So you want to be a Physiotherapist..? Year 3

You made it through what I believe to be the hardest year of your degree and have entered your third and final year. Believe me when I say that the final year flies by and by the time you know it you will have graduated and will be thinking about applying for your first job!

Year 3 really focusses on the skill of evidenced based reasoning as this forms the very heart of what we do as clinicians. If you would have started this process early on in your studies, as highlighted in previous blogs, then you will have a good foundation to build upon.

This blog will provide a brief snapshot of my final year at King’s College and the things that I learnt along the way that hopefully you will find useful.

Content

I found that the amount of content provided in your third year in nowhere near as much as the second (thankfully), however the detail of content and the anatomy and physiology takes a step up, so once again keep on top of your lectures and try not to fall behind.

Third year is very much a consolidation about what you have learnt over the previous two years, with case studies forming a key part of this year to enable you to build on your clinical reasoning skills.

We were also introduced to areas of such as mental health and cancer survivorship where Physiotherapists also can play a key part and for me this was an eye opener for how our skills can benefit a multitude of different people and conditions.

Dissertation

It’s fairly safe to say that everyone dreads the dissertation and it’s difficult to offer any specific advice because they vary between institutions. The advice that I would give is to start thinking about it early on in your third year as you have very few lectures about it. Typically the topic doesn’t change much year on year  and generally has the same format, so try to find out from previous syllabuses or past students and then start to generate some ideas early. It’s amazing how quickly the deadline creeps up on, particularly with placements and other things in between! Even if you were to start writing down some key points or ideas to provide a foundation for your dissertation early on.

From speaking to other people, the dissertation has normally taken the format of a scientific paper, so prior to starting yours perhaps have a look at some published literature to get a feel of the layout and terminology used that will help make your paper look more professional.

Exams

Unfortunately there is no escaping them but take comfort in the fact that once you have completed these you won’t have any more! Similarly to the dissertation it is hard for me offer specific details as universities will differ in what they want you to demonstrate. However, a common finding across the people I spoke to was the ability to be able to be able to clinical analyse and reason different case studies.

Typically this came in the form of a case study with certain observations provided, however you have to discuss the treatment plan and what evidence-based intervention you will offer, with the more detailed and comprehensive answers picking up the most marks. Fortunately we were given a rough idea of the topic, so if this happens with you then ensure you spend plenty of time prepping by reading latest systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials etc.

Placements

I had three placements in my final year, other universities vary, and the marking is much more heavily weighted towards the clinical reasoning and treatment modalities offered. Therefore it is more important on these final few placements to be able to explain to your educator what you have found in your assessment and what intervention you intend to use as a result. There are a number of guidelines out there so have a read of these before your placement as they will help you in this process.

Also, be proactive. Yes, we work in a team but we are autonomous practitioners who are responsible for their own caseload. If you don’t have an patients for an hour or so, ask to shadow someone and offer opinions on what you would potentially do in their situation, further showing your clinical reasoning skills.

Do not be afraid to ask questions / ask for help. This is absolutely key as some people in their final year feel that, as they are so close to finishing, they shouldn’t ask for help and likewise your educators should understand that you have not graduated yet and therefore should not evaluate you based on this assumption.

Lastly, try and think about where you would ideally like to work  in the future. Would it be a smaller trust local to home or would you rather work in a large trust in a city? If you can, try and speak to your placement co-ordinators to see if they can get you a placement in that area and trust. They may not be able to but there is no harm in asking, at least you can then see whether or not that trust if for you. Thankfully the placement team at King’s College are amazing and managed to get my last two placements at  trust close to home. As a result I had an amazing time, had a much better work / life balance and am delighted to say that I now work for this trust.

Job Searching

Some of my colleagues wanted to start straight away while others (like myself) had some time off. If you are keen on starting almost straight away, consider what you actually want to do when you finish – is it private? NHS static or rotational? Then start to have a look on some website such as NHS jobs. What usually happens is large trusts know when there will be a cohort of physiotherapists finishing, and therefore put job adverts up in anticipation for these new graduates. I will be explaining a little more about applying for jobs and the interview process in my next blog.

And then that’s it! You have finished your studies and now await your registration for you to be able to begin your new career. Looking back, it was a tough and at times frustrating 3 years but at the end of it all, I have met some amazing people along the way, have a career in front of me that I enjoy and that has exciting potential for growth in the future.

In my next and final blog piece I will be writing about applying for a job, the interview process, what I have been up to since graduating and what I have learnt in this short space of time.

See you next time!

Physical activity programme

A series of five online courses that comprehensively explore physical activity and the related role of physiotherapy / physical therapy