3 Things I Wish I Did Differently When I First Graduated

Posted By: Andy Barker

There are many things that I would do differently if I had my time again.

Everything I do now is a million miles away from what I did when I first graduated back in 2010.

I guess looking back I was just doing what I had been taught at University and using the stuff I had picked up on my placements. 

But I quickly learned that when I first graduated what I knew at the time was not going to cut it in the real world. 

My private practice patients were paying me their hard earned cash to get fixed…

And the athletes I was working with wanted to be back on the pitch ‘yesterday’ and the pressure from the coaches was immense.

It was a sharp learning curve and littered with mistakes.

Since graduating back in 2010 I have learnt so much.

Looking back, 99% of the problems I had as a new grad were brought on by myself and were unnecessary.

If I had my time again I would do things very differently.

Doing these things would have made my life so much easier and if you understand these things, they will make your life as new grad physio, sports therapist or sports rehabilatator so much easier too.

Here they are…

#1 Always Ask Why

I used to just believe most of what I was told.

I left University thinking that all the tests and techniques that I had learnt would work…

After all the journals and textbooks said they would.

But quickly learnt that textbook learning and what actually works in the real world were two very different things.

I then made the mistake of learning more.

Not that learning more is the wrong thing to do…

Quite the opposite.

I just consumed the wrong information and filled my head with more information which ultimately just made me more confused.

I just used to think that all senior physio’s knew what they were talking about.

So if they posted something on social media and it sounded half logical, it must be true.

How wrong was I.

I went on every CPD course under the sun…

Learning all these new shiny tests, techniques and rehab exercises…

From all these ‘experienced’ experts…

Excited to try everything I had learnt out in the clinic or on my players the very next day…

But only to find that they did not work.

Not once as a new grad did I really stop to think and try to clinically reason the stuff I was learning.

How stupid.

Now I firmly believe that if you can’t explain why you are doing something then you should not be doing it.

How often do you stop and think about what you are doing and if it makes sense?

It might be a special test, treatment technique or rehab exercise.

You probably just use these techniques because you have used them it in the past…

Most probably because you got some success with a patient with a similar problem (big tip – this is a one-way ticket to failed rehab as no two patients will ever be the same).

If you find yourself doing the same treatment techniques or rehab exercises over and over again…

Even though your assessments might say otherwise…

Then this is a sign you are doing the exact same thing that I did all those years ago.

I think it’s even more challenging now, particularly as you have all these social media ‘experts’ that post all these fancy tests, techniques and exercises…

And you believe what they say…

After all it looks good and they have a big social media following…

So they must be right, eh? 

Always ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing and if you can confidently reason why, you will not go far wrong.

#2 You Need To Believe What You Are Saying

Because if you don’t believe what you are saying…

It is almost certain that neither will your patient.

If patients don’t trust what you say they won’t do what you ask them to do…

And we all know that patients don’t get better when they don’t do their rehab.

If you don’t have the confidence in what you are saying, your patients won’t believe what you tell them…

And this has nothing to do with your inexperience… 

But your inability to structure a proper assessment, treatment and rehab plan.

If I look back now it is laughable at how complicated I made my assessments…

And how I had completely no structure to my rehab planning, meaning I’d bounce around from exercise to exercise, trying something else, then something else, when my patients symptoms did not improve. 

I think back at how confused and frustrated I was during those early months and years as a new grad when it could have been so much easier.

The biggest change…

Was to simplify my assessment and start using a step by step rehab planner.

Doing this I actually started to believe in what I was doing.

I felt confident giving a diagnosis and when telling a patient how long their injury would take to get right.

When you can do this and be confident in front of your patient, your patients can feel this confidence.

Much in the same way they don’t have confidence in you when you blurt out an incorrect diagnosis or prognosis.


#3 Get Help From The RIGHT Mentor

Much of my early career success was not down to hard work and effort…

But because I got help and support form the right people.

Did I work hard, 100%.

But at the beginning, most of my time, effort and money was being wasted on the wrong things.

I thought I needed to learn how to use acupuncture, active release techniques and spinal manipulations (all courses I did as a new grad)…

But I was wrong.

What I needed was someone to guide me and help me dodge all the big errors and pitfalls that many of my friends at the same stage of their careers were falling into.

There are loads of mentoring schemes and everyman and his dog will offer to give you their ‘advice,’ but you need to be careful.

When you chose a mentor they should always be a couple of steps ahead of you.

This is so they can guide you as to the the best (and quickest) way to overcome the challenges you are up against right now and even better than that…

Highlight the problems that you are likely to come up against in the next months and years that follow (the ones you have no idea are coming).

Having someone that has been in your shoes, that has actually overcome the same problems you are facing right now is the best person to help you.

This is the fastest way to grow your confidence….

Improve your assessment, treatment and rehab skills…

And start making the progress in your career that you really want!

If you don’t have someone in your corner to help you out and are planning on just going it alone it can be a long, frustrating and lonely journey as a new grad physio…

And for most therapists like this, you may never achieve the role that you dreamed about when you first started out.


PS. Want to fast-track your assessment, treatment and rehab skills?

I will be teaching all my biggest tips and tricks that I have learnt over the last 12 years and you can learn all these in just one weekend.

I’m hosting my in-person 1-Day Lower Limb Course on Saturday 4th December 2021 at Emerald Headingley Stadium (Leeds, LS6 3BR).

The following day I am holding my 1-Day Upper Limb Course at the same venue.

You can attend either day on it’s own or book both days and save £50.

I only have 9 places left for both days so move quick to secure your place.

1-day Lower Limb Course – Saturday 4th December 2021 (Emerald Headingley Stadium, LS6 3BR).

1-day Upper Limb Course – Sunday 5th December 2021 (Emerald Headingley Stadium, LS6 3BR).