When I started my physiotherapy degree, I never wanted to leave the classroom and was anxious about going out onto physiotherapy placements. The thought of actually taking my unskilled self out into the real world of hospitals, patients, and qualified superiors unnerved me greatly. I consider myself to be outgoing and confident, but to paraphrase an (in)famous politician, there are things I know, things I know I don’t know, and things I don’t know I don’t know. It seemed to me that going out on placement would bring me up close and personal with all of my ‘unknown unknowns’.
It turns out that physiotherapy placements are like university plus. Of course I’m not as skilled as the qualified physiotherapists that mentor me. Of course I find myself in situations where I don’t know what to do; I find myself in them frequently. But that is the point. Placements are an un-paralleled opportunity to learn from everybody around you, be they an educator or a patient. I quickly realised this in my first year placement and that understanding has helped me a lot in my second year placements.
The first placement I had in my second year was in ward-based rehabilitation. When I look back to the idea of physiotherapy that I had prior to my first year, it was far removed from what I found myself doing here. However, I found it a rewarding, challenging, and enriching experience. The demographic of patients I treated were, in the main, elderly, and often at the end of a stint in hospital following a fall, fracture, or an elective joint replacement surgery. They often also presented with complex conditions related to age and lifestyle, which had to be factored in to the treatment equation.
Elderly rehab might not be the most glamorous of physiotherapy placements for some, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found I was able to develop an easy rapport with patients, some of which I saw daily over a period of weeks. I came to understand that their rehabilitation was part of the key to allowing them to be discharged safely back home as independently as possible, or into alternate accommodation if necessary. I thought often of my grandparents and the level of care I would wish them to receive as and when it is necessary. I thought selfishly of myself and how I would wish to be treated in similar circumstances. With these thoughts, it was easy to appreciate the contribution of physiotherapy to improving quality of life in its later stages.
As with all my placements so far, the physiotherapists that mentored and supported me where fantastic. Physiotherapists love to teach, and as a physio student I got to soak up as much of their experience and skill as I could. I can already see how the six weeks I spent on this placement will inform important elements of my practice in future. If you are anything like I was in the first year – nervous and worried about placements – don’t be. Physiotherapy placements are amazing. If anything, we would benefit from being on placement more often and for much longer. Concepts become less abstract with real patients, classroom learning is consolidated, and everything starts to get real. Trust me, that’s a good thing.
To be continued in 2nd Year Physiotherapy Placements: 2