Allied Health Professionals are the third largest healthcare workforce. AHP Day, celebrated on the 14th October, is an annual opportunity to showcase the impact that AHPs have when delivering high quality care.
Here at Springpod we’ve joined forces with Health Education England to bring students an online, Allied Health Professional work experience programme - and it’s available completely on-demand.
In order to create awareness for AHP Day, we’ve brought you an exclusive interview with Maria Trotman, a qualified Podiatrist of 13 years, and Iain Spink, a 14-year experienced music therapist from the Kent & Medway AHP Faculty, to gain some insight into what life is really like as an Allied Health Professional.
Maria qualified as a podiatrist in 2008 at the University of Brighton, and began her career working within the NHS in Croydon. During our chat she noted that she had a keen interest in musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions affecting the legs and feet, and from there started a new role as an MSK Podiatrist working in Kent. She said:
“Within this role I’ve had many opportunities to work with different health professions in different clinical settings. I felt my clinical knowledge grow and grow and I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and learn more knowledge that would make me a more rounded health professional.”
Maria was funded to complete a part-time Masters qualification in clinical research, which allowed her to embed this further knowledge into her clinical practice and improve patient care.
Iain’s career took a very different turn. Iain qualified as a music therapist in 2007 from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, and prior to this worked in Further Education as a support assistant for students with disabilities and dyslexia.
After qualifying as a music therapist, Iain worked several jobs – as a self-employed music therapist, musician and a music lecturer - his first employed post as a music therapist at the Royal London School for the Blind (RLSB). In 2008 Iain was employed by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) on inpatient mental health hospital wards for older people, and continues to work for KMPT in these settings.
When asked what inspired them to enter the industry, Maria and Iain raised some really important reasons. Maria highlighted her passion for making a difference and improving people's quality of life. She said:
“I know I wanted to work within Health Care. When I was at College I had work experience with many health professionals and I enjoyed my time the most with the Podiatry service.”
Iain, on the other hand, always felt that music was beneficial to our health and wellbeing, and felt that it could be a rewarding career that combines a personal passion – music – with his interest in helping others. He said:
“I did further reading and attended several events (music therapy conferences; University open days; Introductory courses) that confirmed that this would be a great career opportunity for me”.
What does a day in the life of an Allied Health Professional look like?
For Maria her days are completely different, which is one of the reasons she really enjoys her role:
“I work within a team but I also work in a clinic on my own. I work in different clinical settings, clinics, hospitals and home visits to patients homes. My role involves me listening to patients and assessing their complaints. From there we formulate a management plan together to improve or solve their complaint.”
For Iain, his clinical work takes place in mental health inpatient settings – mostly hospital wards – for older people with a range of both functional and organic mental health conditions. He said:
“Typically, I offer group and individual music therapy sessions on the ward. I work within a multidisciplinary team which includes Nurses, healthcare assistants, and other Allied Health Professionals including occupational therapists and physiotherapists. I often work alongside the care team staff, who may also provide support in my sessions and may also-co facilitate sessions - for example, I work with a physiotherapist in running music and movement sessions.”
Iain’s work doesn’t end there. He contributes to the patient care records, reflecting on their engagement in the therapy sessions, and also attends ward handover meetings and contributes to person centred support plans and care plans where needed. It’s non-stop and hugely varied. Iain finished by saying:
“I also host student placements and provide clinical supervision for arts therapies students – sometimes in other modalities (drama therapy and art therapy for example).”
Do these jobs sound like something you might enjoy?
Well, both Maria and Iain certainly enjoy their roles. Iain recognises the difference that therapeutic music interventions can have on people with complex and profound mental health conditions, noting that when working with people with dementia, the impact of music can be profound – in some cases helping to facilitate speech, accessing memories, improving mood and reducing challenging or distressing behaviours. He said:
“Music making offers people an alternative means of self-expression, interpersonal engagement, social interaction and fostering relationships with others. The therapeutic relationship is central to music therapy and can be a powerful adjunct for change. Seeing a positive response from people, even for a short time, is very rewarding.”
Maria enjoys the fact that every patient she sees is different and that she can genuinely help improve their quality of life. She also likes that there are many different areas within Podiatry, and that as a podiatrist you can treat wounds on the legs and feet, or treat MSK conditions and manufacture orthotics. Maria identified that:
“You can also perform minor surgery, and there’s an opportunity to become a podiatric surgeon.”
What are the challenges?
Being an Allied Health Professional is not, of course, without its challenges. Maria identified the main challenge being that sometimes you can’t achieve the outcome you and the patient would like, whereas Iain cited the fact that it can be emotionally challenging work: but very rewarding.
Often, in these kinds of settings, Allied Health Professionals are working with people who are acutely unwell, which can be upsetting. The ward environment can also be a challenging setting in which to provide therapeutic interventions. Therefore, clinical supervision and supportive management is crucial.
How can students best prepare for a career as an AHP?
This is Maria’s advice to any prospective Allied Health Professionals:
“If you are thinking about having a career in health or social care the best thing is to try and have some work experience within those areas. There are virtual work experience programmes available, and across the south east there is the on-demand AHP work experience programme powered by Springopod. There, you can find out more about the 14 different professions.”
“I would suggest initially to investigate the AHP role you are interested in: start by reading (online; books; journal articles; blogs, etc). The AHP professional bodies all have websites with information. Also, check out the training course websites - some may offer introductory days or short courses.”
It’s important for anyone thinking of getting into the Allied health professions to talk to a qualified professional about their work and, where possible, see if you can observe or shadow one at work. Gaining some work experience is incredibly valuable. Volunteering is often a way to gain relevant and related experience.
We’d like to reiterate that the Springpod AHP work experience programme is an excellent way of gaining on demand “virtual” work experience. You can apply here.
To work in health care you need to be able to listen to others, be caring and compassionate and have the ability to adapt to changing situations. Does this sound like you?
To be a music therapist more specifically, you need to be a good musician, but also be able to demonstrate the qualities you need to work therapeutically, using music, with people with a variety of needs.
In general, as an AHP in health and social care, important qualities include patience, resilience, empathy and the ability to work with others and to be self-directed when needed.
Why is AHP Day so important in your industry?
AHP day is a day when the visibility of the 14 different AHP professions can be heightened, and the differences they make to people's lives can be demonstrated. It’s a great day to highlight the valuable and varied work all 14 AHP’s do – and the contribution they make to health and social care.
You should look to get involved!
If you’d like to gain further knowledge and insight into life as an Allied Health Professional, then visit the Springpod website here.