Home Health & Wellness Childhood Surgery Inspires Rachel’s Physiotherapy Journey as She Calls for More People to Return to Practice

Childhood Surgery Inspires Rachel’s Physiotherapy Journey as She Calls for More People to Return to Practice

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A children’s physiotherapist is sharing her inspirational story in the hope more people will follow her lead and return to practice.

Rachel O’Sullivan was born with bilateral talipes (club foot) and had corrective surgery when she was five years old.

It was the Leicestershire native’s positive experiences with the physiotherapy team during recovery that inspired her to pursue a physiotherapy career and help others.

Rachel said, “I always knew that I wanted to work with people and help people, so due to my own experiences, I went into children’s physiotherapy. After my operation, the physiotherapy helped me to walk in a more normal pattern and regain movement around my ankles. I work holistically, and my own experiences have given me more empathy as I can understand what the children and families are experiencing. It is great to be able to give something back to a service that helped me.”

Rachel completed her physiotherapy degree from Coventry University in 1999 but took a career break from the profession as her husband’s job saw the family relocate to New Jersey in the USA for more than three years.

Rachel always knew she wanted to return, and Coventry University’s online Allied Health Professionals Return to Practice course gave her the opportunity to re-register with the Health and Care Professional Council (HCPC).

She is now back helping children in the new role of advanced practitioner, children’s physiotherapist, for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust.

Rachel said: “Anyone who has worked for the NHS knows its value, and my message to anyone thinking of returning to practice is just do it!”

“I was apprehensive to start with because of the idea of academic work, but there is nothing to be worried about. The staff are so supportive, and I’d recommend it to anybody. It hasn’t just helped me return to practice; it has helped me gain more leadership skills and secure a promotion.”

In 2022, Coventry University was successfully awarded a tender by NHS England Workforce Training and Education, formally Health Education England, to create and deliver a blended course for Return to Practice.

Rachel is one of 40+ allied health professionals (AHPs) from 14 different professions that have completed the Coventry University course in the last 12 months and returned to roles in the NHS, health, and care.

Return to Practice course director Mary Burton said: “The Return to Practice course is important as it is helping to increase the number of AHPs working within health and social care.

“There is a real need and desire to recruit people, like Rachel, who have worked within health and social care before and have left the profession for many reasons.

“They have a wealth of knowledge and experience and have skills they have gained from other industries and life experiences that they will bring with them to enrich their roles.

“I’m so proud to see our students like Rachel successfully finding jobs and it’s a privilege to be able to support them along the way.”

The course places were funded by Health Education England (HEE) and they will continue to provide financial support to any eligible allied health professional considering taking the Coventry University Return to Practice course.

Natasha Pisarski, NHS England’s Return to Practice programme manager, HCPC, said: “Supporting valued colleagues back onto the HCPC register and, ultimately, back to the workforce is one of the most important things we do. Returners bring back with them a wealth of health and care experience, many transferable skills, and much life experience too.

“We are delighted by Coventry’s innovative approach, and we know from the feedback that this meets the needs of individual returners, enabling them to return and thrive. If you are a previous HCPC registrant thinking of returning to the register, the NHSE Return to Practice programme and our valued education collaborators are poised to support you.”

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