NHS Scotland Guide to Careers as a Physiotherapist

From premature babies to people in intensive care to teenagers with sports injuries – the range of patients and conditions that can benefit from physiotherapy is huge. Physiotherapists specialise in treating physical problems caused by accidents, illness and ageing, particularly those affecting the neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Working independently or with doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals, they play a key role in rehabilitation.

As a Physiotherapist, you would be an autonomous professional, with your own caseload of patients, but you would also be part of a highly skilled multi-disciplinary team. Patients would normally be referred to you by a doctor or by self-referral. You would then assess them and decide upon treatment.

Your treatment might involve exercise, movement, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy and techniques such as massage and manipulation. You would see patients in a variety of settings. Health education is also an important part of a Physiotherapist’s work.

Being responsible for assessing and treating your own caseload of patients obviously demands a high level of knowledge and expertise. Your rigorous training will ensure that you have the necessary clinical skills. However, personal qualities such as good communication skills, patience, tact and empathy, as well as the ability to work as part of a team, are also essential.

Entry Requirements
For entry to a degree course in Physiotherapy, the usual requirement is four/fivr Highers (A-B) including English and two science subjects. However, entry requirements vary between courses and alternative qualifications may be accepted – check individual university prospectuses for details.

Competition for places is fierce. Applicants should aim to observe a Physiotherapist at work before attending an interview.

If you are a graduate with a degree in biological sciences or sports science, you may be able to enrol on the MSc Rehabilitation Science course at Glasgow Caledonian University. This is an accelerated postgraduate course lasting two years. Successful completion leads to state registration.

Training consists of a recognised four-year university-based course leading to a BSc (Hons) in Physiotherapy. You would then be eligible for State Registration, which is essential to working as a Physiotherapist in the NHS.

Your training will be a mixture of theory – including subjects such as anatomy, physiology, physics, pathology and psychology – and practical work in a wide range of clinical areas.

You will gain experience in hospital departments including orthopaedics, neurology, care of older people, general medical and surgical wards, and respiratory and cardiovascular units. You may also work in obstetrics, paediatrics, burns units and with people with learning disabilities or mental illness.

In most cases, assistant posts are not yet a route to qualifying as an Allied Health Professional but further opportunities are being developed.

Career Prospects
Once you have had some clinical experience, you could specialise in any one of a range of areas, such as neurology, orthopaedics, obstetrics or working with older people.

Alternatively you could go into research or teaching, or gain promotion to a more senior physiotherapy post. You could also move into health service management.

Scottish Universities offering Physiotherapy Degrees
Glasgow Caledonian University
Queen Margaret University College
Robert Gordon University

Further Information
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy