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  • What are the strengths of a great physiotherapist?

    Author: Karen Keast

Key attributes for the best physiotherapists:
• Works with a holistic patient-centered focus
• Takes that “extra-step” for their patients

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• Pursues ongoing professional development
• Strong communication skills
• A team player with a passion for providing the best patient care
• Determination to improve your skills and knowledge and become a leader in the field

The jobs outlook is shining bright in physiotherapy, which is now the third largest allied health profession in Australia. But what does it take for a physiotherapist to stand out from the crowd? The answer could be as simple as having the passion and commitment to go the extra mile, writes Karen Keast.

Australia now counts 24,502 registered physiotherapists among its ranks and the numbers are expected to swell in the coming years in line with Australia’s ageing population and the increasing incidence of chronic disease.

The Australian Government has forecast employment for physiotherapists will grow “very strong” in the next few years as well as in the long term as Australians look towards a cost-effective approach to their health prevention and treatment.

Physiotherapists are the experts when it comes to movement and function, working to assess, diagnose, treat, and to prevent disease and disability through physical means.

But what does it take to be a great physiotherapist?

Australian Physiotherapy Association ACT branch president Jason Whittingham says the difference between a good and a great physiotherapist is a great physiotherapist is someone who works with a holistic patient-centered focus.

Mr Whittingham, who has worked in physiotherapy in the public sector for the past five years, says a good physiotherapist will provide a patient who has lower back pain with an assessment, treatment and a care plan but a great physiotherapist will take “the extra little step”.

“Someone who is a great physio will look at all of the different factors that could be associated with the lower back pain,” he says.

“We know persistent back pain can be linked to depression and social pressures can also be associated with it.

“A great physio would be someone that does a complete assessment who looks at the whole aspect of the person.

“If there are issues like depression, then that physiotherapist would assist that person to find access to the appropriate health care.”

Mr Whittingham says it’s vital for physiotherapists wanting to excel in their career to pursue ongoing professional development and to tap into the resources of the profession’s peak body, the APA.

“I think it’s helped me engage with the profession itself and given me those links to ongoing professional development and given me access to those experienced leaders of the profession,” he says.

“It’s linking in with colleagues and having mentors and more experienced professionals to assist in someone’s development.

“I think ongoing professional development is probably one of the biggest things you always need to strive for.”

Queensland physiotherapist Darrin Neumann, who has operated a private clinic in Queensland for most of his 28 years in the profession, says he looks for good character first and competency second when it comes to employing a great physiotherapist to add to his team of 12 physiotherapists and eight other allied health professionals.

“I really do think it comes down to the character first,” he says.

“It is a huge range of factors, it’s about their work ethic, it’s about honesty, it’s about the care factor and the desire to put into every patient that you see.”

Mr Neumann, who is also chair of APA group Physiotherapy Business Australia, says a great physiotherapist also comes equipped with strong communication skills, both with the patient and with the wider health network.

He says ongoing professional development, being a good team player and having a passion for providing client care are also all essential to becoming an outstanding physiotherapist.

“You can’t really have a low level of compassion,” Mr Neumann says.

“I think it’s really important to try and do the best you can for your patient.”

Mr Whittingham agrees.

“A great physio will be really patient-centered,” he says.

“If they won’t get it done in the one treatment they will say come back again as the issue will return if it’s not dealt with.

"Sometimes you need to step back and really take the time.”

Last, but not least, a great physiotherapist is someone determined to bend over backwards to improve their skills base and their knowledge, and in doing so, becoming a leader in their field and an ambassador of the profession.

“It takes high levels of clinical reasoning to be a great physiotherapist; so using evidence based from the research and experience and knowledge from other professionals,” Mr Whittingham says.

“Great physios look at trying to push the boundaries of the profession and explore areas that haven’t been as readily documented in the profession.

“As a result they become advocates for the profession.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords