When I studied physio the internet was in its infancy. We accessed it only through sluggish dial-up connections and had none of excellent online resources available now. Twitter, Facebook and all the brilliant blogs and sites today were yet to be created. We searched for articles by leafing through stacks of magazines and maxing out our photocopy cards. Undoubtedly the advances in the internet and the arrival of social media have aided the development of our profession, but what is it like to study in this environment? Guest blogger James Paterson shares his experience, you can follow him on Twitter via @JamesP031992.

Undertaking Physiotherapy at University has always been tough, with the gruelling timetable and hours spent learning the anatomy of the human body. Along with, the need to balance a social life and exercise in the middle adds to the struggle.

The inclusion of the ever developing social media and the internet can be seen to both hamper and enhance the way in which Physiotherapy students go about their day to day education. The internet is increasing patient's expectations, who often research their symptoms before coming to see a Physiotherapist.

The internet gives students the ability to search for unknown terms, giving the required information instantly. This means that less time is spent trawling through the library and numerous textbooks to find the most particular details. However, there is a need to take the information cautiously, as when it is taken from the likes of Wikipedia it can be unreliable.

A further revelation is the uploading of online e-books. Libraries tend to only have a handful of the required textbooks for each module and previously if you did not get your hands on one of these, you would have to fork out up to £50 to purchase the book. However, over the past couple of years more books are being uploaded electronically, allowing students to access them through the University library.

Social media sites and blogs are also leading the way in cutting edge physio, allowing professionals to suggest their most recent findings, allowing others to comment on the process and give their opinions for everyone to read. Although at times, it is hard for students to have the confidence to be included in these arguments, the reading alone gives us further information and ideas on treatment modalities for a number of conditions. Students should not hide from the debates and if a particular topic interests you then feel free to add your opinion, sometimes the fact that we have recently trained can put a different positive slant on a topic.

For Physiotherapy Students wishing to get involved in online debates:

  • State you are a student interested in the topic
  • Do not be afraid to ask seemingly silly questions, they will be relevant and will help your knowledge base. If you aren't sure on something someone else will be wondering too, you'll be doing them a favour as well!
  • Our recent training can help others see the topic in a different way
  • Develops networking with others interested in similar subjects
  • If someone doesn't reply bear in mind they might have hundreds of messages a day, it's not a personal slight!
  • Ignore personal attacks – don't engage with abusive people who aim criticism at you not your views. As the saying goes, “don't feed the trolls!”
  • Equally don't abuse people! Be polite, by all means have a sense of humour and chat as if you were talking face to face.
  • Develop your knowledge base – read the research (not just abstracts) and you'll find you'll get more from discussions and be able to engage more in debates.
  • Don't take evidence at face value, a recent paper found wooly underwear to be effective for back pain! Analyse and appraise the evidence

A few words from Tom…

One downside of the internet is its tendency to polarise opinion. Twitter is especially good at this! Things may appear either black or white but in the majority of cases they are very grey indeed! The nature of these online forums is that we end up defending or criticising a position rather than presenting the evidence for both sides. It's important to understand as much of the evidence that surrounds a topic as possible, not just what suits your current view! Sometimes you will be challenged to think differently, embrace this! Be relaxed in your opinions and humble in the fact that there is so much we don't know yet. Remember though, as a student you do have a view, and a voice. Take a moment to read this excellent piece by @KVenere written as a reflection on his student placement. Kenny's critical thinking and questioning of current practice is light years ahead of many experienced clinicians! He shows how you can have a voice at any stage of your development.

My final thought is this, as you delve into research you start to question what you know, firm opinions soften, sometimes key areas of your practice may change….

…The more you learn, the less you know!



Comments are closed.