Allied Health Podcast Series 1 Episode 8

Q&A with Keely Wilson, 2019 Physiotherapy graduate working in Private Practice and Pilates

In Episode 8 Danielle talks with with Keely Wilson, 2019 Physiotherapy graduate working in Private Practice and Pilates in Melbourne. Keely discusses transitioning to practice, the highlights and the challenges, and tips in finding a role and to succeed in your first year of practice!

Speaker You’re listening to Allied Health Podcast, talking all things Allied Health with your hosts, Danielle Weedon, physiotherapist, and Clare Jones, occupational therapist.

Clare Jones Welcome to episode eight of Allied Health Podcast. In this episode, Danielle talks with Keely Wilson, a 2019 physiotherapy graduate working in private practice and pilates in Melbourne. Keely discusses transitioning to practice, especially at the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, the highlights and the challenges, and her tips for graduates in finding their first role. Enjoy.

Danielle Weedon I’m here today with Keely Wilson, who is a 2019 physio grad based in Melbourne, working in private practice. Is that right, Keely?

Keely Wilson Yes, it is.

Danielle Weedon Excellent. Thank you for taking the time to have a chat to us.

Keely Wilson Thank you for having me.

Danielle Weedon Tell me about yourself and your current role and when you graduated with [?]

Keely Wilson Yeah, yeah. So graduated at the end of 2019 from Monash Uni, and I’m currently working in a private practice clinic in Elsternwick. I’m doing lots of pilates, lots of group classes and lots of pre and post-natal work too. And then just general physio, musculoskeletal physio. Yeah, it’s been quite the journey to get here the last two years.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, you said. So my question next is, what’s your experience as a grad? But it’s obviously been very informed by COVID and lockdowns given your pilates and private practice clinical speciality.

Keely Wilson Yeah, definitely. So we graduated, everyone sort of started applying in December, November- December and I started off, well, I suppose I didn’t stop, but I was pretty picky with the, what I wanted in a clinic. And I did have a bit of a checklist of what I wanted and what I was applying for. And then so that meant I was limited in the jobs that I was going for. And then it got to sort of February, March and people were telling me I should probably stop being picky and just go for any job. But then I got another word of advice that I was better off being picky and getting a job that I wanted, and I was really happy in and I felt like I really fit in. Then just going for any job and down the track, being unhappy or not getting great mentoring and, you know, being behind in my skills. So I really stuck to my guns with that. And then COVID happened. So the first lockdown happened about March, and there was no jobs whatsoever. Jobs started being posted again towards the end of that lockdown. So I applied for the job that I’m currently at in June and then got that job, started the job, started working for about two weeks, and we went into our second lockdown, so then got put on hold. And they were really good, they were so supportive and they said, You know, we have this job for you when we come out of this. If you want to look elsewhere and you really need a job ASAP, then you can, but we’ll have this job for you when you come back. And I just waited it out. It was the perfect job for me. I really felt like I found that fit. And I, yeah, the culture was really good. So I waited it out for three months and finally started working full time in October.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, and if you, given the challenges of lockdown and given you’re doing a lot of group therapy, I think I might have asked you on the phone as well the other day. But have you been doing much, any online group sessions or telehealth work?

Keely Wilson No, we did a little bit last year like generic mat pilates, but a lot of ours is, you know, clinical pilates, injury based and there’s a lot of telehealth last year, but it definitely has its challenges. And ergonomically it’s not great either. So we had a few injuries. So I haven’t… I’ve done two telehealth appointments this lockdown in the last month. Yeah, and we have a few here and there. But not, not really. And it’s not super popular, I think is, there’s more and more lockdowns, clients are more deflated and a little bit less motivated. And so you don’t get that participation like you would have last year.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, yep, yep. And so what was your, we’ve touched on a little bit, but what was your experience like finding a job? You said you waited, obviously for the right job. Did you apply for many jobs or what was your experience like when you got your job?

Keely Wilson It all came down to what those jobs offered, I suppose, and I was lucky enough I worked in reception at a private practice clinic – Waverley Park Physio in Mulgrave and Andrew Dellwood, who is the owner there, was really supportive and sort of acted like a mentor, and we sort of sat down and decided what a good job was. And I wanted a bigger group of people in the clinic, people to bounce off. But not one of those chain and sort of physio clinics just didn’t work for me personally, that sort of business side of things. But then also a lot of physios that had lots of clinical experience and postgraduates and things. So that sort of narrowed down the job search quite a lot because there’s a lot of new clinics popping up around Melbourne that sort of have maybe two physios in them, the owner doesn’t necessarily have any postgraduate, so I didn’t want to work anyway like that, just yet. Just out of personal preference, I really cared about mentoring and getting a lot of support. So yeah, that definitely narrowed it down.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, we do. I mean, we speak to grads day in, day out, and I was a grad once myself. But I do think in that first couple of, first year and first couple of years of practise, I really think I know everyone has their own priorities, but I just think the key is having good support and supervision.

Keely Wilson 100 percent.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, it can really, it can really make/break a year, but also to feel unsupported, and it doesn’t mean that you have to be in private practice, for example, you can be in community, you know, disability, which is fairly autonomous. But if you’ve got the right organisation that offers you the support and that structured guide [?], I think that’s just imperative in your first [?].

Keely Wilson Yeah, yeah, I absolutely agree. And it was the, you know, they always say, have a question ready in your interview and it was my number one question – what mentoring do you have? Do you have a specific grad programme or what are you going to offer me in terms of support? And sometimes it wasn’t necessarily, I think you’ve spoken about like cultural fit, and it wasn’t necessarily the specifics, as the clinical I’m at doesn’t actually have a set out grad programme. But just walking in and you could easily tell how supportive a clinic was going to be the way, they spoke to you. And there were a few interviews that I went to where on paper it looked like it fit and it looked like it was going to be a really supportive clinic. And then just walking into the interview I saw straight away, I knew that that’s not the place for me.

Danielle Weedon It wasn’t going to be a fit for you.

Keely Wilson Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Danielle Weedon And when you were at uni, did you know that private practice broadly was where you wanted to be?

Keely Wilson Only if I was figuring it out in my final year, I sort of had hospital in my head until we went on placement. Yeah, which placement happens halfway through third year. So I went on placement, which was all in hospital and I was like, Oh my gosh, I hate this, and it made me question whether I liked physio as well. I went, I don’t like this, maybe I don’t like being a physio. And yeah, and so and then I didn’t choose my elective in private either. Because I wanted to see if paeds was for me, so I did my elective at the Royal Children’s which I liked more, but it was still a hospital environment. So I spoke to so many other physios and experienced physios in my final year, hospital and private, asking what their opinion was and what I should do, and there were private practice clinicians that did say to me, I think you should do hospital first, just to get that sort of general experience and then go into private. But then there were others that were saying, you just lose so much musc knowledge in that, like if in your first year you got a rotation of cardio, then neuro, then acute gen med. That’s, that’s a whole 12 months of that without using, you know, your anatomy of musculoskeletal and those acute injuries. So I didn’t want to risk that. And yeah, I just didn’t want to end up not not liking physio. That was really the main thing.

Danielle Weedon It’s interesting. We went to a grad who is up in, an OT grad, up in Brisbane and she’s about to, she’s been offered a placement, a job with a company that she’s on placement with. They’re a paediatric private practice. And she said to me, oh I just I don’t know, should I look at Queensland Health, I feel everyone’s telling me I probably should look at getting a rotational role with Queensland Health but I, my advice to her was exactly sort of what you’re saying as well, like it was, if you already know…for her, she already knows who… She’s done a placement there, she knows she’s going to be supervising her. She’s really comfortable with that. She’s pretty sure she wants to do paediatrics. I said, you know, in a year or two, you can go back and get a junior rotational role with Queensland Health. Really at the minute, if you know this is for you, I wouldn’t think twice about taking a job offer with an organisation, if you know that’s for you.

Keely Wilson Yeah, exactly.

Danielle Weedon Yeah. And so what about when you were looking for jobs? What did you – anything, in particularly that you might have found helpful in terms of securing employment?

Keely Wilson I think that checklist is the biggest thing in terms of knowing exactly what you want. And knowing the right questions to ask that clinic because even though they’re offering you a job, you know, you’re offering them your service and you have things to offer them, and so it’s okay to ask them questions so that to make sure that they are the right fit for you. And you know, I was lucky that I had the time and I already had another job that I was able to be picky and take that time to find the right job. And I understand some people aren’t in the situation. They just want that job as soon as possible. But if you’re in the position to, I think in the long run, to be that little bit picky and know what you want so that you are really happy in your role and you actually enjoy your job, I think that’s important.

Danielle Weedon And I think you’re right, like grads, as grads in allied health and more and more it like, there’s just so many opportunities for you guys at the minute that you are valuable and that to know that you are bringing value and that you can ask the questions that you want answered at interview stage. And you can have your checklist or have your top three or have your top five or whatever, you know, your non-negotiables. I think that’s the thing for grads to remember because I don’t think it comes in health professionals natures either to be, you study it and you are that, but you know, to realise your commercial value, not just salary, but to realise that you are commercially valuable so you can pick and choose all of these parameters in a grad role that you want.

Keely Wilson Yeah, I think in terms of having something to offer them at private practice wise as a physio, I made sure I had my certificate in Pilates before I applied. I know a lot of people toss up and waiting until they’re employed, because then your employer can help pay for the course. Yeah, but my owner has said to me and my boss that I wouldn’t have got the job if I didn’t have pilates experience. So I think if you are looking for a clinic with pilates, you’ll be on top of the list if you do have that experience.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, that’s a good, that’s a really good tip. And it is easy when you’re a student to sort of forget that you can upskill and get these, these other certificates or accreditations that will help you to get a job that you want.

Keely Wilson Exactly. It sets you apart from everybody else.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, yeah. And what other advice would you offer a grad in terms of securing employment, if any?

Keely Wilson I think that’s all I can think of.

Danielle Weedon That’s good. And what about your transition to practice- the first few months? How did you feel? Oh, sorry, the first few months you were, had no time to look for a job, but you got the job.

Keely Wilson Yes, it was very mentally tiring, but incredibly satisfying. I think because the only clinical experience I had was placement, which wasn’t necessarily a nice experience for me, just because I didn’t like hospital. Sometimes there’s aa bit of a power situation is… you’re the student. So to graduate and have that autonomy and independence and actually see clients get better because of you? It’s so satisfying. That made you go, I love this job and I love being a physio and it’s what keeps you going, especially when it does get tiring; that mental exhaustion, those first few months, I’m still getting it. I’m getting better. But you know, in a lot of this doesn’t come naturally to you yet, and you do have to…those clinical reasoning skills just aren’t always really quick. So it is tiring to those, to do that work the first few months to make sure that you’re giving the best service you can. Yeah, it can be a lot.

Danielle Weedon Yeah. And do you work in private practice to billable hours? Do you have any billable hours or you just work to your clients?

Keely Wilson I just work to clients, which can be difficult because you might not necessarily get all your notes done in an appointment. I definitely didn’t. So, no, my note taking outside of the clinic isn’t billed.

Danielle Weedon Yeah. Yeah. So you just have to. Yeah, that was my question. Really, around the private practice side of things is that you are on, like you are seeing clients. However, whatever your you know, your clinic treatment spots are, you are on all the time. And as a grad to stop and ask a question and go, you know, I don’t quite know what I need to do in this environment. I imagine that’s a challenge.

Keely Wilson Yeah, definitely. And there were certain times in those few months where I had to sort of go to the manager and say, like, I need more time in hours, another 30 minutes to stop, and either think to myself or stop and ask another physio questions. And I think it’s really good if you can find a clinic that has that support and that it is really receptive to saying that. Because in the long run, it’s better for the clinic, for you, for their clients to get the best care. And so if, if, if it means, you know, an extra 30 minutes or an hour a week or a couple of times a week to nut things out or to stop and think clearly or ask someone questions, then it’s worth it.

Danielle Weedon It’s worth it. Yeah, I agree. So what would you say your biggest challenge in transition to being a physio is, or was?

Keely Wilson Definitely that mental exhaustion. Yeah, like I because I was doing my notes when I got home, or if I had an afternoon shift that would start at 12 o’clock, I would spend the entire morning planning. So I just felt like I was working 24/7. And so I really had to try and stop myself from doing that and finding that balance of going home. And you know, you don’t open the diary for the rest of the night, sit down, watch a show that doesn’t take any sort of brainpower or really, really try to block it out and make sure you have time for your life.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, yeah. And what about anything particularly that was most helpful in your transition to practice?

Keely Wilson And I think it was just open communication with the owner, with the other physios telling them that. They were really good, you know, asking if I was struggling or to be able to say that you’re not coping and the, you know, the load’s too much or you want an increase. I think that was really important. And it definitely got me through, yeah, six months.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, yeah. And I think if you’ve got the right employer and the right supportive employer,that’s always going to work. But you have to be saying, I need this, I need this to be successful, to be a successful physio. And yeah,

Keely Wilson Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Danielle Weedon And anything particularly memorable in the first year of practice, almost 18 months, probably.

Keely Wilson I suppose, well, it’s nice when you pick up something. Like I’ve picked up a few fractures, so well, that’s not quite right.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, diagnostically.

Keely Wilson Yes, so that’s very satisfying to diagnose. And then a scan confirms that you’ve done that. Yeah, yeah. Bit reassured. You’re doing the right thing.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. And what about anything else? I mean, we’ve covered a bit, but any other, anything else you’d want to share either with yourself as a grad or with any other grads that are about to graduate?

Keely Wilson I suppose I’ve talked a lot about how picky I was, that one thing that one of the teachers at Monash always says is that your first job is not going to be your last job. And so, you know, you have that balance of making sure it ticks all your boxes, but keeping an open mind of what that might look like, because that first job might give you opportunities that you might not have had otherwise if you did too picky.

Danielle Weedon I think that is such smart advice and we say it all the time and without repeating it, it is. The first five years of your career doesn’t necessarily define you, but you do need to get the right support to the grad role and you will, you know, if you seek out across your career where you eventually want to be your way out, you get your right, you get your top, you know, the top things you want in a grad role, and it can be a stepping stone to where you want to be, even if it’s not the absolute, perfect role.

Keely Wilson Yes, definitely. And absolutely, I think that that support and mentoring is just the number one, the number one thing I would recommend.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, I would agree. And like you said, like you wanted a job that you felt good in and that you actually felt like you were achieving in. And that’s why you took the time to wait for the role that you’ve got.

Keely Wilson Yeah, exactly.

Danielle Weedon Well, well done, you’re a physio. I know you’re a year out now, nearly two years out, but I think I think too many, a lot of allied health professionals who are very, very intelligent and work very hard through their degrees come out and think, Can I do this? I don’t know if I can. Am I really a physio?

Keely Wilson Yeah, exactly. Imposter syndrome

Danielle Weedon It is, absolutely. Yeah, excellent. All right. Well, thank you for your time, Keely. It was really good to meet you and have a chat.

Keely Wilson Thank you for having me.

Speaker We hope you enjoyed listening to the Allied Health Podcast. In the show’s notes, you’ll find links to our free recruitment resources, job opportunities and health care marketplace insights. To listen to new episodes, please subscribe via Apple, Google, or wherever you find your favourite podcasts. And if you’ve enjoyed the show, please give it a five star rating and review. And be sure to tell your therapy colleagues and friends to tune in.