With transferable and highly desirable skills, trained physiotherapists can work in practically every corner of the world.
Australia is a popular choice for professionals of all ages and offers a whole host of lifestyle and work-based advantages. Most are attracted by the warm climate and vast coastline, but for physiotherapists, better pay and a more progressive working culture are also key factors.
The qualification criteria for placements in Australia can be confusing. Most employers require at least one year's experience as a trained physiotherapist and HPC registration is not necessarily required. There are opportunities for newly qualified graduates too, but they can be very hard to come by and the application process is a lengthy one.
The first step is to register with the Australian Physiotherapy Council (APC), the equivalent of the UK's Health Professions Council (HPC), and this can take up to 12 weeks. The application process involves both theory and practical-based exams and works on a points system. Exams are split into two parts and physiotherapists can actually begin working in Australia on a supervised basis with just Part 1, working towards Part 2 while they earn.
Once registration is achieved (either on a full or limited basis), you will still need to consider factors like insurance and a valid visa. Medacs Healthcare’s recruitment team in Australia are experienced at relocating health professionals and can advise and support you throughout your transition.
So what exactly are the benefits of working in Australia?
In Australia, physiotherapists in permanent roles can expect to earn around AU$60,000 (around £31,500), which is significantly higher than the £21,500 entry-level physiotherapists can expect in the UK. More experienced professionals can expect to earn up to double that amount (subject to regional variations) and in private practices can sometimes be offered up to 50% of practice billings on top. Locums can also earn a similar amount, sometimes higher with temporary loading rates applied.
It's no coincidence that more than 1.2 million Brits have moved to Australia, making it the most popular destination for ex-pats. Living in Australia has a whole host of benefits including a much warmer climate, as well as more opportunities to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Transitioning to a completely different country and culture can be a mammoth task though - so is it for you?
We asked Clare Goodman, a trained physiotherapist who left the UK to spend three months working in Australia and stayed for more than five years, to tell us about a typical day in her life.
She works as a Neurological Rehabilitation physiotherapist in Sydney and has experienced permanent and locum roles for both public and private employers within Australia.
Waking up at 6am, Clare takes advantage of the fact that it is already warm and heads for a run on Bondi beach. On her route home, she picks up a coffee and croissant for breakfast before showering and heading to work.
Work starts at around 7:30 when Clare plans her day at the Outpatient Neurological Rehabilitation unit, answering any emails that need her attention. She then leads a group of hand-picked patients through a Pilates for Neuro class. This sees her working with people with a range of neurological diagnoses, which makes the normal gym environment difficult for them.
From 9:30, Clare is scheduled in for individual patient appointments, meaning that she can speak to and treat patients with a variety of problems including those who have experienced a stroke, head or spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, or motor neurone disease.
Lunchtime is at 12:30 and Clare joins the rest of her physiotherapy department who are taking advantage of the sunny weather by eating in the courtyard together.
At just after 13:00 there is a multi-disciplinary team meeting, which allows her to discuss the outpatient neurological rehabilitation caseload with the rest of her team.
After the meeting, which lasts around an hour, Clare takes a handful of patients through their individual hydrotherapy programmes. She then leaves for home, and meets friends at the beach for a swim and drink at one of the many bars along the coast.
Speaking about her experiences since leaving for Australia, Clare says she benefits from working alongside a very progressive and motivated team, who commands much respect for their emerging research.
"I like how ideas are taken on here," she said. "It feels much more free; I know that my managers will support me in my education and in implementing new ideas.
We run a range of group exercise classes including pilates, yoga and running for people with neurological physical deficits. There is Talk Time for patients with speech goals and regular barbecues for patients to practice cooking outdoors; a traditionally Australian past-time. I also wrote a programme called Return 2 Sport for people with disabilities; a two-day showcase where people with any type of disability can come and try a range of sporting and leisure activities ".
Clare says the main difference between working in the UK and Australia is the structure: due to its sheer size, the NHS can be difficult to navigate, whereas the public health system in Australia is smaller and much simpler and easier to work with. Clare also appreciates the attitude towards health and physiotherapy services, citing Australia as a ‘yes’ culture where people and professionals alike have a more positive attitude to ideas and innovation.
Clare concludes: “For me, the key benefits of working in Australia are the pay and the lifestyle – I love the sunshine and although the hours are roughly equal, in Australia you can do more with your day. The main downside is the transport system and general size of the country as when I was doing locum roles I was often expected to travel longer distances to hospitals, and buses are not as frequent here as they are in London”.
Clare’s top tip: Try out a few roles by locuming first instead of settling immediately in a permanent, full-time position. The visa system is great because it allows you to do that so you can make sure it is a good fit for you before making a longer-term commitment.
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