11. Can I leave my career? Can I use these skills elsewhere?

It does feel a shame that after 30 years of work and developing a significant level of professional skills in helping people rehabilitate after injury, trauma, surgery, just becoming older and more infirm and latterly helping people adjust to and manage the physical deterioration at the final weeks and months of life, that I’m going to abandon this line of work. All this experience is going to be wasted and recently qualified physios will have to embark on the same learning process from involvement with hands-on activity and direct patient contact, interaction and feedback, developing an understanding which cannot be derived from a textbook, lecture or webpage. My tools are my hands and my brain so I do not require additional resources although sometimes they are a bonus. I thought that there may be somewhere on this planet where I could be useful, where my skills would be required and I could live in a local community at local standards along with him (his skills are from a very different base but equally useful, or so I thought).

Rehabilitation is a luxury it would seem, perhaps it is one about which we, in the Western world, are blasé. I have investigated working in developing countries but it would appear that my skills are not even required there, only medical and nursing staff. I have looked at areas which have suffered major disasters, earthquakes, tsunamis and such like and whilst my skills may not be particularly useful in the initial crisis surely all those people who have had to endure extensive surgery, fractures, spinal injuries and amputations, for example, require post-operative rehabilitation to maximise their potential to lead as normal a life as possible after such a catastrophe? I feel quite sad that 30 years of work counts for nothing for the future apart from a meagre pension. I do know that there are people both alive and dead who have obtained some benefit from my input and that was at the time, is now and will be in the future something I can look back on with a degree of professional satisfaction. However, I know more now than I ever did and literally have forgotten more than many up-coming colleagues, so it does feel like a waste not to use it. There are a wide variety of organisations promoting health and palliative care work in developing countries but most are not interested in physiotherapists beyond the treatment of back pain and other musculo-skeletal problems but that is not where my skill set lies.

Having not experienced work in these cultures I’m not in a position to sell myself as I’m not entirely sure how a rehabilitation service would fit with the resources already in place and cultural norms. But the human body is designed, damaged and repairs in the same way, wherever in the world you are born or reside. Some opportunities do exist to go on a placement but these are often aimed at the young and frequently under-graduate market for which they pay not insignificant amounts to receive the benefit of the experience whereas I want to provide the benefit of my experience. VSO has come closest to being able to match my aspirations with their requirements. However, the way they need to operate does not fit very easily with our exit strategy. I would need to be available to go, once registered, when and where a job or need arose but we are not able to be quite that flexible. There would be no guarantee that he would find suitable work in the same area despite having qualifications as a teacher – Maths and PE, then moved into IT training followed by running a software company. I can see so many transferable skills just in those three areas but they don’t seem to coincide with the places with healthcare requirements.

In many respects running a chalet in a ski resort is such a waste, indulging the affluent in their playground, but if that is required and we would enjoy that function, why not? Another option we are exploring is teaching English as a foreign language. We are native English speakers and reasonably articulate. He has his teaching qualification and training experience; I have PTLLS (!) as well as a good deal of experience of teaching patients how to self-care, relatives how to look after their loved-one, colleagues about aspects of physiotherapy in which they are interested or could participate. I am also a manual handling trainer including risk assessments for all the staff in a formal classroom setting as well as freelance. So whilst this seems, on the surface to be a complete conversion from our current roles we would be able to use some of our existing skills to enhance a task which could provide help and assistance where it is required.

Investigating this has been a mammoth task as anyone who has done so will know. There are so many different companies providing such a variety of training at various levels, locations, via different mediums with assorted assessment processes and at a range of prices. We would need a qualification that is accredited to maximise our opportunities to land a decent job but accredited by who? At what level? And who are these accreditation boards? That took further research and the more I explored the more I found. Finally getting my head round the accreditation process and accepting that the most highly accredited courses required much more extensive training than we would be able to undertake and probably designed for those wishing to take the field as a full-time career, we came full circle back to the 2 companies we found on our first ‘google’. Since when did ‘google’ become a verb?

We will need to brush up on our grammar as it is a very significant component of all the courses and we are from the early experimental period of comprehensive schools and I know our grammar is weaker than it should be despite our graduate level of education. But we are going to pursue this as we can complete most of the work on-line, with one taught weekend and hopefully fit in 6 hours of classroom experience in a 6 month period which will give us a reasonable level of accreditation and membership of an organisation which provides support and assistance afterwards to find employment in desired territories.

Aug 2013

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