Physio or occupational therapy

(34 Posts)
Anonymouseky Sat 03-Apr-21 21:01:37

Hellllllllp, I’m going round in circles with this. I want to do a pre reg masters to qualify as either a physio or occupational therapist. My undergrad was in Sports Science so physio felt like the obvious option, but the more I read about occupational therapy, the more I think I may be better suited to that. Does anyone have any insight into how much independent/ team working is involved in each role? I also have young children and I am a single parent so shift work is not an option for me. Is it possible to be a PT or OT that isn’t required to do shift work? Do you have to do a 2 year hospital rotation after your degree or can you just apply to work in one ward? Finally, I’m thinking of applying to either Liverpool or Keele Uni. Any insights into those two unis for either of these courses would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

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RhubarbCustardy Sat 03-Apr-21 21:19:24

OTs can work in all sorts of places, not just hospitals. There's rehab centres, schools, prisons, social services yo name a few. It's a more diverse career and often called a jack of all trades, master of none which refers more to the training as there are many aspects to it. You usually choosexwhich area following training and will know which area you'll want to go into by then. You're less likely to do shifts as an OT (most don't do shift just weekdays. )You don't always have to do a rotation, it depends where you work. Look at job vacancies to give you an idea, they usually state whether its a rotational post or not. Physios are more medical model based whereas OTs are more holistic. In some places the roles overlap and the same job can be done by either discipline. Or they work closely together. Both are great careers. Depending on the role, you can work independently but still always as part of a wider team, whether that be of the same role or multidisciplinary. Physios work with individual patients but again, still as part of a team in cases where more than one aspect if care is needed. Physios are more likely than OTs to work in a n' e.Don't have any knowledge of those courses but hopefully someone wil be along soon who has. Hope that's helpful and haven't confused you more ! Good luck whatever you decide.

Anonymouseky Sat 03-Apr-21 21:40:49

Thanks RhubarbCustardy, that has helped. There seems to be so many positive aspects to both roles, it’s such a hard decision. I really wish I could get some work experience in both areas, but it seems unlikely in current times 😔 I did do some physio work experience many years ago and didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, but I honestly think that’s because the head physio was horrible and everyone seemed so run off their feet and I just felt in the way. I was also quite young and was a bit shocked at some of the things I saw... people in comas etc. I’m much older now and I’ve seen enough bad in the world to not be shocked. There seemed to be a lot of teamwork (a team of physios helping a man to walk, getting an elderly blind woman out of bed to get some exercise etc) and I only saw one individual consultation. I can work in a team or individually, but I think I would thrive in an autonomous role and I’m not sure which role offers more of that.

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RhubarbCustardy Sun 04-Apr-21 09:09:27

Both can work autonomously but as physios tend to work on a specific condition/s more then I would say there are more opportunities to work alone. Some work privately (either role). Some physios work in gp surgeries and see patients 1-1 but there will usually be a physio team that work in the surgery. Don't underestimate the team working aspect-its really useful to bounce ideas off of each other and you'll always be learning something new whatever stage in your career you are. The mire experienced can help the newly qualified but also newly qualified come across updated info. Of course, everyone should keep their clinical knowledge up to date though!

FawnDrench Sun 04-Apr-21 20:32:55

There are far more OT jobs in mental health than Physio positions, which are quite rare in this area.

Anonymouseky Sun 04-Apr-21 21:16:37

Thanks both, I’m doing some more research into the roles a d reading a lot about both of them, so hopefully I will make a decision in time for putting in an application. The shift work could be a deal breaker for me. I’ve read that physios usually do a 2 year rotational post immediately after graduated and I imagine some specialisms would involve being on an on call rota, which would be impossible for me. I think if I do go down the physio route I would have to go straight into a static post with regular Mon- Fri daytime hours because of childcare

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Shehasadiamondinthesky Sun 04-Apr-21 21:19:14

Podiatry. 9-5 weekends and all Bank Holidays off. I left nursing for it because I was sick of working 12 hour shifts.

Sparklepunk Wed 07-Apr-21 17:30:41

@Shehasadiamondinthesky I second podiatry also.

GoWalkabout Wed 07-Apr-21 17:58:03

Lots of trusts have written in to their OT contracts that they can require you to work shifts, though it's traditionally less shift based. OT is funny, often highly regarded because of the flexibility and personalisation of treatment plans, but also sometimes a lack of clear role so end up being discharge coordinators or ward cheerleader. In mental health the majority of OTs in community teams are doing the same generic role as MH nurses or social workers. Loads of roles though. Physio gives you better opportunities for private practice or non NHS roles.

Felty Wed 07-Apr-21 18:15:49

Many trusts are moving towards 7 day shift working for both professions (and quite rightly so imo) so don’t base your choices on what the current set up is as in all likelihood things will have changed by the time you qualify.
The predominant difference in terms of patterns of working is as a B5 rotational physio you will likely be expected to go on a on call rota where you will have to be available to work overnights.
Please don’t make your decision based on child care needs, you have to be super passionate about a career in one of these professions before you start, firstly because the (slightly intimidating) calibre of students I am seeing is that they want to become physios with every fibre of their being, and secondly and more importantly your love of the job has to sustain you through the not that brilliant pay and work environment of today’s NHS.
I’ve had students from both Liverpool and Keele. Both excellent and couldn’t fault them.
I work for a community trust, I wouldn’t short list an applicant who hadn’t done at least 2 years of rotations. Honestly it’s where your real learning of the job starts, unless you are absolutely 100% positive you want to go straight into MSK.

Anonymouseky Wed 07-Apr-21 18:17:03

Thanks everyone. When people are asked to do shifts, what kind of pattern does it fall into? Like is it a week of days, followed by a week of nights etc or does it depend on the profession and service? I’ve never done shift work so I’m completely clueless. Physio in particular really appeals to me, but I’m not sure if I’d be given enough time in advance to sort out overnight childcare. I honestly don’t know how people do these careers without a lot of family support. I don’t live near mine so that’s not an option either sad

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Felty Wed 07-Apr-21 18:21:15

In physio a shift might be 7-7 or 8-8. Many rehab wards are moving towards this model so rehab can incorporate activities of daily living (such as washing and dressing, toileting etc). Overnight is very rare (ime) apart from being in call where you have to be available to work overnight.

Felty Wed 07-Apr-21 18:22:51

In trusts I have worked in I have always been given would be given several weeks of opportunity in advance to organise child care.

SandlakeRd Wed 07-Apr-21 18:27:16

I am an OT in social care and work mon-fri. There are sometimes rumours of weekend working but it hasn’t happened yet. Late shifts/nights would be very very unlikely to happen.
Some OTs based in health do weekends and maybe work “later” but I would be very very surprised if any worked nights.
OTs and physios work closely together and the roles do overlap. You need to have a good think about what interests you. At a very basic level a physio will get your joints/muscles/nerves working again and have very specialist skills in that area. An OT will get you on and off the toilet/in the shower/making meals/ engaging in the community etc etc. Each profession needs the other in my opinion.

Because OT is focused on the “occupation” which can be as simple as getting to the loo that is why you will find OTs in more settings as the barriers to engaging in things like that can be about more than your physical health.

SnarkyBag Wed 07-Apr-21 18:37:26

I’m an OT I work Monday to Friday only. I’ve never worked shifts or weekends but to be fair I’ve never worked on an NHS ward I’ve always worked for independent services or charities

Mucklemore Wed 07-Apr-21 18:48:56

Can you wait to apply until you can get some shadowing?

As others have said the roles can be similar and can be very different. I work in a community rehab team where there is a lot of overlap.

Culturally I would say they're quite different, OT tends to be broader, more holistic (and work in a vast range of settings in health, social care and third sector) but physio tends to be more clearly defined (often with arguably more respect, depending on setting). Physios also have the option for advanced practitioner roles.

In both you have the option of rotational roles to start with, though I think physios value them more for progression than OTs.

In my community trust we do some weekend working (approx one a month) but they're very flexible about adapted hours for childcare. Lots of places are moving towards 7 day working but most have skeleton staff at weekends so I don't know anyone who does more than a weekend a month. Rotational PTs may have to do overnight on calls. But I'm not a physio so no idea really how that works.

Fairystory Wed 07-Apr-21 19:12:59

You would be unlikely to do shifts as an MSK physio but would need to do 2 years rotational first.
If you work in a hospital, there is usually more scope for promotion in physio than OT. On the other hand, Social Services OTs earn more than NHS OTs.
I think the most important thing is deciding which career you find most interesting and really want to do.

Anonymouseky Wed 07-Apr-21 19:27:08

Thank you everyone. I think I’m veering (very slightly) towards physio but I’m definitely going to start approaching various places about some work experience to get a better idea of my preference. I might put my application off for a year to make sure I make the right decision. Is the two year rotation an absolute must after graduation or is it just the ideal? I think my interest would most likely be in MSK physio, but it’s hard to say for definite without the work experience. Would I be able to move straight into a band 5 MSK position after graduation do you think or would I be cast aside for those that had done the two year rotation?

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SandlakeRd Wed 07-Apr-21 19:44:38

The rotation is a band 5 post in itself. I think you would do best to look at NHS jobs for the trusts you would want to work for and see what the entry requirements are for fixed MSK band 5 posts. It may vary between acute and community roles. Some people look to move up to a band 6 after doing a rotation.

Don’t underestimate the benefits of a rotation though. It can give a really good grounding and show other areas beyond placements so you may find you want your career to go a different way.

Mucklemore Wed 07-Apr-21 20:13:39

If you want to do MSK physio you don't want to be an OT!

They are very very different.

Our trust employs static MSK physios at band 5 in a developmental post. However you might find it more challenging to get a band 6 in anything other than MSK without a broader range of experience.

Anonymouseky Wed 07-Apr-21 20:20:26


In physio a shift might be 7-7 or 8-8. Many rehab wards are moving towards this model so rehab can incorporate activities of daily living (such as washing and dressing, toileting etc). Overnight is very rare (ime) apart from being in call where you have to be available to work overnight.

Felty, sorry to sound daft but when you say 7-7, do you mean 7am to 7pm or 7 days at one shift and then 7 days on another shift? I’d heard there has been a push for a 7 day service, but I’m wondering if this will affect every specialism? When people are on call, does it tend to be one night every now and again or are you on call for say a week or more? Sorry for all the questions, I just want to make sure I could manage it with the kids. I’ll be trawling NHS jobs to see what different places say is required shift wise, although some of them don’t really specify but just say ‘flexible working’ pattern

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Felty Wed 07-Apr-21 20:55:56

I’ve never heard of any trusts that offer B5 static posts straight into MSK. You’re only likely to get that if you go for a non-NHS hospital post.
Tbh though if you aren’t sure what you want to do then a rotation post is a good idea. I’ve worked with many students and new grad B5s who start their placement or rotation saying they want to go into MSK and finish with a changed mind.

Anonymouseky Wed 07-Apr-21 21:24:45

Thanks Felty, I’d definitely like to do a rotation post. I was just worried it would involve shifts or on call when you’re based in certain departments and I wouldn’t have any help with the kids to be able to do it. I’ve heard it’s quite hard getting a rotation post too, so I was wondering what people do if they can’t get one and if there’s much opportunity for locum work to fit in with the hours that suit your family needs.

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Muchtoomuchtodo Wed 07-Apr-21 21:36:08

I would definitely advise that in either PT or OT you do some band 5 rotations before deciding where you would want to specialise. Short placements as an undergraduate never give the full picture. It’s also necessary to consolidate what you’ve been taught and learn how to work effect with other team members. I haven’t heard that it’s especially difficult to get a band 5 rotational post in recent years,
Generally physios are involved in on-call rotas until they specialise in a less acute area (eg, MSk, community, mental health). This will mean that you need to be within 30 minutes of the patient on your rota’d night, and also provide weekend treatment to the most acutely unwell patients who benefit from PT intervention.
More and more areas of physio are also providing a 7 day service.
Locum posts are really unusual in the NHS these days, and generally for those with more experience who can work independently.

Felty Wed 07-Apr-21 21:58:06

OP, sorry 7-7 means 7am to 7pm in my previous post. In some posts you might need to work long days (with corresponding more days off a week), or you might be expected to work FT standard hours (8-4) but work a weekend every 6 weeks. Overnight on call would come up every 4-6weeks depending on how large the dept is. Each rotation will have it’s different needs and as a B5 you will need to be flexible.
Have you thought about finding out how other people with circumstances similar to yourself manage with careers such as this and organising childcare?

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