Physiotherapy for beginners

Published on August 25th, 2011
Physiotherapy for beginners

What made you decide to study physiotherapy?
To be very honest, I didn’t choose to study physiotherapy! I’d prefer to be studying medicine as that was what I applied for, but when I didn’t get accepted for medicine I had to go with my second choice, which was physiotherapy.

What was your first week at university like?
Well, personally I found the first week of varsity very daunting and stressful. I felt absolutely tiny in a very big place, not knowing anyone there (all my classmates from school were already in their third year when I started my first year). It’s not something I’d repeat in a hurry so I’m glad it’s over!

What have been the best and most challenging parts of your first year?
The biggest challenge this year has definitely been learning to keep calm when the pressure is on and it feels like there’s too much to fit into the time available. I’m naturally a perfectionist and I like everything to be done timeously, but I had to learn how to work smarter rather than harder to make sure I could fit everything in. Subject-wise, without a doubt, the physics has been my biggest challenge!

My best part of this year was realising that this is my time to make my future, so it’s completely up to me how well I go about doing that. Subject-wise, I really enjoyed biology, which unfortunately was only a half-course. It finished at the end of the first semester, but it was the closest out of all our subjects that relates to health sciences, which is what I really enjoy.

Did you go straight to university after school? Was it easy to get into your course, and did you apply anywhere else or for anything else?
I took two years off after I finished school (I was dancing at the South African Ballet Theatre). I always wanted to be a professional ballet dancer, so I was lucky enough to do that for two years. Ballet has always been my passion.

I applied to most of the universities that offer medicine (Wits, UCT, Stellenbosch, UKZN and Pretoria) but didn’t get in at any of them – they all said my marks weren’t competitive enough. I managed to get into Wits to study physiotherapy. So no, it wasn’t easy to get in!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
In 10 years, I’d definitely like to be married. I’d probably also like to have specialised in a field of physiotherapy or have studied something else further. Wherever I end up, I’d like to be doing some kind of work where I can be helping people.

What school did you go to and what were your subjects?
I went to Northcliff High School and I took English, Afrikaans, maths, science, biology, accounting and life orientation.

What were your favourite school subjects?
I really enjoyed biology and maths. Science was difficult, but by the end of Matric when I did well in it … it was a great sense of achievement.

What subjects are required for physiotherapy, and what type of person would enjoy it?
I’m not actually sure what subjects are required! When I chose my subjects I wasn’t choosing them based on the career I wanted to go into – just based on what I enjoyed. I knew that I enjoyed more analytical and science-based subjects so I took those types of subjects. Also, I thought that by taking straight maths, science and biology, I would keep my options as open as possible.

I think the kind of person that would do well in physiotherapy is someone who enjoys subjects relating to the human body and the health sciences. Someone who has a lot of compassion and wants to really make a difference to people is also very important. You need to be prepared to put in hard work for the studying part of it and it also helps if you have participated in some type of sport and have a keen interest in the way the body works.

Finally, it will help if you don’t mind having very close contact with patients or people in general, because that’s what will be required.

Did you enjoy maths and science at school?
I enjoyed maths more than science, probably because I found maths easier so it was less of a struggle to do well in it … but generally I did enjoy both of those subjects.

What’s your motto in life?
I’m not really into the whole ‘life motto’ thing, but from what I’ve learnt (mainly from my mom!), just take one day at a time. Keep your life simple with the things that are special to you, and really take the time to enjoy what you do. Appreciate what you have but don’t chase after what you don’t have – there’s a reason you don’t have it.

If your house was on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?
I have no idea! Probably my cat or my handbag. Or as much as I could fit into a tog bag. I try not to get too attached to physical things – I don’t see the point :)

Any advice for high-school learners?
Don’t be afraid of hard work – in whatever you do. That’s what will get you to where you want to be and it’s something nobody can do for you except yourself. The harder you work at what you want in all areas of your life (not only studying), the happier and more fulfilled you will be as a person. That’s the best place to be – especially if you are doing a degree where you want to be helping people, as a physio would.

Tell us a joke…
A worker returned from his visit to the doctor and a colleague asked him how his appointment was. The colleague replied, ”Not bad. The doctor told me that I have math dyslexia.”

The other fellow said, “Gee, that sounds bad.”

“Actually, the doctor told me not to worry, because 17 out of 5 people have it.”