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AHPs behind the scenes: Exploring the role of a physiotherapist

Physiotherapists use their knowledge and skills to help people affected by illness, injury, or disability. Find out what it's like to be a physiotherapist in the NHS.

Who is Connor?

My name is Connor. I am a Band 6 physiotherapist in NHS Grampian. I am currently working in Musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapy. MSK conditions affect joints, bones and muscles. It can also include autoimmune diseases and back pain.  

I’ve been working as a physiotherapist for almost two years now. After doing sport and exercise science at university, I knew physiotherapy was the career for me. As a physiotherapist, we see everything from head to toe. You get a very diverse understanding of peoples’ physiology.  

MSK covers muscles and skeletons, but there are so many other aspects that impact someone’s ability to be active.  

When I was trying to understand the role of a physiotherapist, it helped me to know that somebody’s health isn’t only based on whether they are free from disease. It is in their ability to self-manage. Physiotherapy is a means of using movement to help self-manage and improve a person's quality of life.  

The skills that a physiotherapist needs are broad and often more than people think. It is important to be able to make decisions yourself.  

We need to have: 

  • effective problem-solving skills  
  • effective communication skills to help the different kinds of patients we see.  
  • being able to self-motivate patients to complete their therapy 

The most rewarding part of being a physiotherapist is seeing the improvements I make to people's lives. 

Connor’s physiotherapy career journey

In this video, Connor describes his journey to becoming a physiotherapist. He describes how a physiotherapist will treat patients who suffer from respiratory issues.  He then describes the role of physiotherapists working with patients who have orthopaedic injuries or conditions. These conditions affect bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons.  

Connor explains the role of a physiotherapist in an outpatient musculoskeletal department. This department assesses and rehabilitates injuries and conditions related to: 

  • bones 
  • joints 
  • muscles 
  • ligaments 
  • tendons 
  • nerves 

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Scene one video: respiratory ward

Connor is undertaking a ward-based respiratory assessment of a patient's breathing. He is observing the breathing pattern of a patient and listening to the sounds of air entering and leaving the lungs using a stethoscope. Based on his assessment, he advises the patient on breathing exercises. The exercises will help to:  

  • improve air entry to the lungs 
  • help to clear infected mucus from the lungs 
  • teach the patient how to breathe and cough better 
  • improve the oxygen circulating around the body 

Scene two video: orthopaedic ward

Connor is teaching a patient how to stand up and walk using two elbow crutches in a safe manner. The patient is unable to put any weight through one leg.

Connor will assess and decide on the most appropriate walking aid for the patient. He will teach the patient how to use the walking aids to support their mobility. This can be following a broken bone, known as a fracture, or after a surgical procedure. Patients will also often need to be taught how to use stairs before they are discharged from hospital. 

Scene three video: musculoskeletal out-patient department

Connor is teaching a patient with shoulder pain how to undertake a strengthening exercise using a resistance band. He is using a variety of communication skills, including: 

  • listening 
  • observation 
  • verbal feedback 
  • reassurance 
  • empathy 

These communication skills encourage and motivate the patient to complete their exercises. By completing these in the clinic, they can also use them when they return home. 

You can become a physiotherapist like Connor

Physiotherapists help people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise. They help people in many ways through their knowledge and skills. They assess patients and use manual therapy, physical activity, education, and advice to maintain the health of people of all ages. Find out how you can become a physiotherapist.

Start your journey in healthcare 

Explore more professions with 360 videos and interviews that introduce other allied health professions (AHPs).