In Conversation With… An interview with Jennifer-Ann Gibbons, Physiotherapist
As part of our series of blogs, meeting the people who work at Bedford Consulting Rooms; BCR’s Helen caught up with Physiotherapist, Jennifer-Ann Gibbons, to find out more about her physiotherapy practise, and what inspires her in her work.
Fact File – Jennifer-Ann Gibbons:
• Has over 30 years’ experience as a physiotherapist
• Has a wide range of experience with diverse patient groups, as a senior physiotherapist within the NHS
• Worked with professional rugby club, the Saracens, for six years
• Worked in the management of persistent pain within a specialist tertiary centre (Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore)
• Is a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
Helen: What led you into training to be a physiotherapist?
I had seen the difference that physiotherapy can make to a patient’s life, first hand. My dad had a very bad break to the leg playing sport; and he spent a year working very hard, with the support of physiotherapists, to regain movement. I went along to the appointments with him, and I really admired what the physiotherapists did.
Having gone to study for a law degree, I quickly realised that it wasn’t for me, and looked at what I really wanted to do. From having seen the physiotherapists’ work, my motivation was to work with people to regain their physical health.
Helen: What is your approach toward addressing a patient’s condition or symptoms?
Physiotherapists take a holistic approach, with a series of questions and a detailed examination that looks at the patient as a whole, rather than a collection of symptoms. So it’s not just all about – say your ankle pain – but also the history, and overall picture. I am looking for the connections, and these can be in either acute (sudden onset), or longstanding conditions.
Essentially, my goal is to help the patient to optimise wherever they are, at whatever stage they are in their life. This is going to be different for every individual. This is about getting to the root of the problem, and keeping the question for the patient as to “what do you want to achieve?”, at the centre of the process.
Helen: For the uninitiated, what sort of conditions do physiotherapists treat?
Physiotherapists help people of all ages to address issues of movement or injury in the neuro-musculoskeletal system. Patients may present with pain or restrictions in movement or balance issues; and can either be acute (sudden onset), or longstanding. This can involve the muscles, tendons and bones; any of the peripheral joints, including the more complex ones, such as the shoulder.
Helen: You mentioned all ages, do you also treat children?
Yes, I see Children and Young People (CYP) from the age of 8 years. They may be coming along with things like growth issues, pain, or issues with their joints, for example.
Helen: Do you have any special interests within physiotherapy?
I’ve worked in a number of settings and with patients from all different walks of life; as a senior NHS physiotherapist; for 6 years with the Saracens, professional rugby team; and now in private practise.
Early on, I worked in the management of persistent pain at a tertiary centre, the RNOH (Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital), and from this, one of my interests is working with people with life-long conditions, including persistent or longstanding pain; which can involve all aspects of the neuro-musculoskeletal system.
I also have an interest in dizziness and vestibular (balance) issues, and frailty. There is an overall picture where these things contribute to quality of life as people age, and linking to mobility and possibly fall prevention. The underlying neuro-musculoskeletal issues can be examined and addressed, such as neck issues upon turning the head, or issues involving labyrinthitis. These are cases where I may get a referral along the lines of “can you help my mother, she’s not getting out and about as much”; and holistically there are a number of aspects to addressing this overall picture with the patient.
Helen: What do you enjoy about being a physiotherapist?
I would say it is rewarding to be able to be involved in optimising someone’s outcome; that is looking at the potential, and helping them toward achieving that. Starting from where they are, they may come to me with a particular question, this could even be something like: “I’ve been told I have arthritis, what can I do for myself?” or “I need some help with my headaches”.
I spend a good deal of time in the consultation to get to the root of things, and be able to have those conversations and manage expectations. Hearing where people are, when they come to me is part of this process of working together to get to the potential they can achieve at their stage of life, and in the wider context of their lifestyle.
Helen: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today!
Contact Jennifer-Ann via her the contact form on her page
• Physiotherapists are specially trained health care professionals, regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council
• A three-year full-time degree is the most popular way to train as a physiotherapist, other routes include degree apprenticeship