Career break: why I took one and what I learned

As my career break comes to an end and I rejoin the world of work tomorrow, I thought I’d reflect back on why I decided to take a 1 year career break, how I used this time and what I learned from this experience.

Madagascar
If you’ve been following along with my blog, you’ll know that the main reason I decided to take this career break was to give me the opportunity to work as a Voluntary Physiotherapist in Madagascar. From March until May 2019 I worked in different hospitals across the country to gain an understanding of how Physiotherapy works in Madagascar. I collected information through observational logs, interviews of Physiotherapists and Doctors, and gave out questionnaires. I also met with the Malagasy Ministry of Health, and the University in Antananarivo and explained that I hoped to use this information collected to support the development of Physiotherapy in Madagascar in future.

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Travel
After leaving Madagascar, I spent 3 months travelling through Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, and Myanmar. I have always been interested in travelling, and knew I had to make the most of my career break by travelling and exploring the world some more!

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Writing up a report of my findings from Madagascar
Since arriving back in the UK in September 2019, I have been focusing on writing up all the data and information collected during my time in Madagascar into a report. I have written this report with the help of the Academic Department of Rehab Medicine at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. I am hoping to publish the report this year to support the development of Physiotherapy in Madagascar, and also support other health professionals working in Low and Middle Income Countries.

The report will also be translated into French so that it is available to my Malagasy colleagues, and the Malagasy Ministry of Health will use this report to support the development of Physiotherapy in Madagascar in future. I have co-authored the report with a Malagasy Physiotherapist.

Global Rehabilitation co-opt member
Global Rehabilitation are a Charity based in Leeds which supports the development of healthcare services in Madagascar. The members of Global Rehabilitation played a part in the planning of my work in Madagascar, and I also had the opportunity to work on an amputee project, and a spinal injuries project with Global rehab members whilst in Madagascar. Since returning to Leeds, I have now become a co-opt member of the Global Rehabiliation committee, and hope to continue to support the development of Malagasy healthcare services in future.

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Supporting the development of a Masters in Physiotherapy in Madagascar
As part of my role within Global Rehabilitation, I have begun to support the development of a new Master’s programme in Physiotherapy in Madagascar. This work is currently ongoing, and the findings from my report will form the basis of the development of the Master’s programme.

Supporting Leeds Beckett student on elective placement in Madagascar
In the summer of 2020, a Physiotherapy student from Leeds Beckett University will travel to Madagascar to complete their elective placement. I have supported the organisation and planning of this, and understand that both sides will learn a lot, and benefit from the experience.

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Global Afro-Survival Aid Voluntary Project Manager
Following my work in Madagascar, I realised the importance of project management and organisation skills, and how these can often be in short supply in the developing context! I decided that I wanted to learn a more formal set of project management skills, and applied for and was appointed as Voluntary Project Manager for a new Charity based in Leeds which supports projects in Africa. So far my role has involved building a website for the Charity, and applying for funding and grants.

Feeding back to fundraising stakeholders
As part of the fundraising for Madagascar, I was given fundraising money from a number of organisations in Leeds. Since returning to Leeds, I have fed back to these organisations about where and how their money was spent, and the ongoing support and work I am doing with Physiotherapists in Madagascar.

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ADAPT study day Bristol
I am Treasurer for the Charity ADAPT:Chartered Physiotherapists in International Health and Development. This year, we held a study day in Bristol on the theme of Adaptive Technology. The study day was well attended, and very informative. We also held the annual ADAPT AGM and made plans for the coming year.

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Developing a communication tool with Forward
I got in contact with the organisation ‘Forward’ after realising the difficulties of keeping in contact with my Malagasy colleagues once I left the country. Forward are a healthcare based communication development company. They are hoping to expand their company in the next year into International projects, and I will be supporting the development of this with my knowledge and experience gained from the Madagascar healthcare system.

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Starting two new Band 6 jobs
Last, but certainly not least, I will begin two new jobs next week. I will work part time at the University of Leeds as a Research Physiotherapist in Spinal Injuries, and I will also work part time at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust to support the development of a new spinal service. I feel that I would not have had the opportunities, confidence, or experience to go for these roles if it wasn’t for the skills I have gained over my career break.

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Reflecting on the past year, I feel so incredibly lucky and grateful to have had the chance to take a career break. I have been able to pursue passions I have always been interested in, and taken part in opportunities I wasn’t even aware of before now! If anyone is considering taking a career break, I can’t recommend it enough, and feel that I am now ready to return to work and the NHS, ready to share the skills I have learned over the past year. In addition, I hope to continue supporting the healthcare system in Madagascar for years to come.

 

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