My journey to become a physiotherapist began as a 17-year-old with a visit to a family friend’s workplace. She was working as a paediatric physiotherapist in the community, and I saw first-hand the life changing work of a physiotherapist, and the unique combination of health and educating patients within the one profession.
Fast track 37 years later, and I am currently a paediatric physiotherapist, a business owner who employs 17 staff, the Chair of the Australian Physiotherapy Council and Vice President of World Physiotherapy.
Having invested and dedicated so many years of my working life into this profession, I reflect on the pride and gratitude I feel to be part of the Australian physiotherapy profession. Why am I still passionate and committed to this profession?
One of the elements I love about Australian physiotherapy is the variety of settings where we practice and treat patients. From private practices, to remote and rural settings, in metropolitan hospitals, sporting environments and aged care facilities – you will find Australian physiotherapists caring for and treating patients who face all sorts of health conditions, disabilities and situations. As first contact practitioners, we’re on the front line of seeing patients, helping with their health challenges and providing treatments to bring them a greater quality of life, so they can seamlessly participate at work and in their communities, with their peers, family and friends.
Our Australian profession is known around the world for its exemplary standards, both in education and practice.
This high standard of education gives our community great confidence that our graduate physiotherapists have the necessary skills and are safe to practice at a graduate level across Australia.
Australian universities are preparing students to be evidence-based practitioners, using sound clinical reasoning, knowing how to source current information on best practice, whilst being excellent communicators with their patients and other health professionals. We know from the profession, from Ahpra (the health regulator), and from the universities themselves, that graduate entry level physiotherapists ready to practice in Australia need to be digitally savvy, culturally aware, and understand the diverse places and unique situations where health and rehabilitation is delivered.
The standard and calibre of our physiotherapists is connected with our desire to continue improving our clinical practice through research, innovation and ongoing professional development.
Workforce data indicates that the Australian health workforce, as it relates to physiotherapists, will not grow sufficiently within our borders to meet the needs of our Australian population as it ages. The need to employ physiotherapists and other health professionals from overseas will be incredibly important to deliver health services to the Australian public. Employing overseas qualified health professionals promotes a beautiful cross fertilisation of knowledge, skills, and ways of practice. We know the Australian public which is diverse, feels comfortable and enjoys being treated by a diverse profession. So, the Council, as an assessing authority, ensures that physiotherapists who come from many places, are fit to practice at a level that is in line with entry-level physiotherapists graduating from Australian universities. This helps the Council to maintain and safeguard the safety of the Australian public.
Our profession recognises the diverse backgrounds and stories of practitioners who have trained in Australia or abroad, and celebrates the richness of this diversity. Along with key leaders in the profession, we are committed to facilitating culturally safe environments for greater participation of Indigenous practitioners.
Australian physiotherapists are recognised as being willing and open to share from our experiences, and to work collaboratively with physiotherapists and physical therapists in other countries to improve the quality of physiotherapy standards of education and practice.
In recent years, the Council has helped to establish an international network of physiotherapy regulation and accreditation stakeholders, called the Physiotherapy Regulation and Accreditation (PRA) network. PRA provides opportunities for these stakeholders to collaborate, share experiences and support the standards and practices of the physiotherapy workforce around the globe.
The motivation for joining this profession as a 17-year-old continues to spur me on today – the belief that as a physiotherapist I can make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of my patients’ and their families’ lives. I’m honoured to be part of the Australian physiotherapy profession which consists of amazing and competent individuals who continue to serve our community, advance the quality and access of healthcare for all and transforms patients’ lives daily. That’s why I’m an Australian physiotherapist!