One-hundred days in ‘the’ office. A personal account of the transition from clinical practice to academia by Paul Sealey

I qualified as a Physiotherapist in 2005 from the University of the West of England, Bristol. In 2005 there was a distinct shortage of physiotherapy posts, largely brought about by a rapid increase in intake numbers and additional undergraduate courses being provided. At the point of qualifying I wasn’t sure if physiotherapy was the path that I wanted to take and therefore initially hadn’t applied for any jobs. Having realised that a BSc in Physiotherapy failed to open many doors, the low point coming when I failed to get a job in a call centre due a lack of IT qualifications, I thought it might be time to try out this profession. I remember going to a wedding (one of many all physiotherapy couple weddings) and a friend mentioned a band 5 position going at Ashford Hospital. So, I sent off my CV to the Superintendent Physiotherapist at Ashford Hospital and managed to get an interview and secure my first job. Hooray! It was only once I started that I realised that my friend worked at the Ashford Hospital in Kent, whilst I had applied to the Ashford Hospital in Middlesex! Who knew there were two Ashford’s? And so my career in Physiotherapy began.

I completed my Junior rotations and secured a band 6, senior MSK post in 2007. I looked for challenges along the way and signed up to the Advanced Neuromusculoskeletal Physiotherapy Master’s Degree at King’s College London (KCL) in 2011. Anyone who has completed a MSc will know how challenging it is and so it proved. My working week was two long days at KCL and three long days at work. Every evening and weekend spent studying for 2 solid years. I will always say that the MSc is a team effort and if it wasn’t for my then Girlfriend, now Wife, Gemma I wouldn’t have made it through. She was fantastic at keeping me on track and supportive when my social calendar become over run with the MSc. During the MSc we also decided to buy our first house and get engaged, just to make the experience less stressful!! To my surprise what I enjoyed most about the MSc was the research component. The 5am starts to get into London to complete data collection prior to 9am lectures paid off and I received a distinction for my work, the MACP student award and subsequent publication in Physiotherapy.

This interest in research continued. During my MSc I was also promoted to a Band 7, clinical specialist/team leader position. This promotion alongside the MSc, buying a house, getting engaged and planning a wedding really helped the grey hair production, to which I’m very grateful! As a band 7 I had a specialist interest in shoulder pain and treatment, particularly rotator cuff tears. These pathologies seemed so common and somehow responded well to physiotherapy or surgery. I became an ESP (Extended Scope Practitioner), or Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioner as it is more commonly known now and continued to question surgical input and promote physiotherapy for these patients. I published a paper in 2016 ‘Rotator cuff tears: is non-surgical management effective’ a narrative piece with Dr Jeremy Lewis. This paper highlights the difficulty in assessing the link between symptomology and pathology with similar outcomes obtained with both surgical and conservative management.

So, in Easter 2017 I saw a position advertised for a Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy at Coventry University advertised. It seemed perfect, I have a love for teaching and research, and it provided an opportunity to move closer to family, something that I feel is incredibly important now that I have a family of my own. So here I am having now completed 100 days in ‘the’ office.

So what have I found difficult/challenging?

I think the biggest challenge has been organising myself. As a clinician I was used to 17 patients daily, one every 30 minutes with a 30-minute lunch (if I had time). My time was organised and now I’m in control of my own diary. Before you know it you can be swamped with work which makes it difficult but important to say ‘no’ at times. You have to be strict with your time. The other challenge has been the teaching, delivering material produced by someone else, making it your own, making each session interesting but at the right level for the audience is very difficult, particularly when I teach for all levels of undergraduate and post graduate study. Having said that, what a fantastic team I’ve come into, they have offered so much support it has been great. Are there days when I think I should have stayed in clinical practice? Of course, but I need to remember that this is a big change. Moving to a new organisation or just moving a job within the same organisation is a challenge. It takes time for the change to become the normal and it takes time to get to the level you wish to be at. Therefore, coming into a new job in a new organisation will take time to become comfortable and time to reach levels I feel I should be at.

 

What am I looking forward to?

Physiotherapy to me is a profession in the ascendency. There are more advanced roles being created where physiotherapists are now not only referring for imaging but completing imaging themselves and independently interpreting these images. More physios are injecting and have taken up independent prescribing rights. At all levels a greater number of Physiotherapists are needed to deal with the service demand both from an ageing and growing population but also due to the growing reputation of the profession. Therefore, I am really excited to be involved in both the undergraduate and post graduate courses at Coventry University. In terms of the undergraduate course we have one of the top-rated courses in the country. We are currently going through our 5-year review to revalidate the course for the start of the 2019/2020 academic year. This brings exciting challenges to ensure we have the course fit for the developing occupation. In terms of the post-graduate MSc course there are some great modules including Extended Scope Practice and Injection Therapy. These modules are really geared up to progressing clinicians to advanced levels whilst the MSc as a whole challenges thoughts and beliefs and aims to develop advanced clinical reasoning skills for a person-centred approach.

 

Exciting and challenging times ahead and I’m looking forward to being apart of it!

 

Paul Sealey MSc BSc (Hons) MMACP MCSP HCPC

Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy