Published on 2 January 2020
If you think of a physiotherapist, you might picture a gym, or someone helping people to get back on their feet after an operation.
You’re probably less likely to picture an acute medical setting, with a physio drawing blood or teaching advanced resuscitation courses.
But that’s exactly what Becky Hetherington does every day, in her role as Critical Care Outreach practitioner at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital.
She said: “Some people are sceptical when they hear my background is in physiotherapy.
“But it’s about having the right skills in the right place, and my experience and the support of the Trust in training me mean I can do the role just as well as someone with a nursing background.”
Becky originally worked for East Kent Hospitals when she first qualified as a physiotherapist, in the hand therapy team.
But after completing training in other areas of the hospital she decided to specialise in respiratory care, helping to treat people with lung or breathing issues.
It meant she spent time in intensive care and on acute wards, and realised it was an area she wanted to learn more about.
She said: “I was working in London and the outreach team there was actually led by a physiotherapist.
“She became my mentor and I started learning about caring for patients who are deteriorating, or those who need ventilation to help them breathe.
“Then I was able to complete the Advanced Life Support course, and be recommended as an instructor as well.”
Because she was not a nurse, Becky was not able to access some of the critical care training usually available, so she had to think laterally.
And she decided to complete courses for junior doctors instead, giving her evidence that she had the skills to work in critical care outreach.
She joined the team at QEQM in August, and now helps identify deteriorating patients and ensures they are either swiftly assessed by a critical care doctor, or treated on the ward to stabilise their condition.
Becky said: “I have been supported here to do the medicines course so I can now administer drugs if needed, rather than having to wait for someone else to come.
“The training is fully endorsed by the Health and Care Professions Council for Allied Health Professionals like physiotherapists, but not all trusts offer it.
“I’m fortunate to work for a more forward-thinking Trust here, which recognises that I have the experience and skills to do this role.
“I am not the first physiotherapist to do a non-physio role, as we have people working as respiratory practitioners and in advanced practitioner roles, but I am the first to work with the outreach team, and I’m delighted to be here.
“It’s given me the opportunity to explore more clinical and practical skills and to really make a difference to our patients.”