Why Competency Is ‘KING’ & Why Not Having It Is Stopping You Getting Consistent Positive Patient Results

Posted By: Andy Barker

Competency is the key to EVERYTHING you do as a therapist.

Your ability to be competent in your practice is often the difference between what makes you either a successful New Grad Physio and a not so successful therapist.

Unfortunately, you don’t just finish University, gain your therapy ‘badge,’ qualifications and registration and become competent.

Competency is something all therapists should be continually working on, highlighting areas in their practice that need improvement, then setting strategies to improve and gain the competency they need in those identified areas.

I know how important competency is, so much so I even wrote a book about it!!!

I don’t just talk about competency in the book, however, it’s a theme that runs right through the text as I know just how important it is in the day-day practice of a therapist, regardless of whether you work in the NHS, private practice or even sport.

Whilst I would consider myself competent in my therapy skills today, this wasn’t the case when I was a New Grad.

I could tell you 100+ stories of occasions, experiences or embarrassing stories when I got things wrong as New Grad Physio.

Times when I couldn’t get the right patient diagnosis, couldn’t answer that difficult patient question, picked the wrong treatment technique or rehab exercise with a patient or struggled to communicate my clinical message to my patient or another member of the MDT.

I lacked the competency in even some basic areas of my practice as a New Grad Physio.

I remember referring a player for an MRI on a knee injury only a few months out from University when I was working in professional rugby, only to get the results back, reading through the report and not understanding half the terminology that was written.

I remember hastily using google to piece together what the report was saying as I felt too embarrassed to ask the senior physio’s I was working with.

Worried that I wouldn’t be able to explain the report to the rest of the medical team, the player himself or even worse, the head coach!!!

On reflection, I shouldn’t have felt embarrassed.

The content of that radiology report, the terminology and language used was not something I had seen before, it wasn’t something that I had even been taught at University.

But that didn’t help at the time and it didn’t help me feel any less incompetent and embarrassed.

There will always be gaps in your knowledge and as you transition from University into the real world these gaps will become apparent.

This blog will show you how to identify your own knowledge gaps and side-step the pitfalls (and the embarrassing experiences they bring) that the majority of New Grad’s fall into by becoming a more competent New Grad Physio.

What Is Competency?

First, we must be clear on exactly what competency is.

It’s a term banded around the medical world but what really does it mean?

Competency is the same as proficiency and refers to the ability to do something well.

For you as a therapist this could relate to your patient assessment skills, hand-on treatment techniques, rehab prescription or the ability to coach a patient a rehab exercise.

Being competent in your patient assessments means that you can identify exactly what is going wrong with your patient (diagnosis).

The inability or incompetence in your patient assessment will mean an incorrect diagnosis, then likely inappropriate interventions, your hands-on treatments and rehab, because you are trying to fix the wrong problem.

You could be the best hands on therapist in the world or be able to design and implement the best rehab programme ever seen, but if those interventions are trying to fix the wrong problem you won’t get very far.

Our patient assessments, hands on treatments and rehab provision all link together.

Your incompetence in any one of these areas will affect ALL areas of your clinical practice and in turn your ability to get your patients out of pain and quickly back to full function.

But it doesn’t stop there…

It’s NOT Just Your Clinical Skills

Above we spoke about competency in relation to your assessment, treatment techniques and rehab provision.

For most therapists that’s what we think about being important when we think about managing our patients in the best possible way.

And they are important, but…

What about the non-clinical skills?

Just think about this…

Clinically you could be bang on.

You’ve nailed your diagnosis, chosen the correct hands-on treatment techniques and rehab exercises you know will help your patient’s symptoms.

Then you send your patient away with their home exercise programme.

You ‘think’ your patient will just go away and do what you said, complete the prescribed sets and reps of the prescribed rehab.

But quite often they don’t, but why?

After all these exercises will help them so why don’t they do them?

Most often it’s because you have failed to communicate your clinical message effectively.

Even if you have designed the best home exercise programme for that individual patient, given them exercises you KNOW will fix them, unless you can communicate this information to your patient well, its unlikely they will ‘buy in’ to the plan.

Communicating is a skill.

And just like your patient assessments, manual therapy skills and rehabilitation prescription, it’s a skill that needs developing.

I see this as a BIG problem, so often, with the New Grad Physio’s I work with at the start of their journey.

They spend so much time trying to develop the clinical skills they often forget these softer skills.

These New Grad’s become stuck.

Their patients aren’t doing what their supposed to be doing and as a result don’t get better.

Usually they struggle to figure out why.

They mostly blame the patient for being lazy.

Sometimes they might question if they got the right diagnosis in the first place.

Very few realise that it is in fact their own incompetence communicating their clinical message to their patient that is the problem.

If patients don’t understand what is going on and how their treatment plan is going to take away their pain and get them back to full fitness, then why would they ‘buy in?’

So, how do you identify and improve your competency?

Keep reading to find out…

What Are You ‘Incompetent’ At?

It sounds a bit harsh…

But if you are not competent you are incompetent.

All therapists have areas in their clinical practice that they need to improve on, even highly experienced therapists.

Those that don’t and think they know it all, just don’t realise what areas they need to work on, but I’m sure their patients do…

I’ve scheduled time to improving my subjective assessment skills over the past 18 months and in doing so, this has made a massive impact to the success I and my therapists are currently having in my private practice.

Having worked in full-time sport for so long there were areas that I felt I needed to improve upon to maximise my effectiveness in private practice specifically, with my subjective history being top of that list.

Having identified this, I made sure I was putting sufficient time in my personal development in this area and made it a goal to make sure what I was reading, listening to or learning was having a direct impact on my ability to get the best possible outcomes with my patients in the fastest possible time.

And not only has this helped patient retention, patient treatment success and speed of recovery of the patients I treat in private practice, it’s also had added to my ability to better serve the athletes I work with the sports consultancy work I do.

So, a problem that was driven by working in sport has improved my effectiveness as a therapist not only in private practice but also in sport itself.

But what about you?

What areas do you need to become more competent in?

Make a short list.

These are the areas you need to prioritise and devote time to improve upon.

Doing this will ensure you build the competency you need to get the patient results you really want and enjoy a successful life as a New Grad Physio.

Bringing It All Together

Competency is the ability to do something well.

It not only relates to your clinical skills; patient assessments, hands-on treatment techniques and rehab provision but other skills, like communication are equally as important.

Without competency in both your clinical and non-clinical skills you will never get the consistent positive patient results you and your patient want.

And that is why…

Competency Is ‘King.’

Andy Barker
The New Grad Physio Mentor

If you enjoyed reading this blog, you need to grab a copy of my ‘New Grad Physio Survival Guide.’
In this FREE guide I will show you how to make improve your clinical COMPETENCY so you can make sense of your patient assessments, then provide hands-on treatments and prescribe rehab exercises that actually take away patient’s pain and help get them back to full function.

You will also learn how to improve your CONFIDENCE so you can build great rapport with your patient’s, gain the respect and recognition you deserve as a qualified therapist and communicate your clinical message well so patients believe what you are saying and adhere to your treatment plan.

In addition, you will learn how to become COMPETITIVE so you can stand out from the crowd, get ahead of your peers to fly up the promotion ladder faster than anyone thought possible.

You can get this guide completely FREE right here.