Monday, 02 March 2020 06:47

Personal Development Planning in Physiotherapy

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A physiotherapy career usually starts with a entry level degree in physiotherapy which can be a Bachelor's program e.g. Bachelors of Physiotherapy in India, BSc Physiotherapy in UK or Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) in USA. Most physiotherapists enter the profession with the aim of being a clinician. However with a field as vast as physiotherapy, as we develop and learn more, we become aware of the ever growing list of specialisations within physiotherapy (musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiorespiratory, sports, geriatric, paediatric etc.).

But as we developed scientific expertise, as a profession, physiotherapy has moved from being a directed to an autonomous evidence based profession which means now there are masters and PhD programs in physiotherapy leading to research & academic careers. With the growth of franchisee models, lots of clinicians have adopted the entrepreneurial approaches and established large chains of physiotherapy clinics. These require management, leadership, business development, sales and marketing as well as operational skills. Then we have physiotherapists who have used innovative approaches to develop online presence, gathering large following, delivering online education etc. The point I am trying to make is that physiotherapists are no longer just clinicians, but also have a variety of other roles to aspire to and develop into. 

So how do we move from a junior clinical physiotherapist to a post doctoral researcher with multi-million grants or to a successful entrepreneur with multi-million dollar chain of physiotherapy clinics? The answer is in visioning. Visioning is the action of developing a goal for the future (e.g. where do you see yourself in 10 years). Whilst I will be discussing visioning in a separate article, a key element of success of any vision is development of a strong action oriented personal development plan. 

Why every physiotherapist need a Personal Development Plan?

So let's start with a definition of personal development plan. Its exactly as it says on the tin.. its your personal (i.e. bespoke to you) plan for career growth and enhancement. Whilst I am talking about PDP in the context of career, it can be utilised in all aspects of our lives e.g. personal relationships, sporting activities etc.  Without a personal development plan (PDP), a physiotherapist will move through their career rudderless and being directed by the river of life. Its like trying to build a house without an architect's plan. Whilst it can be done, we would not consider it good practice. So why would we as a physiotherapy professional move through our career without a plan? At each stage of our life we have aspirations and dreams of what we want to do, what we want to achieve. PDP helps put that in a formal, structured documented plan which we can follow to ensure success. A good plan provides focus; it helps you map out a path towards your version of success; it allows you to make better decisions, and it prevents you from taking backwards steps. A good plan also allows you to strategise and get back on track when things do go wrong. 

Developing a physiotherapy Personal Development Plan

In the following paragraphs, I present a structured format of developing a PDP. 

a. Set out your big, hairy, audacious goal: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? For early career physiotherapists, 3-5 years may be more apt while as we grow and develop and have established pathways in your career, longer goals (e.g. 10 years) can be set. This is a broad vision of what life would be like for you in terms of your professional practice (will you be working in clinic, in a large hospital, would you go into teaching, etc.). The important element is that it should be big, broad, enormous, perhaps scary. As Azim Premji said 'If people are not laughing at your goals, your goals are not big enough'. What will make you feel that you have achieved success? There are no right or wrong answers. Everyone has their own definition of success. So take time to think that if you acheived everything you could acheive, where would you like to be professionally in 3 years time or 5 years or whatever time period you want to work towards. Remember it is your big, hairy, audacious goal. 

b. Break the long term goal into short term goals: Let's imagine that Peter, at the end of his MSc Physiotherapy thought that he would like to emulate one of his professors and have a career in academia. Now this is a long term goal which will take several years to complete (~7-10 years perhaps). Most Universities nowadays require a PhD for the positions of lecturers. So the pathway for Peter is clear, he has to obtain a PhD as the first step. Then gain teaching experience whilst he is completing his PhD whilst also developing a body of research publications and presentations as these are another requirement for a career in academia. So we have three short term goals: Getting a PhD, Obtaining Teaching Experience, develop a body of research publications on our path to acheiving the big, hairy audacious goal. 

c. Determine specific activities:  Once we have our short term goals (though getting a PhD is in no way a short term activity!!), the next step is breaking this further down into more specific activities. In order to obtain a PhD, there are several steps such as identifying your research interest, finding the appropriate PhD program and supervisor, searching for funding, application for the PhD physiotherapy program, interview, selection and admission. In all these steps, we have only got so far as the University for our PhD in physiotherapy. We still have to start the research program, pass through the stages of PhD, complete the research program, write up the thesis and clear the thesis defence. So as you can see, each aspect can be broken down into further more manageable chunks. Like someone said, how will you eat an elephant? One piece at the time. 

d. Undertake a SWOT Analysis:  Once we know where we want to go, the next step is how can we get there. But we can't define how we can get there before understanding what our current strengths and weaknesses are. A SWOT analysis is an analysis of our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Weaknesses. You can download my personal SWOT Analysis template here. Strengths in context of personal development are about aspects that can take you closer to your long term goals e.g. even if you have just completed your MSc, but you presented your dissertation findings at an international conference and have submitted your paper for publication. This will be a massive strength in terms of being able to take the next step to getting admission into a PhD program as well as gaining scholarship. However, if you are not internet savvy and therefore don't really know how to search for research grants for which you may be eligible, that would be a weakness. If you are able to find a mentor who is willing to share their knowledge and experiences to help guide you, that is an opportunity. Threats can be something that can derail your process and may stem from your weaknesses. In the example above, if you don't know how to search for the grants, you may not find funding for your PhD which can delay your PhD until you are able to get the funds sorted.  

e. Planned Action: So far we have set out our big, hairy, audacious goal, then broken it down into small chunks and undertaken a SWOT analysis to establish our current position. Now its time to get into the nitty gritty of things. So looking at each of the specific activities, its important to put deadlines for these, when do these need to happen, what milestones need to be achieved along the way, what resources or support will you need? How and where you can get this support from whether it is financial, tools or mentors or anything else. By doing this, you will have a clear cut idea of what needs to be done to acheive your goal, by when, how you can utilise your strengths to maximise your chances and use appropriate support networks to minimise your weaknesses. You can download my personal Personal Development Plan template here. Once the plan is ready, its time to take massive action and implement the plan. 

f. Review progress: A plan on its own isn't worth the paper it is written on.  It is important to review it on a quarterly basis. Its important to keep hold of the vision and the big, hairy, audacious goal, to remember why we are doing what we are doing. It is also important to reward ourselves for wins when things are going to plan and we have stuck to our actions and achieved success in short term goals as it motivates us to achieve higher. But its also important to remember that we will occasionally suffer setbacks, things might not go to plan and we may have to be flexible to allow life to take its course. In such moments of weaknesses, having a goal is important as it helps refocus our mind. It is also important to reflect on what went wrong, why it went wrong, how we could have done things differently and how we can avoid such instances in future. We will also sometimes be lured by other things, activities which are not within the plan (e.g. a shiny new course or a certification). In such moments, it is important to ask ourselves the question - will it make my boat go faster? Meaning, will it help me move towards my goal.. if the answer is yes, go ahead and pursue that activity but if the answer is no, then hold back and reflect why you want to invest your time and effort in a certification or course which will not help you achieve your goal. 

In summary, physiotherapy is a very rewarding profession which endless possibilities for development and growth in clinical, research, academia, business and entrepreneurship and countless other paths. In order to achieve your big, hairy, audacious goal, it is important to have a personal development plan for each physiotherapist and stick to the plan. 


Read 6164 times Last modified on Wednesday, 04 March 2020 16:48

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