Going your own way is the key to true career success.
That little gem of career advice from Australian Physiotherapist Kelly Meddings helped land her dream job in Women’s Health Physiotherapy in the picturesque city of Vancouver, Canada.
“For me, working in Women’s Health has always been my goal so I’ve been working towards it from the very beginning,” Kelly said.
“It’s taken hard work and perseverance, but I listened to my gut and went my own way when everyone told me I needed to generalise.”
Over seven years studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science and a postgraduate Doctor of Physiotherapy, Kelly was constantly advised by well-meaning university lecturers and peers to start working general Physiotherapy duties in either a hospital or a general private practice.
“And part of me gets it,” Kelly said.
“They encourage you to generalise because it gives you exposure to different areas and helps develop a broad skillset.”
“But I knew what I wanted really early on so the established path just didn’t make sense for me.”
“And I know pressure to follow an established path is true for many other professions as well, not just mine.”
Now well on her way to an established career in Women’s Health Physiotherapy, Kelly has clear advice for other young professionals… If you have a dream to specialise, you don’t need to postpone it to take the road most travelled first.
You can put steps and goals in place to make it happen now.
Working in Women’s Health
After completing her training and first few professional roles on Australia’s sunny Gold Coast, at age 27 Kelly swapped her sunnies and surfboard for winter woollies and made the move to Vancouver to accept a job offer she couldn’t refuse.
Now based in a world-renowned Physiotherapy clinic focused on a functional and holistic approach, Kelly treats a wide range of Women’s Health issues including pregnancy and postpartum care, sexual health, pelvic floor health and bladder & bowel concerns.
“This career has opened my eyes to how often women put themselves last on the priority list,” Kelly said.
“I often start the first session with a new patient by going through some education and myth busters because you’d be surprised by what women come to accept as normal.”
“That myth buster might be that leakage isn’t normal in any stage of life. Or that periods and sex should not be painful!”
What I learned on the job
Health myths aside, Kelly said the first few years on the job also helped clarify a few things professionally.
“I loved University and it provided me with an excellent knowledge base. But so much of my professional skillset has come from time in the job,” Kelly said.
“This might sound silly, but nobody told me being a Physiotherapist meant about half my time would be spent doing paperwork.”
“At my clinic, we run two shifts a day so our Physiotherapists either work from 7am to 1pm or from 1pm to 7pm.”
“I see back-to-back patients and then the rest of my day is writing up notes and planning my next treatments.”
“Even though my weekdays are busy, we are super lucky in that our clinic is closed on weekends.”
“We believe in a good work-life balance so we usually use our weekends to enjoy Vancouver’s beautiful outdoors.”
“Another thing they don’t warn you about is that working in Women’s Health Physiotherapy means a lot of time talking about bowel movements and poop!”
“It’s not glamourous but it’s a really important health indicator. I’ll spend ten minutes during a session talking about bowel movements to understand more about a patient’s body.”
Making a real career impact
Non-glamourous aspects of the role aside, Kelly is passionate about her role as a Physiotherapist and how it can positively impact the women she treats.
“My job is so rewarding because I really feel like I’m contributing and helping to support positive change in my patient’s lives,” Kelly said.
“And sometimes that’s not just about treating their health concern.”
“It can also be about giving that woman permission to focus on herself for once.”
“By giving her that permission and focusing on getting her well, she can be the best employee, or the best mum, or the best friend to the other important people in her life.”
The tough side of Women’s Health
But supporting women through their health trials can be challenging too.
“When I first started out I wasn’t quite ready for the emotional impact patient relationships can have,” Kelly said.
“Being in women’s health means my patients and I often talk about really private topics, sometimes we unpack serious emotional and psychological issues like sexual abuse or traumatic births.”
“Physical and emotional trauma can present in the body in so many different ways and part of my role is exploring their story to help manage that.”
“You never know what a patient is going to bring into the treatment room”.
“It makes the job rewarding and meaningful, but sometimes the emotional fatigue is tough to handle.”
“Thankfully I have a really supportive partner and work colleagues who I can debrief and problem solve with.”
How to break into the industry
When asked for advice about how to break into the industry, Kelly said it all comes down to learning as much as you can.
“My biggest tip would be to educate yourself and learn about women from all walks of life,” Kelly said.
“Women are diverse which means so are their health concerns.”
“You won’t personally relate to every single health issue, so learn, ask and experience as much as you can.”
“If you haven’t had a baby, go and meet up with a mother’s group. If you haven’t been through menopause, chat to women who have and ask them to talk about their experience.”
“As for building up my patient caseload, I was really lucky that my move to Canada was supported by landing a job at such a busy, reputable clinic.”
“A lot of my patients came to see me simply because they knew the clinic provided quality services but with that said, when I first started it was quiet for a few months as I built up my caseload.”
“My advice to new graduates is to find a clinic with a good reputation and mentorship opportunities, build good rapport with every patient and allow the time for your caseload to build over a few months.”
Stick to your guns and go your own way
Reflecting back on Kelly’s career journey it’s clear to see that her motto of ‘going with your gut’ has definitely paid off.
She was a graduate with a penchant for Women’s Health who pursued it all the way to Canada.
“I knew what I wanted and I worked hard for it.”
Good thing she never listened to those university lecturers, hey?
We don’t need to take the path most travelled. Like Kelly, we can all choose to go our own way.
Women’s Health Physiotherapy: A day in the life
- 5:30am: wake up, get dressed and have breakky
- 6:00am: hit the road for my drive to work, which includes a drive by my favourite coffee shop for a caffeine hit
- 6:50am: arrive at work, settle into my treatment room and make sure everything is set up for my first patient
- 7am: my work shift begins and I spend the next six hours seeing back-to-back clients, with each session lasting about 30 mins
- 1pm: my work shift ends and I head back home
- 2pm: eat lunch and hit the gym or go for a run
- 3pm: begin writing up my session notes from that morning’s sessions
- 4pm: spend time working on my case study project
- 6pm: my partner arrives home and we begin preparing dinner
- 9pm: bed time!
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