It is great to be back in my profession again: my Return to Practice by Natalie Spinks, Physiotherapist, NHS Tayside.

There and back again
I qualified as a Physiotherapist in 2007 and worked for 8 years in the NHS. My husband’s
work offered him a transfer to their Canadian office and we decided to make the move.
After 5 years and having children we wanted to be closer to family so moved back to
Scotland in February 2020.

Missing a Professional Identity
Just after we arrived back the COVID-19 Pandemic hit and I spent a lot of time at home
thinking about what I wanted to do now. The NHS was in the news a lot and I felt the
urge to get back into Physiotherapy. I realised I missed the job satisfaction of working
with someone to try to achieve their goals and improve their quality of life. I also missed
the MDT environment of working with other health professionals.

No idea where to find help
I had no idea of where to start and tried to reach out to friends and former colleagues
but nobody had any experience of returning to Physiotherapy. Friends did point me in
the direction of sources of CPD to use as part of the updating process, which helped get
me started.

HCPC Requirements
I reviewed the HCPC Return to Practice information and found that the requirements for
updating depend on your length of time off the HCPC register and can consist of
Supervised practice, Private study and Formal study; with Private study making up no
more than half of the updating period. I initially focussed on Private study, looking up
current guidelines and resources, and listening to Physio and AHP Podcasts.

Lacking clarity about the process
I emailed the manager of my local Physiotherapy service where I had worked for a short
time previously. I knew I wanted to work in Community Rehabilitation and was offered a
period of supervised practice in a Community Rehab team close to home. After some
back and forth communication and filling out of forms I was given a start date in
September 2020 to start my supervised practice. This took about 3 months to organise
as we were unsure of how the return to practice process was organised so needed some
advice from others.

My return to practice experience

I did 30 days of supervised practice working part time over a 3 month period and used
my evenings and free time to amount to another 30 days worth of private and formal
study. I submitted my HCPC forms for reregistration mid December 2020 and received
confirmation of my readmission to the HCPC just before Christmas. I then started work
in a temporary Band 6 post within the team I did my supervised practice with. I have
since obtained a permanent part time contract within this team.

Positive experiences:
• I initially felt nervous starting my supervised practice but quickly gained
confidence with support and encouragement from the team
• Identifying my learning needs allowed my supervisor to provide me with the
opportunities and experiences to update my skills in the areas I felt I needed.
• My supervisor was able to accommodate me working different days and hours
each week depending on the childcare I had available from family members
• I was sent lots of private study material and webinars from my supervisor

• The experience of being observed reminded me of how I felt as a student; this
has impacted on how I now act as a clinical educator.
• Arranging childcare for my unpaid supervised practice; my children weren’t in a
nursery and I had to rely on family for help with this
• The financial implications of paying for Formal study days and courses which may
not exactly meet my learning needs meant I only did a small number of these
Improving the return to practice experience for future returnees

Improving the return to practice experience for future returnees

During my return to practice I felt there was little guidance on the process itself for
Scottish returnees. I felt strongly that I wanted to help work on producing a resource
and guidance for future returnees that would provide more clarity on the requirements
as well as signpost to study materials.

I am now part of a National Working group consisting of other clinicians who expressed
an interest in the project, as well as staff from NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and
Practice Education Leads (PELs). We are developing:

  1. A guidance document for organising Supervised practice; this will be a resource
    for Returnees, and will be held and adapted by each Health Board for
    Supervisors and Managers to use.
  2. A website with information about the Return to Practice process for anyone
    involved, this also signposts and suggests various study resources.
  3. Recorded stories from returnees outlining their Return to Practice experience to
    provide ideas and guidance to others considering this option
  4. A Facebook page for returnees and supervisors too.

On reflection
Overall I’m glad I went through with the Return to Practice process, regaining my HCPC
registration and securing a Physiotherapy job in the area I was interested in. It did seem
like a daunting task initially but I’ve found many people willing to help and advise me
along the way. I feel like the Return to Practice process is beneficial not just for
Returnees to gain employment but for Health Boards and services who gain clinicians with a wealth of previous experience to bring with them into their new role.

By Natalie Spink
Physiotherapist, NHS Tayside


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