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My journey as a Chartered Physiotherapist: From hospitals to private practice

My name is Tara, and I am a Chartered Physiotherapist. I qualified 27 years ago—scary! I started my career working in hospitals in England and Ireland, gaining invaluable experience. For the past 19 years, I have run my own private practice in Arklow, Co. Wicklow.

I always wanted to be a physiotherapist, and to this day, I love my job and have never regretted my career choice.

Early career in hospitals

I loved my time working in hospitals and gained invaluable experience as a hospital-based physiotherapist. However, when I had my children, I decided to set up my own private practice to have more flexibility as a mother. The opportunity came unexpectedly. One day in 2005, my local GP called and asked me to set up a practice immediately, as the area desperately needed a qualified Chartered Physiotherapist. Jokingly, I told him, “No problem, I’ll do it straight away!” His call planted a seed, and after some deliberation, I opened Arklow Physiotherapy Clinic later that year.

 

Running my own Physiotherapy practice

Running my own practice keeps me very busy, as I handle all the clinic duties myself. It can be quite stressful at times, especially trying to see everyone who needs an appointment within the week. Organisation is key, as I strive to avoid saying no to anyone, particularly those in pain. Fortunately, most people are understanding if I can't fit them in immediately, and they are willing to wait.

 

The profile of my patients

I've been fortunate with the patients I've had over the years, many of whom return with different injuries. Building relationships with them and truly listening to their stories is the most rewarding aspect of my job. However, one of the hardest parts is becoming deeply involved in a patient's recovery only to discharge them and never hear from them again. I often wonder how their lives have progressed.

 

The rewards and challenges of being a Chartered Physiotherapist

Being a Chartered Physiotherapist is immensely rewarding, but it can also be physically tiring. By the end of a busy week, exhaustion is inevitable. Additionally, the job can be mentally and emotionally draining, as it often involves helping people through difficult times. Physiotherapy is about caring for the whole person, not just treating a broken ankle or a sore shoulder. Rehabilitation can be mentally challenging for many patients, so having a trusted professional to support them in their recovery is crucial. This holistic approach is essential in fostering both physical and emotional healing.

 

My approach to Physiotherapy treatments

Physiotherapy, especially in private practice, is ever-evolving. While there are always new treatments and trends, I strongly believe in basic manual therapy and the power of touch. In my clinic, there are times when a patient arrives in significant pain, but after some manipulation, they leave feeling much better. By moving tissues, increasing blood supply, and relaxing the area, I help motivate patients to perform their own exercises, which are crucial for any condition we treat. I am a firm believer in self-management and try to empower my patients to take charge of their own recovery. If they are not fully invested, their recovery will be slower or incomplete.

Maintaining a positive atmosphere in the Physiotherapy clinic

Even on the busiest days, I make time for laughter. My patients share many funny stories, and I can't recall a day when I didn't smile or make someone else smile. I rarely make anyone cry because I don't believe in inflicting unnecessary pain. First-time patients often fear that their visit will be painful, but I frequently hear comments like, "That wasn't as bad as I thought," or "I thought you were going to hurt me!"

Collaborating with GPs and consultants

I have a great relationship with all the GPs in our area. We work together seamlessly, organising whatever the patients need. If a patient requires medication or further investigation, I simply ask the GPs, and there is never an issue. They often seek my opinion if they're unsure about a patient's needs. This close collaboration extends to consultants, who will review a patient if I think it's necessary. I couldn't provide the best care for my patients without the input and support of these professionals.

 

The importance of self-care for Physiotherapists

Physiotherapy is an incredible job. Hearing a patient say, “I’m so much better, thank you,” is deeply satisfying. Whether helping in big or small ways, it’s always rewarding. However, it’s essential to decompress and step away from work daily. Walking my dog, Bailey, helps me switch off my brain and stop thinking about the clinic and my patients. It’s easy to become absorbed in their lives, so taking time each day to detach is crucial. Learning to let go and knowing when you've done all you can is an important part of self-care.

 

The role of professional attire in Physiotherapy

Presenting yourself professionally in the clinic is key to being a physiotherapist. Scrubs are ideal for this, offering a professional look with the practical qualities we need. They must move with us, stretching and bending as we get into various positions—standing, sitting, kneeling on the floor or bed, or working closely with a patient. Elastic waistbands help with movement, and the material needs to be durable, washable, and quick-drying. As a busy mother, I appreciate that many scrubs don’t need ironing. Given the physical nature of our job, lightweight and breathable fabrics are essential, especially in the summer. I love the bright colours available. A pop of colour can make patients feel more optimistic.

I highly recommend Happythreads for their amazing selection and versatility. My only regret is that their scrubs last so long that I don’t need to order more often!

 

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