What's it like to study... Physiotherapy

Kirsty Wright graduated from a Physiotherapy course at the University of Liverpool in 2012

'No wonder you want to be a physio with all those footballers you'll get to massage! It would make a refreshing change from the endless dirty dishes in the hospitality industry don't you think Kirsty?' My Mum said to me with a smile as I told her about my proposed career change. 

At the age of 24, I was referred to a dynamic outpatient department at one of Liverpool’s busiest hospitals, secondary to a sprained ankle I’d sustained whilst kickboxing. My friends and family thought this was unfortunate. Personally, it was the best thing I ever did, as it sparked an interest in one of the most diverse and rewarding professions within the Health service.

After undertaking an Access to Higher Education Diploma at Liverpool Community College, I was fortunate enough to gain a place at The University of Liverpool; a part of The Russell Group of Universities, which is ‘committed to the highest levels of academic excellence in both teaching and research’. As a mature student, this is first hand evidence that you don’t necessarily need to take the conventional A-level route in order to gain entrance for this programme. It is imperative to note however, that you must do your research before attempting to apply for this course, or your application will not be successful. With only 40 places per intake, it’s a competitive market.  

Liverpool as a city is dynamic, vibrant, and bursting with culture. As a Scouser born and bred, you may think bias played its part in choosing to study at this University. Well, the truth is I love my city, but this was the only course I came across that suited my learning style, with problem based learning (PBL) and tutorials being the core of study, as opposed to lecture-based modules. A further strength was that all placements were within the Merseyside area, which enabled me to commute rather than reside in temporary accommodation.

With three universities, Liverpool has a huge student population and a booming nightlife to go with it! In first year, Tuesday mornings would not have been the same without a hangover from the ‘Raz’ the night before - come on, it was only 80p a pint!

‘Sorry, I’m late!’ I cried as I fell through the door of PBL one Tuesday morning with my pink high-heeled shoes under one arm and matching clutch bag in the other. ‘My alarm didn’t go off!!’  I was telling the truth... my alarm didn’t go off because I didn’t set it!  

In all seriousness, the lecturers do understand that social aspects play a large part in university lifestyle, but they do expect you to work hard and contribute to all sessions. Embrace your social life in first year as it only deteriorates when you go on placement; I guarantee you will be exhausted. A physiotherapy degree is not one to be taken lightly; it’s an intense, three-year, full-time course where you are in at least four days per week. All sessions require preparation and there are constant deadlines. There are assignments to complete alongside placement and new languages to learn. Well that’s what I thought when I opened my first anatomy book!

At The University of Liverpool, the course is divided into two parts, the former being theory and the latter clinical practice. During the first 18 months, theory is paralleled with practical sessions, where you get a chance to practice different treatments on colleagues. Please be aware, during practical sessions you will be expected to undress to an appropriate level. Insert shocked face here!

As far as I am aware, The University of Liverpool is the only physiotherapy programme where placements are comprised a ‘hub and spoke’ model. This has been implemented to reflect demands and changes within the current clinical environment and attempts to increase the variety of clinical experience within various settings, in hope to improve versatility, flexibility and multi-team working; all of which are required to survive within a very competitive physiotherapy market.

In all honesty, this degree was the hardest thing I have ever done but, I must admit, I loved every minute. It has certainly been an emotional roller coaster, and at times I felt I was drowning in work. If it wasn’t for the continuous support and guidance from an outstanding team of staff, fellow colleagues and friends and family, I doubt I would have got through it. I am pleased to announce that hard work and dedication did pay off, as I am now the proud owner of a First Class Honors degree.    

I hope I haven’t scared you, but I wanted to display the real picture. Physiotherapy isn’t as glamorous as what it is made out to be. There is more to physio than massage and sports injuries; the truth is they don’t even scratch the surface. I’ve done my research, now it’s time for you to do yours...

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