Physiotherapist job profile
What does a physiotherapist do?
Physiotherapists help people recover with injuries sustained from surgery, illness, ageing or disability. They guide patients to improve their strength and movement and prevent further problems in future.
Physiotherapists work to diagnose the causes of injury and put together a treatment plan, sometimes including exercises, manual therapy and electrotherapy (using electrical energy as a medical treatment. They also advise on managing long-term conditions.
Types of physiotherapy
As a physiotherapist, you will treat a wide range of people, including children, sportspeople and the elderly. Some patients will need help to recover from injury or surgery, while others will have long-term illnesses. Types of physiotherapy include:
- musculoskeletal physiotherapy - treating issues such as strains, sprains, back pain and posture problems
- cardiorespiratory physiotherapy - aiming to prevent or improve the symptoms of conditions including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other cardio-respiratory disorders
- neurological physiotherapy - targets disorders affecting the nervous system, including Parkinson's, strokes and brain injuries
- geriatric physiotherapy - focusing on the complex movement needs of older adults
- paediatric physiotherapy - rehabilitating children after diseases or injury
- sports physiotherapy - working to reduce pain and reintroduce range of movement after sports injuries
- women's health - focuses on treating conditions related to the female reproductive system, childbirth, prenatal and postnatal care
- rehabilitation and pain management - introducing exercises to reduce and manage pain following surgery, injury or illness
Duties of a physiotherapist
The typical responsibilities of a physiotherapist include:
- working with patients with a variety of conditions, sometimes over a period of weeks or months
- diagnosing, assessing and treating problems
- encouraging exercise and movement
- advising patients on leading a healthy lifestyle
- keeping reports on patients and their progress
- liaising with other healthcare professionals to encourage a holistic approach to treatment
- staying up to date with developments in treatments
- being caring, compassionate, and patient.
Physiotherapist working environment and hours
Physiotherapists generally work 37.5 hours per week, which may include evenings and weekends. As an NHS physiotherapist, you will be based in a hospital, healthcare centre or GP surgery. You will sometimes be required to go into the community and treat patients in their own homes. As a sports physiotherapist, you will often work at the weekends, when sports fixtures are on. If you work in private practice, your hours will fit the needs of your clients.
Key skills to become a physiotherapist
Beyond qualifications and training, a physiotherapist job description is likely to include some or all of the following skills:
Physiotherapists need to give clear instructions and form trusting relationships with patients to encourage them to work towards recovery. They may also need to explain complex medical issues in ways that patients can easily understand. They also have to communicate clearly with other healthcare workers, relatives and carers.
Team working skills
You will need to work with other healthcare professionals (such as doctors, nurses and occupational therapists) to develop treatment plans for patients.
Time management and organisation
It is important to keep to appointments and to effectively document each patient's targets and progress.
You will need to use your knowledge to develop treatment plans and exercises to best improve patients' health.
Patience and encouragement
Physiotherapy is not about quick fixes. Treatment plans often take months - or even years- to complete. Physiotherapists need to encourage patients to be positive and patient and empathise with their frustrations.
Physiotherapy often involves physical work and you will need to lead by example by living a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit.
How much does a physiotherapist earn?
In the National Health Service in the UK, starting salaries for qualified physiotherapists range from £23-29,000. Private sector physiotherapists can earn significantly more. In a management role, you could earn up to £60,000.
Qualifications and training to become an physiotherapist
There are three main routes to choose from to qualify as a physiotherapist:
Bachelors degree - you can study for a BSc in Physiotherapy at many UK universities.
Masters degree - if you have an undergraduate degree in a related field (such as health sciences) you can study for a MSc in Physiotherapy.
Degree apprenticeship - you can study for a BSc in Physiotherapy while working in a registered practice.
Physiotherapist career path
As a physiotherapist, you will have a range of options for career progression and specialisation. Some physiotherapists split their time between different job roles.
If you choose to work in the public sector, you could work in a variety of departments including occupational health, orthopaedics and intensive care. You may work in a hospital department, a GP surgery, or a care home. You could also specialise in sports therapy, becoming the resident physiotherapist for a sports team, or help armed service veterans with rehabilitation.
Working in the private sector, you will have the opportunity to take on your own clients and, if you choose, open your own practice after you have gained enough experience.
How to become a physiotherapist
Read more about becoming a physiotherapist, including what you need to study and how long it will take.