We sat down to have a chat with Colin McLelland about the rewards of studying Physiotherapy, how technology is changing the field and about the most exciting aspects of the programme.

Can you share one of your most rewarding experiences?  

It is very rewarding to be able to work that closely with people and to be able to help them work towards achieving what they hope to achieve. That’s very fulfilling. Work is diverse and having the ability to work in a different environment and with people with a wide range of different clinical problems is very rewarding and diverse. This includes people with neurological problems, people with respiratory problems, people with musculoskeletal problems and with a mixture of many complex issues. 

I find every person I work with I find rewarding. Because they come with an issue and I’ve just got to find out what it is, how I am going to help and the cause. I do a lot of prevention, a lot of screening, and I think being able to prevent things from happening is a great reward.  

I also work a lot with sport, so being able to work with people who have a goal or an ambition, I get to get them to that goal or ambition. So I’ve seen some horrific injuries but we’ve been able to go through that process together, sometimes working seven days a week, to get them to hit their goals. Even after their career goes by, you’ve created that relationship and understanding and you’ve educated them and then they educate other people.  

Someone’s goal might be to run a marathon or it might be to win the world cup, but equally it might be that all they want to do is be able to get off the toilet and get to the couch without any pain. They are the specific goals to the individual and that's what is important. It’s just creating what they want, and that goes back to the person-centred. I really enjoy that.  

I find every time I do it rewarding. I think that’s why you do the job. Every experience is different. 

How has technology changed the field since your training?

There are lots of opportunities to use technology within physiotherapy practice, such as directing patients to APPs for education or promotion of physical activity or using video conferencing facilities to connect with patients in remote areas. The pandemic has allowed us to embrace this further and we have embedded this into the programme, developing Physiotherapists for now and the future. However, a lot of the key, core skills are the same. It’s about problem solving, it’s about being analytical, it’s being able to analyse movement. Technology comes and goes, and there are certain fashions that come in and out of physiotherapy, but those core skills have not really changed.  

Communicate, show care and compassion, and if you don’t do that then you’ve lost it. It’s those problem solving skills and the game that you play to try and figure it out.  

I worked for Hibernian Football Club, where we are able to treat from initial injury all the way through to return of play. I am a great believer that it is not the amount of resources that you have available but how you use them and makes them appropriate to that individual.   

Most of our job is educating the patient. It’s about understanding how you’re going to prevent the issue from happening again in the future. Even though I work in private practice, I don’t really want to see patients coming back over and over again. I want them to go away and understand and then not have that issue again. 

Can you describe the different fields that physios can work in?

Physiotherapists can work in acute settings, and that could be working in a hospital, in an intensive care unit, or working in a ward setting. They can also work in rehab setting or working with people with more long-term health conditions. They can also work in community settings, going into people’s homes and working with them. We work in the NHS or in private practice, in an outpatient clinic setting, or in a sports setting. And they’ll be working with people with a range of problems. You can work in industry, you can work in research, you can work in education. And you’re also working with the whole population from babies right up to the elderly. It’s the whole range. Indeed our placements cover these wide and diverse settings allowing our students to have a very well balanced and employable portfolio. 

This also includes working with the third sector, working with charities, the military and professional sports teams. There are so many opportunities. The job is diverse.

What are you most excited about with this new course?

We started with that blank canvas. Being able to listen to and respond to the needs of service users, practitioners, managers, and to be able to look at things differently and try to be innovative in our approach. We want our graduates to be able to push boundaries, look at things differently, and have a big role in taking the profession forward. It’s exciting to start something new without the constraints of what was already there. 

That’s a real strength of this programme is that we’re able to develop it with other professions throughout the programme learning key skills together. We’re preparing graduates to go into that work force having a really good understanding of their colleagues’ professional roles and boundaries. It’s not just an add-on at the end.  

The Simulation and Clinical Skills Centre gives us lots of opportunity to give the graduates real practical, hands-on experience. They’ll be able to work with simulated patients, work with the nursing programme, and have a simulated ward set-up. We can give graduates a real range of different experiences, which I think will be really exciting about this programme. 

Our teaching team is really passionate about developing future colleagues because that’s what they are. Being able to influence someone to go out and do a job that we all love, that’s what we’re really looking forward to. And working together in this integrated approach is fantastic.