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Meet Physiotherapy Apprentice Thea

Physiotherapy apprentice Thea has the best of both worlds

It is a little-known fact that National Star is one of only a handful of organisations nationally that offers staff the opportunity to train to become qualified physiotherapists by embarking upon a degree level apprenticeship.

Former care and support worker Thea Du Monceau joined National Star to get a feel for whether she would enjoy working with young people with disabilities. She fell in love with the charity and the young people she supported at work but longed to move into an allied healthcare role to utilise some of the skills she had learnt while studying towards her sports therapy degree.

Fast forward two years and Thea transferred into the physiotherapy team as a physio assistant, supporting qualified physiotherapists as they work with students to empower them to manage a range of health conditions including lifelong disabilities or recently acquired brain injuries that can impact their mobility, respiratory function, posture, and tone. National Star’s physiotherapy team work together to help students to manage their pain through a range of therapies including aquatic therapy, rebound therapy and stretch or standing routines.

‘My long-term career goal was to continue to progress in physiotherapy, but there was limited progression for me without a degree in physiotherapy,’ said Thea.

National Star making the most of Thea’s potential

National Star saw Thea’s potential and were one of the first employers to sign up to train staff through a degree level apprenticeship programme delivered by Coventry University. Thea was part of the first cohort of students and will complete her degree in 2023.

‘I am so grateful to National Star for sponsoring me to complete my physiotherapy degree, which involves me working four days a week at the charity and attending university once a week in Coventry,’ said Thea.

‘My family and financial commitments meant that I could not afford to study towards a physiotherapy degree as a full-time student. Now I have the best of both worlds, working for an organisation that I love while progressing my career at the same time.

‘My degree is the same as that studied by full-time students, condensed into one day a week of face-to-face teaching over four years. The pandemic has certainly added a level of complexity to my training. I am extremely lucky that the physio team at National Star has a diverse skillset and I learn from my colleagues every day – they are hugely supportive of me and my studies.

‘The apprenticeship route also supports the fundamentals of becoming a competent and confident physiotherapist by developing my clinical reasoning skills and autonomy through self-directed study, practice-based learning and reflection,’ added Thea.

Two more former physio assistants at National Star have also recently embarked upon the degree apprenticeships in physiotherapy. Verity Fisher, Physiotherapy Manager and National Lead for Healthcare at National Star, is fully supportive of the apprenticeship programme and the opportunities it offers staff and the organisation.

Degree apprenticeship helps National Star grow its own talent

‘The physiotherapy degree apprenticeship is something I passionately believe in, as not only does it allow us to grow our own talent as an organisation, but it also gives staff, who simply couldn’t do it through the traditional undergraduate or masters route, the chance to become a physiotherapist,’ said Verity.

‘The rotation of apprentices on placements also means we support other students or apprentices training to be physiotherapists, which is invaluable to the organisation, team and individuals. For National Star it is important that we train and develop people who share our culture and values as well as those who wish to work with the young people we are privileged to support.

‘It is a vocation and not merely a job working in allied healthcare at National Star. As therapists we support young people in a range of ways and varying environments, from the classroom or student residence through to the mountains of Andorra when they learn to ski. Supporting the young people over several years, we are fortunate to be part of their journey and see the progress they make towards independence with the help of physiotherapy. Equally we support them to come to terms with deteriorating conditions in a way which still enables them to live life to the full.

‘We are fully behind our degree apprenticeship training model and look forward to supporting more student physiotherapists in the years to come,’ added Verity.

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