Blog for Clinicians

The 5 Types of Physiotherapy Professional Development: Advice from a Clinic Owner and Mentor

Posted on: June 23rd, 2022 by Dan Sivertson
Lunch and Learning are a fun, collaborative way of learning
Lunch and Learning are a fun, collaborative way of learning

The vast majority of new physios I meet are very interested in receiving ongoing Professional Development (PD) education, also known as Continuing Professional Development (CPD).  

I’m willing to bet that PD is important to you as well.  

In fact, I find it’s the #1 talking point in interviews.  And that interest is good!


Because how can you offer the best treatment for your patients if you stop formal learning the day you finish university and then rely just on your experience?   

Answer:  You can’t.  

But what exactly is Physiotherapy PD? Is it an experienced PT showing you some hands-on techniques over your lunch break? Is it a weekend course at a conference room downtown? All the above?

It’s worth diving into what the different types of PD are.  Let’s get at it.

Clinic Size Can Influence What PD is Available

Different clinics can offer different things to you, the mentee, depending on the financial situation of the clinic, its size, and your area of interest. 

As an example, if it is a larger clinic and you are one of 5 new physios on the team, then you may have a lot of your education “in house” with your colleagues.  

A smaller clinic may not have the same resources, and so you may need to take more courses off site.  

That said, no clinic can offer everything. You may be interested in ACL rehab; it is very possible that no one at your clinic feels they are a guru- expert in the area. In that case, you need to invest your money and time tracking down a weekend course (or an on-line course) on that topic.

5 Major Types of Physio Professional Development

Here are the 5 types:

  1. Group PD 
  2. 1:1 mentorship 
  3. Co – treat 
  4. Courses and Conferences
  5. Online courses 

1. Physiotherapy Group PD

Call it a Lunch and Learn, or Group PD, but whatever you call it, it is when the whole crew gets together and someone runs a lecture or practical session. 

Pro Tip:  A great way to really cement your learnings from your last weekend course (or recent article or on-line course you took) is to teach to your clinic team. As you summarize what you were taught, you really get to know the content as you share it with others.

Having a guest speaker, like Andrea Mendoza of Scoli Clinic, can introduce new concepts to the clinic

2. One to one Physiotherapy Mentorship 

The obvious benefit of meeting 1:1 with your mentor is that you can discuss or practice anything.  It is tricky to practice techniques in these sessions, as you can only try the technique on the mentor who may be unable to see what our hand placements are.

These are, however, a great opportunity to bring up challenges you are having with particular patients.  

Pro Tip: To help keep you and the mentor organised, make a list of the patients you want to discuss. Present the info to your mentor with the key information of the patient’s gender, age, and brief history of the injury or pain.

Another option for technique work is to have one mentor and two mentees in the room. The two mentees can then try techniques out and the mentor can observe and offer some feedback. 

3. Co-Treat a Patient 

Whether you are watching your mentor treat their patients, or they are watching you treat, this is a great learning opportunity.  Watching your mentor is the best way to see how the mentor stream lines their assessments, manages to treat 2 or 3 areas in one session, and builds rapport and trust with the patient.

Hopefully your mentor speaks as they assess and treats, so that you know what they are thinking as they go. If they don’t, then don’t be scared to ask after the session why the mentor chose to do a certain technique or test. 

If the mentor is watching you, try not to be too nervous. We all started somewhere and the path to being an expert is a very long one. 

4. Physiotherapy Professional Development Courses and Conferences 

Courses can be as short as one day, or as long as a week.  Traditionally the PT paid their own way on these courses. It is more common now for PT employees to receive a “PD Budget” in their contract for some weekend education.  See below for some important points about being an Independent Contractor.

Weekend courses are like a buffet. You can get whatever you want! You may want to focus on a common condition that you do not feel very comfortable with, such as low back pain.  Another option is to go and get some education in an area you are more interested in. Again, this could be the start of you building a niche area in your practice. 

Courses didn’t happen for 2 years during the pandemic. I really hope they come back “in fashion” as this is such a great way to meet other physios from other clinics and to learn things others in your clinic don’t know. 

Conferences, such as the PABC Physiotherapy Conference  are a great way to score nice lunch and listen to speakers from a vast array of areas within the profession. 

5. Online Physiotherapy Courses 

Like anything, you usually get what you pay for. Free content from social media “influencers” does not count as PD!  Some online courses and memberships that have great evidence -based content are Embodia, Physio Edge , Physio-pedia, and Physio-network .   

For a small fee you can access courses in a large number of areas. The downside is that it is passive education. Most in-person courses move between some didactic teaching and then a lab/ practical session where you get to use your hands. 

To wrap this topic up, to truly grow your clinical skills, you really need to have a nice mix of all these different types of PD built into your career.  You will be doing more of this in the first few years of your career, but you should never stop learning.  Physios that are not learning are at higher risk of College complaints and may stop being relevant in a constantly and rapidly evolving profession. 

Learning is so important to us at Pure Form that it is enshrined into our 5 Core Values. 

Pro Tip:  Don’t settle for anything less wherever you’re working.

Additional Considerations

As we will discuss in a future blog on building your caseload, it is always a great idea by year 2 or 3 of your professional career to start building a niche.  Back to my ACL analogy; let’s say that no physio in your clinic (or better yet, in your neighbourhood) is an ACL rehab expert. You then take the course and make some contacts with a local ortho surgeon… then you may now be the guru!  

There are a couple of caveats to this conversation that must be addressed. We will discuss in another future blog the difference between being an employee and being an Independent Contractor (IC), also called a Sub – Contractor.  I can not overstate this. If you are an IC, then you can not receive PD by your employer.  An IC is a separate business entity in the eyes of the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).  If you are working as an IC, and you get audited by CRA, and they see that you have been receiving PD, that may result in a ruling that you are an employee. Should that happen, you may owe a pile back to the government in taxes. Not fun at all! 

The other caveat is that this is a 2 – way street.  The mentor and you need to find time to do PD.  If you are not wanting to lose time to treat patients, and not willing to stay after work or come in early at a time that also works for the mentor, then it won’t happen. It is hard to organise PD and if you don’t sacrifice something to make it work, then you can’t expect the PD to magically happen. 

What’s Up Next

My next blog in the New Physio Series covers the important issues with physiotherapy contracts and issues you really need to be aware of.

To receive the rest of the blog series to your inbox and my Best Three Questions to Ask In An Initial Assessment please fill out this easy Google Form.  I promise to only send you information to assist you in your career path, such as this ongoing blog series. 

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about joining our team at Pure Form Physio please check out this page and video

Good luck and enjoy the ride! 

Dan Sivertson (PT)

Pure Form Physio, Langley BC 

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