Hi, I’m Kim Sheader…September 30, 2016 4:53 pm
So for this post I thought I should tell you a bit more about myself and how I got to be a Veterinary Physiotherapist. I’ve been qualified as a human Physio for 16 years now, so it’s a bit of a story!
I have been a Chartered Physiotherapist since 2000 and my undergraduate degree was specific to only humans. I entered into my university years with the dream of being an amazing Sports Physio, top of my field, working for a Formula 1 team, preferably as David Coulthard’s personal Physio. As I did my student placements, practicals and attended lectures, a problem presented itself; I preferred respiratory and medical physiotherapy to musculoskeletal! Undeterred, I was determined to put decisions about specialities to one side until I’d actually qualified and completed my rotations.
“Rotations” are the first post a Physio gets once qualified, and are typically four months long in each area of a Hospital Trust that requires
physiotherapy. Musculoskeletal outpatients, medical and surgical inpatients, paediatrics, orthopaedics, neurology and stroke unit and amputees were my rotations and where I truly learnt how to be a physiotherapist. During my outpatient rotation I struggled and felt isolated and despondent. Many of the patients didn’t have problems I could fix in 6 treatments and some of those that I thought should get better, didn’t. I didn’t understand why and had little help on how to do better. At that stage of my career, I decided to look to my strengths and interests; respiratory physiotherapy.
In both my medical and surgical rotations I had to go to ITU everyday and treat patients. It was scary but challenging and fascinating. When I got to do my paediatric rotation I was lucky enough to work on the Special Care Baby Unit, even scarier! I discovered I loved it. The senior Physio on ITU showed me that it was in fact the safest place in the hospital; I could see what was happening to my patient second by second, how what I did affected them, for better or worse. Plus, I wasn’t just treating sore muscles, I was helping people to survive and live again.
I decided to specialise in inpatient physiotherapy and in the next job I took I rotated every eight months between orthopaedics, medical and surgical wards. On both medical and surgery I got to go to my beloved ITU everyday as well. I learned so much about how the body works, how it can go wrong, how it might be fixed. I thrived and loved my job, for the most part, at least.
While I was there I helped develop a Breathlessness Clinic; a multidisciplinary approach to people with end stage COPD and lung cancer who were deemed too sick for pulmonary rehabilitation. We were successful in reducing bed days and readmissions, and most importantly, the patients going through the clinic unanimously told us that we had improved their quality of life. As part of a team, I had made a real difference! From that, I started doing cardiac rehabilitation too and realised I like the chronic side of respiratory rehabilitation as much as the acute side.
After four and a half years there, it was time to move on and I was lucky enough to get a job as a “Highly Specialist Physiotherapist” at the Royal London Hospital. It was an amazing challenge with a lot of highs and lows. I ran a team of six: four qualified physiotherapists, including myself and two non-qualified physiotherapy assistants. Our team provided the Physio service for 9 medical wards and A&E. It was hard work, challenging, rewarding and demoralising in equal measure.
I was there for just over two years when I had a minor injury to my right hand which meant I had to be signed off work for two weeks. After the consultant reviewed me and said I needed another four weeks off work, I made an immediate decision; I was resigning from my job and leaving the NHS. Why? Because I was incredibly happy when the doctor told me I needed to have more time off from work. I realised that was not the way to live, let alone be happy and once I’d left, I never regretted it for a second.
But now I had a problem; what was I going to do for a job? I didn’t want to be a private Physio treating outpatients and other hospitals where I could still do respiratory Physio were going to have all the same drawbacks of the job I just left. I thought about retraining; if I could do any job in the world, what would I want to be? The answer was simple, I wanted to be a zookeeper. Looking into it I realised this was unrealistic and a difficult job to get. Ok, so what could I do that included working with animals? And that’s when I realised I could still do Physio, I just needed to change the species I was doing it on!
I was fortunate to get a place on the MSc Vet Physio course at the RVC and spent the next two years studying as well as working part time for a rugby club to brush up my musculoskeletal skills. I graduated with a Post Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy and I have never been happier in my career than I am every day now, treating dogs, cats, horses and the odd human, just for good measure!
I spent the first four years of my career as a vet Physio working two days a week at Davies Veterinary Specialists. Here I was exposed to a huge variety of cases, from the simple to the very complex. I learnt to make bespoke supports and splints and was able to bring my beloved respiratory physiotherapy to small animal care, working in conjunction with the anaesthetists and other vets to help critically ill dogs with respiratory conditions. I truly felt part of the multidisciplinary team, and enjoyed my time there.
Eventually, the 100 mile round trip became too much for me and I decided to move on. A vet nurse friend asked if I had heard of The Ralph, a new referral hospital being developed in the M4/M40 corridor. I hadn’t but I investigated, liked what I saw, met with Shailen (founder of The Ralph), and the rest, as they say is history!
So that’s a bit about me and my background. Thanks for taking the time to read about me and I look forward to serving you soon.