Career switch: how Paul Wilson's priorities changed after Covid-19
After a rich and varied career, for the past two years I have been a member of a team of physiotherapists that's employed by a company called Level Health. We work in about 10 GP surgeries in the Canterbury and Faversham areas of east Kent. Towards the end of 2019, I decided to set up a private practice near my home in Tonbridge.
I planned to begin working just one day a week, building up the clinic gradually and seeing how things would unfold. It was going to mean continuing to work five days a week at my full-time job while simultaneously taking on my own project. I thought this might entail working one day a week, perhaps increasing to two over time.
You might be surprised how much planning is involved in independently setting up something of this nature: first steps include choosing a location and equipment; speaking to other private physiotherapy clinics is vital. Then there's the need to register with insurance companies, advertising, and, of course, getting to know your population.
After considering half a dozen possible options, I found the ideal site at a local gym based at a golf course: perfect location, room size and price. This took me until February earlier this year. I announced there would be an open day on 2 March and felt a buzz. The insurance companies started to refer patients, gym members were interested and I was also getting enquiries through advertising externally.
I love my job and the variety it brings every day, but the changes I was looking to make by loading up my work and looking at a six or even a seven-day working week were just not worth it. Time with family is so precious
The clinic opened and I paid my first month's rent up front, which had been agreed in the contract. Just three weeks later, on 16 March, I was forced, just like that, to shut up shop due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. I know, of course, that many businesses, perhaps a lot more established then mine, had to do the same thing. I don't feel that we got much warning and am aware that many others in similar predicaments would agree. We knew the virus was active but surely wouldn't stop everything, we had thought.
When the gym finally re-opened, there were lots of new restrictions in place. I decided to close my clinic and instead concentrate on my work with patients in the GP surgeries. During lockdown I had the chance to spend more time with my family, doing home schooling with my children, for example. I think lockdown made many people look at what is really important in their lives, and I realised that continuing to help people in primary care settings is enough for me.
I love my job and the variety it brings every day, but the changes I was looking to make by loading up my work and looking at a six or even a seven-day working week were just not worth it. Time with family is so precious and it is easy to get caught up in trying to earn a bit more all the time.
In May, I returned to practising in the GP surgeries and then won a promotion. I am now an advanced musculoskeletal practitioner, which opens up a much wider variety of practice for me. As part of my new role, I am an educator for student physiotherapists. I am really looking forward to playing my part in developing the next generation of physiotherapists as we start to work in the 'new normal' with telehealth becoming part of how we assess and treat patients.
Having my plans for my own clinic snatched away by Covid-19 was a negative career experience. But many people have been left in a lot worse state and I feel very lucky that I can take something positive away from this period. It is now much more important for me to focus on my work in GP practices and on taking more responsibility in these settings.
Paul Wilson is a primary care physiotherapist with Level Health Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Level Health, visit: www.levelhealth.co.uk
Author: Paul Wilson