The Council’s Board Director Mark Round shares his insights on building a successful physiotherapy career, managing several multi-disciplinary private practices, and the benefits of hosting clinical placements for physiotherapy students.
Mark Round is an experienced physiotherapist practising for over 25 years. He is Managing Director of Symmetry Physiotherapy, a multi-disciplinary physiotherapy and allied health group, currently operating across 10 sites in Melbourne, Australia. Within his private practices, he hosts third and fourth-year physiotherapy students on their clinical placements as part of completing their physiotherapy degrees.
Mark currently serves on the Board of the Australian Physiotherapy Council and the Australian Physiotherapy Association, and has made contributions to the profession in a number of other allied health and governance roles.
Today we are grateful to talk with Mark to hear about his experiences as an Australian physiotherapist.
Thanks, Mark, for chatting with us today. We know that you’ve been a physiotherapist for several years, so as we begin our conversation, we’d like to hear about where your interest in joining the Australian physiotherapy profession began and what are your great passions in life?
Mark: Thanks for allowing me to share my story. I fell in love with the physiotherapy profession as an active teenager, when I was having trouble with my knees and sought the care of a physiotherapist. I was instantly amazed and fascinated with how they were able to analyse a problem, accurately diagnose it and then help get me back to sport. I loved the science behind the thinking and the problem-solving aspects of diagnosis, followed by being able to help people. From that moment I wanted to be a physiotherapist and completed work experience in the field and strived towards getting the marks required at school to get into a physiotherapy course at university. I still love the diversity of what this profession provides to this day.
My passions in life still include being as active as possible, watching and helping my kids go through their life journeys and being an active contributor to the growth and sustainability of the physiotherapy profession.
For our readers who may not be familiar with working in a multi-disciplinary physiotherapy and allied health setting, could you please tell us what it’s like for a physiotherapist to work in one of your private practice clinics?
Mark: Working in a multi-disciplinary clinic allows for the full gamut of care for our patients, as well as a fantastic learning environment for our practitioner teams. The concept of a ‘one-stop shop’ has great appeal for the communities we work in as we can provide multiple modalities of care under one roof and with the ease of clear communication and care planning between the various disciplines.
Single discipline clinics are still a vital part of the physiotherapy and health ecosystem and relationships with adjoining disciplines can be strongly made. The future of healthcare will look at more coordinated and collaborative care so having the ability to cross-refer and co-treat will likely become more important.
Turning our attention to new physiotherapists joining the Australian profession, gaining clinical experience is a key element of Australian university physiotherapy degrees. In recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been an increasing challenge to supply enough clinical placements for students. What’s been your experience of hosting clinical placement students within private practice settings?
Mark: COVID-19 has certainly thrown up many challenges to all of our lives and physiotherapy clinical placements are definitely no exception. From chatting with many students in their final years of study, they have had placements cancelled, postponed, shortened or turned to an online experience. That being said, clinical placements are still a vital part of physiotherapy students’ education, that helps bring real-world experience to clinical practice.
Hosting clinical placements in the private practice setting is an important part of the physiotherapy education puzzle. With over 65% of students working in private practice on graduation, we need to be able to offer as many placements in private practice as possible. There are challenges with placements in private practice and they are primarily regulatory as many third-party funders (Medicare, private health insurance etc) do not allow students to treat patients. Private practices need to be creative in how they can get the students to have some practical and hands-on experiences within their placements.
We enjoy hosting physiotherapy students as they are a breath of fresh air and energy along with being equipped with the latest evidence-based practice. I feel it is incumbent on more private practices to allow for clinical placements and to help our students become closer to being work-ready.
With physiotherapists continuing to be an occupation on the Australian Government’s Skilled Migration list, one of the Council’s primary functions is to assess that international physiotherapists meet the Australian practice thresholds. As an employer within the Australian healthcare sector, what advice would you give to international physiotherapists about preparing to join Australia’s physiotherapy profession?
Mark: There is no doubt that there is a need for more physiotherapists working in Australia and this is likely to be the case for a few years to come. The Council’s process in assessing overseas is thorough and comprehensive and means that those who pass through the process have solid clinical skills and clinical reasoning.
My advice to international physiotherapists wanting to join the Australian physiotherapy community is to find out as much as possible about your chosen and preferred area of work (e.g., hospital, aged care, private practice) and get as much experience and information as possible about these areas. Where possible get some in-person experience in these areas with some voluntary observational work or shadowing at these locations.
Mark, we know that you’re a very experienced physiotherapy practitioner over many years and in various clinical settings. However, the world continues to change and impact physiotherapy, as we have seen over the COVID-19 pandemic. Could you share with us how you continue to update your knowledge and keep your skills growing and developing, to be an effective and safe practitioner, and lead the physiotherapists within your practices?
Mark: Continual clinical development is vital for the ongoing development and progression of all physiotherapists. This includes the reflections and learnings from each consultation we have with patients.
In our clinic group, we have a four-pronged professional development program and process. Firstly, we have monthly sessions (usually in person outside of COVID times) with external professionals who present in their clinical area of speciality. We also conduct fortnightly services for our recently graduated staff which is more aligned to conditions or areas of the body. Our third prong is weekly small group case reviews where difficult or challenging clinical presentations are discussed and analysed. Lastly, we have a fund for all staff to participate in some external professional development courses that help to round out our education program.
Of course, all physiotherapists should be conducting their own personal reviews of the research so they can keep up to date with the latest evidence-based research and care.
As a physiotherapist, a Managing Director of private practices and a member of various boards and advocacy groups, when you consider the future of the profession, what do you see as the key opportunities for physiotherapists to continue playing a vital role in the healthcare system and serving the broader community? How might the profession need to adapt and change?
Mark: There are many opportunities for the physiotherapy profession over the coming years, particularly as we come out of COVID, with an active population, an increasing disability market and an ageing population. There are also opportunities for considerable reform in funding models as well as models of care which will hopefully become clearer once the Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan is finalised and released. The evidence base around what we do and the standing of the physiotherapy profession amongst our healthcare peers have never been stronger and there are many opportunities for the physiotherapy profession to increase our standing, scope and reputation.
Thanks, Mark, for sharing your experiences and insights as a leading physiotherapist in Australia. No doubt this will be extremely valuable for our readers who might already be part of the Australian physiotherapy profession or preparing to become a registered Australian physiotherapist.