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Women in Business - Estelle Mitchell, Consultant Physiotherapist

Women in Business

For International Women’s Day this year I was interviewed by the Euro Weekly for their “Women in Business” Special!

Estelle Mitchell, Consultant Physiotherapist at The Bodyworks Clinic

English Chartered Physiotherapist, MCSP, SRP, HPC, OCPPP, Grad Dip Phys. Col No 2070. Musculoskeletal Specialist

It still seems strange to be included in a Women in Business section, to me I am “just” a physiotherapist!

But, having run The Bodyworks Clinic here on the Costa del Sol for the past 15 years I suppose I must qualify!

Being a woman

I trained in the Royal Air Force in the UK, qualifying in 1978 in a group that was about equal men and women. I hope being a women in the military has got easier since! It was certainly not an equal playing field then.

But physiotherapy in the NHS has always been a woman dominated profession, with women still making up about 80% of the workforce.

I left the NHS over 20 years ago to enter private practice – they wanted to promote me to senior physio and that would have meant not being hands on with patients any more. I have always been more interested in people than paper!

Here in Spain I have found that being a highly qualified woman has, for my patients at least, been more of an attraction than a problem.

We are such a diverse and multi-cultural community here that I think there are many patients who have come to me because they wanted to be treated by a woman – it makes the treatment process much simpler for them.

Training and more training!

Perhaps my favourite part of being in private practice and running my own clinic is the freedom.

The freedom to pursue additional training in the areas that appeal to me. Over the last 10 years I have hugely expanded my knowledge base to include specialisations in:

This freedom also allows me to integrate new technologies into my practice like the revolutionary Magnetic Resonance Therapy to treat osteoarthritis, tendon and ligament injuries and osteoporosis.

This training has given me the tools to make treatment more effective, and often quicker, for my patients.

The flip side

Of course the flip side to this freedom is the responsibility – there is just you and the patient. No team of experts behind you, no boss to hand the buck on to.

I think this is often even more noticeable here on the Costa del Sol where many patients don’t have a medical support network in place or have been badly let down by less qualified therapists.

This feeling of responsibility, that it is my job to look after my patients in the best way possible, has been a huge incentive for increasing my training and skill set.

It has also encouraged me to build up my own team of experts, we have a wide and varied team of highly qualified professionals at the clinic, with the recent inclusion of Dr Jyri Lepistö, Orthopaedic Consultant being a huge bonus for me personally as well as our patients.

Controversy

Many people comment on the fact that my treatment plans differ significantly from those prescribed by GPs and Surgeons. Usually shorter, simpler and quicker!

I think this is the downside to practicing physiotherapy here in Spain – it is not as highly accredited here as it is in the UK (although that is starting to change!). So surgery, rather than being the last resort, becomes the first, often the only, option.

In fact, surgeons and doctors here in Spain have so little faith in physiotherapy as a successful treatment option that they often recommend waiting up to 12 weeks after surgery or injury before starting physiotherapy!!!!

12 weeks without support and you’ve given yourself a whole host of new issues, from back pain due to bad crutch use to missed infections. . . . . 15 years on and I still find this shocking.

In the UK the physiotherapist is the first person in the room when you wake up, teaching you how to get out of bed, how to handle your crutches, how to manage when you get home, how to get better!

And the 20 treatment prescriptions? If it takes me 20 treatments to get you better then I am doing something very, VERY wrong!

The Future

An even greater focus on effective treatment.

Medical technology has progressed so far and so fast that patients can feel overwhelmed with all the options.

I think, as medical practitioners, it is our role to educate and support our patients – to be honest about what they need and the kind of results they can expect to achieve.

We must never forget that our aim is to achieve our patient’s definition of success, not ours.

And, in my experience, patients want to stop being patients and get back to normal as quickly, simply and inexpensively as possible!

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