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  • Physiotherapy and the joy of playing a part in someone's life journey

    Author: Charlotte Mitchell

It was 35 years ago that Dr Brad McIntosh was first inspired to become a physiotherapist. And to this day, he still finds it incredibly rewarding to be in a position to make a difference in a person’s life, and to help them overcome challenges and thrive. 

“I was a very active kid, playing any and every sport that I could get my hands on!”, he told HealthTimes.

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“As a result, I spent a bit of time at the local physio practice.”

“I still remember his name, even though it was 35 years ago. It’s a bit like that schoolteacher who really had an impact on your life and you'll never forget.”

“He was caring, smart and took a genuine interest in helping me, so I thought, ‘that’s what I want to do when I grow up!’ And here I am.”

Since becoming a physiotherapist himself, Dr McIntosh finds that it’s a job that truly gives back, and he appreciates the balance it offers.

“[It’s] taking the journey with my staff and patients. I find it extremely rewarding to help people achieve their goals, whether that’s my team and their professional goals or my patients and their movement and/or activity goals.”

For Dr McIntosh, there is one case that serves as a constant reminder of why the role of a physiotherapist is so important.

“I have a patient that I first saw about 15 years ago. He’d lost his entire family in a tragic accident and started running to help him cope.”

“Unfortunately, he developed knee pain that stopped him from running and this led to a downward spiral.”

“He saw a bunch of people over a period of about 5 years, had two failed knee surgeries, treatment for chronic pain, and had basically given up when he landed on my doorstep.”

“We took everything back to basics and with a slow and methodical approach over about 18 months, he was running again.”

“Within two years, he’d completed his first 10km event and within three years he’d done a marathon.”

“I just received a photo and nice note from him after completing 250km over 7 days in one of the most gruelling running events in the world!”

“His life is back on track. He’s remarried and has 2 little girls. He’s happy, and in some small way, I played a part in that. That’s gold for me.”

Today, Dr McIntosh is the Managing Director at Sydney Physiotherapy Solutions and employs 10 physiotherapists and four support staff.

“My day is always a mix of seeing patients and looking after the practices.”

“I start at 7:30am, see roughly 10 to 12 patients, meet with 1 or 2 staff, juggle another meeting with an outside provider, make a decision or two about an issue that’s arisen, finish patient notes and referrer letters, and head home at around 6:30pm.”

“They’re pretty long days, but there isn’t much weekend work, so I find that’s a good balance. For my clinical staff, they work Monday -to Friday, 8 hours per day, mostly focused on patient management and professional development.”

He said the biggest challenge of his profession is realising that no matter how hard a physiotherapist tries, not everyone can be fully cured of their injury or ailment.

“[You have to] accept that you can’t “fix” everyone.”

“You have to come to terms with the fact that you can “help” everyone in some way, but that doesn't always mean making things perfectly better.”

“I think this is the hardest part of a good physio’s career, and we all go through it. It’s one of the reasons there’s such a high drop-out rate, particularly from musculoskeletal physiotherapy.”

“Once you understand this, and move beyond it, it’s an extremely interesting, challenging and rewarding profession.”

Throughout his career, Dr McIntosh has been motivated by two key factors: his interactions with people, and the excitement of learning something new every day.

“People, whether it’s your team or your patients, are ultimately what makes it enjoyable to go to work every day.”

“Getting to know them, to understand their goals and drivers, to play a part in helping them get there - that’s a good feeling!”

“And learning. A good practitioner, and leader, is always learning, so I try to add something to my learned experiences every day.”

Dr McIntosh offered some advice for anyone looking to pursue a career in physiotherapy.

“If you like maintaining a good balance in your life, connecting with people, movement and activity, helping and caring, I don’t think you’ll find a better profession than physiotherapy.”

“There are so many options and pathways available that you’ll find something great to sink your teeth into”, he said.

“It isn’t a highly paid profession, so you have to be prepared for that. You probably won’t make the same amount of money as you would in medicine, finance or law, but you will always feel valued and important, and that you are doing something to make people’s lives better - and that's worth a lot.”


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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.