What makes Physios great Functional Assessors

After qualifying as a physiotherapist in 2000 and having several different jobs within the NHS, Private Sector, Public Sector and Professional Sport, I would never have envisioned myself doing the role I have for the last 6 years because it was outside the sphere of what physiotherapy meant to me.

Oh, but how things have changed. I love my job as a Functional Assessor for the Assessments division of Maximus.

Is it different from what I initially did when I graduated as a physiotherapist? Yes. Does it give different challenges from the ones I encountered while working in the NHS? Absolutely. Am I a better physiotherapist for the experience? 100%

What sets a physio apart

In my opinion, and in my experience working with colleagues and mentoring new entrants, physiotherapists tend to be uniquely positioned to be successful in the role of a Functional Assessor. As I became more experienced doing the role myself, and particularly since I started to mentor new colleagues, I have begun to question and reflect on why this is.

I understand the mindset of a physiotherapist working in a customer-facing, hands-on, results-driven team-based NHS or private sector environment, and know that the thought of letting go of some of that, and moving away from treatment plans, manual therapy, diagnosing, outpatient and in-patient work is almost too much to consider initially.

I have met and directly helped, people from all levels of society, with conditions I would never have experienced.

The right mix of skills to excel

From an education perspective, physiotherapists have a broad experience of clinical conditions as our early career is rotational in all the key areas of the NHS. These rotations take us from academic learning in a university setting, to putting this theoretical knowledge into practice on the wards of a hospital. Within this practical patient-facing setting, our entire clinical practice involves subjective data from the patient, objective measurements from observations and assessment, and this is developed into a treatment plan.

So there is a natural progression with our documentation and problem-solving approach ingrained in physiotherapists immediately from undergraduate training. Our notes must be a complete record that can be picked up by another practitioner and followed logically with evidence-based practice and sound clinical reasoning, and this is extremely transferable to the evidence-gathering and report writing required as a Functional Assessor.

Our entire clinical practice involves subjective data, observations and assessment.

Natural skills we possess

Our communication skills, and our ability to change this depending on the situation, patient type, and environment, are paramount to the success of what we do. We inherently sense when empathy is needed, when encouragement is required, and where challenging the patient would achieve the desired outcome. These communication skills, which we already possess from our physiotherapy experiences, are the single most transferable attribute to the role of Functional Assessor.

Another quality that physiotherapists possess in abundance, is that we are natural problem solvers. For us to formulate a treatment plan, we need to know all the ins and outs of the mechanism of injury, what investigations the patient has had, what has been tried, what has been successful and unsuccessful, how the patient feels and what they feel helped or did not help. The complete holistic picture of not just the problem area, but the whole patient is always considered – we naturally address functional difficulties as this is our area of interest.

We know that nothing happens in isolation, and this thirst to understand and analyse, allows us to provide our best solution tailored to the patient. Again, this is 100% transferable to the role of a Functional Assessor. We see the big picture – taking the person, their diagnoses and their functional ability into consideration. We identify, analyse, and accurately document everything, and are natural pragmatic thinkers. It’s what sets us up for success.

We naturally address functional difficulties as this is our area of interest.

There is a natural resilience in physiotherapists. A lot of our career is spent working on different strategies to gain the best outcome for patients, often without necessarily getting 100% “buy in” from the patient. Challenging (often negative) feedback from patients is a daily occurrence for most physiotherapists as we ask patients to do things they are not keen on doing, and challenging their thoughts and perceptions. This builds up strong resilience, and a natural ability to take feedback, reflect and improve almost immediately, without thinking about it. Resilience and the ability to take feedback are core components of being successful in any job. As physiotherapists, we have these attributes in abundance.

The odds are stacked to excel

We have a broad eclectic knowledge of multiple conditions, and consistently work as autonomous practitioners throughout our careers. Note taking and report writing is detailed and easy to follow using an evidence-based approach and clinical reasoning. We are natural problems solvers with a wide range of communication styles, who are used to feedback and naturally resilient as a result.

It’s why I think physiotherapists excel in this role, and I know from personal experience that we do just that. We excel and add significant value to the business and the customers we see.

The odds are stacked on Physios being successful in the role as they already have the right mix of skills to excel.