inevitably spend much of your time dealing with back complaints. By investing two hours a week for six weeks studying on this online course, you’ll substantially improve the quality of care you provide for one of the most common complaints.
4. PDSAFE: Physiotherapy and Falls Prevention in Parkinson’s by the University of Exeter
An often-overlooked effect of Parkinson’s Disease is that it makes a fall more likely and more dangerous. Through the right kind of physiotherapy, it’s possible to lower the risk of this happening.
This evidence-backed course will take you through some of the conclusions of PDSAFE – a randomised control trial investigating how falls can be reduced in people living with Parkinson’s. You’ll learn about the research itself and how to apply it to your practice of physiotherapy.
5. Perioperative Medicine in Action by UCL
‘Perioperative’ is a term used to describe the time around an operation. A perioperative professional may work at various stages in the surgical process, which runs all the way from preparation to recovery and involves a range of different disciplines.
While you might not associate physiotherapy with surgery, a good physiotherapist plays a vital role in getting patients up and moving again. With the help of this course from UCL, you can enhance your knowledge of this key component of recovery.
Take a look at this open step: Mary’s story guides you through an elderly (and hypothetical) woman’s journey through assessment, to surgery, and finally to recovery.
Having the expertise to identify and address the causes of a problem can drastically improve someone’s quality of life. This means physiotherapy is a career that provides huge amounts of job satisfaction.
Our short physiotherapy courses provide a great supplement for university and on-the-job education. Through them, you can expand your knowledge and become a better physio. Whether you’re new to the profession, looking in from the outside, or you’ve been treating patients for decades, there’s something here you can benefit from.