I am currently doing a PhD in Neurosciences, and work clinically as a specialist physiotherapist. Musically, I have written music for theatre and film, played the piano at several London venues, and I am currently writing the music for an adaption of a children’s novel to the stage. I have found that being a physiotherapist and being a musician are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there are many complementary transferable skills, and a certain reciprocity between the two areas.
In my opinion, having a creative nature is a very useful asset for a physiotherapist. The NHS is moving away from the traditional didactic approach to patient education and treatment, and moving towards a more collaborative and holistic model of healthcare. There is an increasing awareness and appreciation for the fact that we should be treating the person as a whole- not just their disease or injury.
In order to be able to do this effectively, healthcare professionals need to be able to understand individuals. Individuals are intricate and complex. Different people experience the same ‘objective reality’ in different ways, and have different reasons for their actions. In order to understand human action, we need empathetic understanding – to see the world through the eyes of the actors doing the acting. This is where being creative, or involved in the arts can be useful. Creative subjects are considered effective tools for increasing empathy and developing emotional responses. Furthermore, those involved in the arts often approach problem solving in creative ways, feeling their way to a solution rather than only looking for explicit causality.
Enhancing understanding of patients’ stories
The specificity of scientific method often does not take into account the complexity and abstruseness of human lived experience. A creative background can help with narrative reasoning and decision making, enhancing understanding of patients’ “stories,” illness experiences, meaning perspectives, contexts, beliefs, and cultures. Moreover, being able to think outside the box, and find innovative ways to engage patients in their rehabilitation/treatment, is a valuable skill.
Finally, the diverse, meaningful, and highly emotive nature of work as a physiotherapist provides rich inspiration for my music. As a healthcare professional, you are regularly making deep connections with people who are at their most vulnerable, and these relationships are expressed and represented in the music I make. One of the pressures physiotherapists face at the moment, is anticipating how the profession will need to change in the future. Embracing the unique skills offered by creative people, and drawing inspiration from the arts could provide one possible direction.