Interviewing U of G Alumni Magdalena Duspara about her Experience as a Registered Physiotherapist

Interview conducted by Joanna Carmelo - Career Services Peer Helper

What do you do in a typical day?

“In a typical day, I will assess and treat patients with a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. This includes patients in practically any age group, with kids as young as two months old to the elderly. Different clinics run differently, with some allotting time with the physiotherapist and with an assistant. At my workplace we do not use any assistants, the therapists do all their own work. So we block 45 minutes for an assessment and 30 minutes for a regular treatment. Not all appointments run 30 minutes, and the time may be affected by a variety of factors like needing to use a machine, certain exercises, and even just to speak with the patient."

"In between all of that, I need to find time to do my charting. Which could either be done electronically or on paper. Charting for a normal treatment could be a quick minute or two, especially if it’s a recurring case, but if something changes/new symptoms arise/the treatment is not going according to plan, then I may spend 5 minutes on that patient’s daily chart. Assessments need charting too, with each assessment’s charting taking approximately 15 minutes, depending on whether it is a simple or complex case. Then, with WSIB and MVA cases comes even more charting, paper work, and follow up! That is basically how my typical day goes: a mixture of hands-on working with patients and independent paperwork.”

What do you like most/least about your job?

“I like the variety of challenges that the body presents. Everything from ankle sprains, to MS (multiple sclerosis), to headaches. I like working with people of many ages too. It keeps me on my toes and thinking, almost like a puzzle! Sometimes I have to get creative to help people too. Also, my job involves a lot of being up and moving constantly, like doing exercises with my patients, rather than an office job. So those would be what I like the most. As for what I like the least… that’s easy: paperwork and charting. Most physiotherapists would say the same.”

What education and other experiences did you have for this job?

“I'm a University of Guelph alumni, having done my undergrad there in human kinetics. I absolutely loved the program! Some courses that really stood out to me, even now, are: anatomy, human physiology—a bit difficult, but it was really detailed, thorough, and set me up well—ergonomics, and a course on gait. After graduating from U of G, I obtained my physiotherapy degree from Queen’s University. At Queen’s, I learned about all the body systems: the musculoskeletal system, neurological system, cardiorespiratory system, and the different conditions associated with them. I learned about treatment for these conditions including prescriptive exercise, manual therapy (soft tissue mobilization), and modalities."

"Aside from educational experience, I gained beneficial experience from volunteering at U of G’s Health and Performance Centre. In which I volunteered in both the admin and physiotherapy sides for 1 year. I also worked at the HPC in the summer after my 4th year as reception. I truly gained a lot from doing all that as I had volunteered to see what it was like and to try and decide what to strive for after undergrad. It ultimately pushed me to pursue physiotherapy. It also allowed me to experience different areas of physiotherapy, in a clinical setting, and started my interest in orthopedics and sports injuries. And most importantly, it increased my confidence in the path I was pursuing.”

Are there any specific training or certifications a person needs for this job?

“After physiotherapy school, we are encouraged by our college (College of Physiotherapists of Ontario) to continue education. There are always lots of courses running to become more specialized or focused in other components, like adding acupuncture to your practice. There’s also webinars and online courses to help keep us all up to date. While it may not be strictly required, most physiotherapists do engage in these programs and find it well worth it. Personally, I have taken further courses in manual therapy, acupuncture, and concussion.”

What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?

“An important ability is definitely being able to think quickly. You have to form a diagnosis as the patient is talking to you and before you even touch the patient, you should already have an idea of the issue from what they’re telling you. Other qualities include being a good listener, and having patience and empathy to better understand your patient. Someone once told me about something called the “3 A’s to a successful practice”. Each A standing for: 1. Ability 2. Affinity 3. Availability. Essentially, you have to know what you’re doing, have a knack for it, and be there for your client(s).”

How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future?

“In private clinics, like where I work, I don’t think it will change too much. Not in the foreseeable future at least. In other places, such as concussion and stroke rehabs, those are changing due to advancements like AI. Technology is impacting more in brain and neurology fields, but not so much orthopedically, in regards to physiotherapy treatment. I can’t see a computer doing the manual therapy I do. So there’s a pretty positive outlook in job security. In the medical field, as long as there’s people, they’re going to need help.”

Has your work changed recently due to competition?

“The industry is way more competitive than when I first started working. Now, there’s a physio clinic on almost every intersection in Mississauga. Before, weekend shifts were unheard of, but a lot of places nowadays are asking for varied and extended availability, even just for part-time!”

What is the salary for entry-level and more advanced positions in the field?

“That depends on your type of employment. You can be an independent contractor (self-employed) where your pay can be calculated hourly or split per patient. Or you can be an employee with a set salary or hourly and benefits, like within a hospital. I am not sure of the exact starting and average rates at the moment, and again it depends on a number of factors, but some therapists can make six digits!”

Any last minute advice for aspiring physiotherapists?

“Volunteer volunteer volunteer!! Clinics will always take volunteers. Go see if you like it in practice. See if hospitals will take volunteers. Maybe neuro rehabs or even olympic teams. Just get your foot in! I’d also like to share some advice with everyone in general. Do what you love... in any field! Go to where your interests lie and where your strengths are. If you’re not happy within your work, you’ll be miserable.”