Dear 4th year Physiotherapy students:
You are undertaking a degree that looks to serve the community and to add value to people we meet with regards to their well-being, in the areas of health, fitness, and performance. My colleagues and I have gone before you and walked the path you are about to undertake, and can understand and appreciate the challenges that come along the way. As a way to give back to young up and coming members of the profession, here are some handy tips we recommend to make the most of your last few months before being unleashed!
1. Learn your anatomy really well
It almost seems impossible to take in all the content you’re taught over the first 2 years of Physiotherapy. However, there’s many opportunities to apply these techniques and exercises shown in labs on clinical placements so if there’s anything I would recommend learning really well in preparation, it’s your anatomy. Draw muscles on each other, make really good flashcards, learn the quirky shortcuts of memorising attachments; do whatever you have to, so that your clinical reasoning isn’t limited by your lack of anatomical knowledge. Having this down will seriously advantage you when it comes to your assessment and treatment because you will know what you’re palpating along with the innervations and actions of muscles that may have been affected.
2. “Fake it till you make it”
This basically becomes the mantra of 4th year, at least for the first part of each rotation. Supervisors understand how daunting placement can feel as they have been in our shoes before, themselves. So don’t be afraid to try new things or hold back because you’re feeling timid in front of others because every patient you see has consented to a student, so they are giving you permission to experiment on them. Try out new things, even if you aren’t 100% certain if it will be successful; as at least you will know what does and doesn’t work. Speak confidently with every patient interaction so that they feel confident in your abilities which will further strengthen your own morale.
3. Always ask yourself why you are doing something
This can apply a little later in your placements when you’ve become accustomed to the way your placement runs so that you can really start sharpening your clinical reasoning. Don’t get too comfortable with using the same method of asking questions or assessments. Every patient will require tailored assessments as no person will have the exact same condition or pathology. If you have reasons in your head about why you want to assess or give a particular treatment, when supervisors come to ask why you are doing what you are doing, you will be able to give them an answer and also consolidate your own clinical reasoning.
4. Come up with your own method of doing things
Physiotherapy is such a young profession; it’s constantly changing and new studies are coming out all the time that often debunks what we formally believed. Within the profession, there are so many different ways to do the same thing. Therefore, try not to memorise or replicate how a supervisor does their subjective or assessment because it will be more beneficial to come up with your own style and method of doing things. There is no right or wrong way of doing something, as long as it makes theoretical sense to you or it gets you the information you need to inform your decisions.
5. Make the most of the resources and clinical educators and supervisors
Take advantage of free access to articles and journals as you don’t get this luxury after graduation and learn how to dissect an article really well and thoroughly. Pick your educators’ and supervisors’ brains as they are fountains of brilliant knowledge and as they say, “no question is a stupid question” when you’re a student. It will show them that you’re passionate and driven regardless of your level of interest in the actual placement.
Other tips would be to prioritise your own health and self-care so that you stay fit and feel refreshed to learn as much as you can each day of your placement.
All the best for the rest of the year and go and take your place in the world :)