Hip Tip 12 – Keep learning
Day 12: And sadly, we've reached the end of this series. The 12th and final of 12 Hip Tips today. I have attempted over the last 12 days to provide tips to assist with each part of the patient's journey - the patient interview, the physical examination, load management, exercise prescription, goal setting and measuring outcomes. Today, I ask you to reflect on your own journey of professional development. If you would like to review any of the previous hip tips, you can visit the blog listing page here.
Tip #12 Keep Learning!
I hope that you are working in a supportive environment that encourages open discussion and debate. For it is only when we are challenged that we reflect on our own clinical practice. There are no foolproof recipes and no black and white answers - I know that's a little frustrating sometimes! But by arming ourselves with a good foundation of knowledge, enhanced with a healthy dose of clinical reasoning skills, we provide ourselves the best opportunity to provide a high-quality, evidence-informed approach to management of musculoskeletal pain. In most cases, it will also follow that we will provide our patients with the best opportunity of a successful recovery. And success delivers contentment not only for the patient, but for the caring health professional that has tried so hard to guide their patients towards achieving personal goals and a better quality of life.
How often do you stop to reflect on your own professional goals? your professional development? What aspects of your work do you love or feel confident in? What aspects do you yearn to improve? I know in my own clinical journey, a thirst for more knowledge has underpinned all my major decisions. After working for 6 years, I returned to the University of Queensland to complete a 1 year, full-time on-campus clinical Masters in Sports Physiotherapy. When I made this decision to undertake this year of study (and a loan to afford it!), I felt I had pretty much mastered what I had been taught in undergraduate training and further developed in on-the-job learning and the relatively limited courses that were available at that time. But I knew there just had to be more. I was convinced that I should be able to achieve better outcomes, at least in some of my patients. That year, immersed in learning, mentored and challenged by thought leaders such as Professor Bill Vicenzino and now Emeritus Professor Gwen Jull, surrounded by fellow students with disparate countries of origin, influences and beliefs, was completely invigorating and exhausting at the same time.
Over the next few years I cemented that knowledge in clinical practice but the yearning to learn more returned. My interest had focused on the hip and pelvic region and there were just no more courses or reading I could do to enhance this knowledge. So, I returned to Uni to embark on my research journey. The PhD was completed while I continued my clinical practice and when I finally hung the new degree on the wall, my patients would commonly ask - why did you do a Doctorate in a Philisophy? What's that got to do with Physiotherapy?? I would reply, Philosophy just means to critically analyse something, to try to improve understanding. Searching the definition today, Philosophy can be translated as 'love of wisdom.' Well I don't know about 'love of wisdom,' it sounds a little like all the questions have been answered. As with most PhD's, I came away with more questions than answers. I have continued in an adjunct research role so that I could continue the clinical practice that I love but also be involved in furthering the quest for gathering the wisdom for our profession. I think what I have is a love of learning and I hope that you do too.
Here are some of my professional development tips:
Take responsibility for your own development
- Don't wait for your boss or workplace to send you on a course or pay for your professional development. It's great if you do have access to funding, but if it's hard to come by, don't sit and stagnate while you wait for someone else to fund your learning or find you opportunities to learn. Go out there and find what you need to become the best version of your professional self!
Don't be afraid to ask for help
- Don't be too scared or too proud to ask for help from a senior, your boss, a colleague. What have you got to lose? So much more to gain!
Discuss with peers
- Those lunchtime case conversations are gold! You can benefit not only from your own experiences, but from those of your colleagues.
Get involved with research
- It gives you a different perspective and challenges your clinical biases
- Become a treating clinician in a clinical trial - it usually comes with some free training and an insight into the emerging evidence and research processes
- Try some part-time research assistant work in a field of interest, if you have the time
- Enrol in a higher degree, if you have the determination
Attend at least one conference every year
- Conferences are like a smorgasboard - sure you don't get a depth of information, but often you get a taste of something that is new and exciting
- Attend a multidisciplinary conference - cross-pollinating ideas across professionals is so important and we need much more of it. If you have an interest in the hip, try attending a surgical conference like the ISHA hip conference - it's eye-opening!
Of course the pandemic has put live conferences on hold, but attend what you can online and get back to face-to-face conferences when they are available - the conversations with colleagues are half the value!
Do something that scares you
- Push your boundaries - volunteer to present an inservice for your workplace or submit an abstract for a conference podium presentation or a poster. These don't have to be research studies. Clinical case studies are also considered at most conferences
- Don't be afraid to attend a course where you don't know anyone else going. Health professionals are pretty nice people! And you might just learn something from your prac partners too
- If you want to get into a particular area, find opportunities to get involved, ask if you can shadow or volunteer to assist an experienced colleague
Engage with social media but don't be overly influenced by loud voices
- Vocal influencers are not necessarily providing you with an unbiased view - check the evidence, do your own reading, listen to varied arguments and make your own decisions
- This is a great place to pick up papers recently published online - this happens way before they make it into an edition
- Here you might find colleagues with similar interests - a starting point for collaborations or friendships
Listen to podcasts
- Podcasts are a great way to keep up to date or stimulate ideas while commuting or getting in some cardio
- Here are some of my favourite professional podcasts:
- British Journal of Sports Medicine Podcast
- Healthy, Wealthy & Smart by Dr Karen Litzy, PT
- Physio Explained - a new one from Physio Network
- PhysioEdge Podcast
- And there are plenty of podcasts outside your primary field that you might like to explore, to broaden your horizons
Look for high-quality, evidence based courses
Look for a mentor in your field of interest
Narrow your field of focus but aim for depth of knowledge in that field
- How does the saying go? 'Jack of all trades, master of none.' While it's important to get a broad exposure to all aspects of our profession, it's difficult to be highly skilled at all aspects of a field. If you find an area of interest, don't be afraid to narrow your focus but dive deep to grow your expertise, confidence, career success and satisfaction.
However you go about it, for your patients and for your own career satisfaction, KEEP LEARNING!