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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Fiona Maxwell BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy, 2017

Fiona Maxwell's Photo

We caught up with Fiona at her graduation and asked her to share her experience studying physiotherapy at the University of Southampton.

The staff and students were welcoming and friendly, but most importantly passionate about Southampton making this University stand out amongst its competitors.

Why did you want to study BSc physiotherapy?

After some research and work experience I gained an insight into the profession and the scope of practice that physiotherapy covers, from people with learning difficulties, to elite athletes, and paediatrics through to end of life care. The challenge the diversity of patients would provide, allied to my passion for working with people made this the perfect choice.

Why did you choose to come and study at the University of Southampton?

Southampton offers one of the highest rated physiotherapy courses. Attending Southampton's Physiotherapy Open Day was critical in my decision to choose this University. The staff and students were welcoming and friendly, but most importantly passionate about Southampton making this University stand out amongst its competitors. I remember the introductory speech given by Julian Pearce about the course. I was engaged throughout and felt that his enthusiasm about physiotherapy and especially Southampton was amazing.

What is it like studying here?

The small cohort of physiotherapy students meant my time throughout my course was continuously supportive and I have formed fantastic friendships with my peers. The staff and lecturers are also flexible with their teaching, and endeavour to prioritise our thoughts and feedback as students.

The campus is mainly located on one site, this means everything is easily accessible and there is a great buzz of students throughout the day. The library is well stocked with books for the course and is a great quiet study space; I made use of the many private group study rooms available to book. When not studying, the student union and well equipped sports centre were ideal for some downtime.

Were there any modules that stood out during your course?

My favourite module throughout the course was a new one introduced in my final year of studies. The module was about on-call training and designed to prepare students for on-call scenarios once qualified. The module was predominately practical which is necessary in this area of physio. We were fortunate to use the simulated wards and SIM man throughout this module and also had actors to simulate role-plays for practice. Debbie Thackray and an external respiratory specialist taught the module, it was great to have this combined teaching as it ensured up to date knowledge was being relayed as well as successful application of theory and research. I think this module makes Southampton stand out from other Universities and has prepared us exceptionally for on-call scenarios as a junior physiotherapist.

What other activities did you take advantage of while at University?

I loved being a member of Southampton University Netball Club for my 3 years at uni. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and compete against other universities across the UK. I was fortunate enough to go on the University netball tour in my first year; it was a great opportunity to bond with other members of the club which reflected in our game play when we returned to continue the BUCS netball season.

I was also involved in the development of the new physiotherapy society. I enjoyed being a committee member for two years and grounding the foundations to a now successful university society. In my second year of studies I was the social secretary of the society which meant I organized events throughout the year. A favourite event of mine is now the annual end of year ball. It’s a great way for all year groups to get together, celebrate achievements and hand out awards.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights’?

My final placement on the Isle of Wight was a real highlight; I loved the team I was working with and felt confident in my skills as a final year physio student. I was placed with the community neuro team known as CSRT. This team was made up of a handful of members from the multi-disciplinary, this great collaborative working and the care and compassion every member displayed made this placement my best. On arrival the team was welcoming and made me feel comfortable. As it was my final placement I was much more confident in my skills as a physiotherapist and ability to work in a team. This helped me to make the most of this placement and to grow into an independent practitioner.

I also thoroughly enjoyed working at the Royal Hampshire and County Hospital. One particular day that stands out to me was when working alongside a student nurse in A&E. We both shared our skill sets and knowledge in our professions to assist with the care of a patient. The patients appreciation of our help and success with their discharge gave both of us confidence in our abilities and it was lovely to see this.

I enjoyed the research project I undertook with a group of peers in my final year of studies. The project investigated, using a novel recording device, the ability of healthy individuals to manipulate their breathing patterns and the effect this had on their lung volumes. The independence and skills we developed throughout this task are invaluable. Southampton is a leading University in research and this is carried over to their students. 

How did you find living in Southampton?

The halls accommodation is fantastic and a great opportunity to meet lots of people. The support available was perfect, there was always somebody to help and answer any questions in the accommodation office on each halls site. I felt safe and settled from the outset.

Southampton is a great city to live in; it has everything to meet your needs. Whether your thing is going for a long walk or BBQ in Southampton common or you love dancing in a club. There are always events going on to keep you busy. Southampton has a great shopping centre as well as lots of bars and clubs.

What advice would you give to a student starting their degree at Southampton?

I would advise future students to take hold of every opportunity that arises and to take yourself out of your comfort zone. The University of Southampton offers a variety of challenges and experiences that helps you grow into a strong, independent individual. However, most importantly, enjoy yourself. Undertaking a degree in physiotherapy is difficult; therefore it’s important to have some downtime and fun as well.

How did your course at Southampton prepare you for your future career?

The combination of academic learning and clinical placements has developed me into an independent practitioner. The level of support given throughout the three years has been tailored correctly at promoting me to think on my feet and grow into a physiotherapist.

Tell us about the next steps in your physiotherapy career.

I am soon to start a rotational post as a band 5 physiotherapist for Portsmouth Hospitals Trust. I am looking forward to starting my first role and gaining some great experiences in different areas of physiotherapy, gaining a greater insight into an area I wish to specialise in.

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