Cross-Channel Physios: Working in the UK and other international news - Mohamed's story, the Syrian refugee physiotherapist

by Lara Garzón



In this new blog series, Lara shares her experience as an oversea-trained physiotherapist working in the UK. From guidance on the HCPC registration process to discussion around UK and international physio news, she hopes to provide help to foreign physios looking to work in the UK - and to connect with those of you who already are!

All episodes from Lara's blog series ››


They always say that working in a hospital is a very social thing. You meet people of all shapes and forms, different backgrounds, and obviously different opinions. It is not only about the professionals we work with but of course the patients we treat: every encounter contributes to shape us as a professional and as a person.

During a recent lunch break, my colleagues and I were talking about a patient with the 'refugee' status. I don't remember the entire conversation, I just remember trying to explain that we needed to shake off that stigma about refugees being poor people that need help. Yes, they can be perceived as 'poor' as they have lost all or most of their material things, for reasons beyond their control, but not because they lack values, or education… My colleagues nodded whilst I listed all the potential professions among those refugees.

It is quite alright to be the world's defendant of injustices (which I am guilty of) but I have to admit that like other times before, I was talking without knowing the full picture. And, I also realised that it is not until we can relate to a specific situation/person/experience that it then actually hits us and we think, pardon my french: s*** - this is actually happening!

A few months back I started to follow different global health organisations on social media. I thought it was a good opportunity to be connected with health news in a more casual way. This led me to follow different NGO twitter accounts and more specifically refugee related ones. This is somewhat a familiar topic to me, as there are a few social workers in the family as well as really good friends in similar jobs, and I also did some volunteering in Romania a few years ago.

And then it happened… I was looking through my IG feed and a post from @theWorldwideTribe caught my eye, the first of many stories that deeply moved me and made me realise how close to home and how familiar the refugee crisis can feel.

His name is Mohamed, he is Syrian. He currently lives in Izmir, Turkey. Back home in Syria he was a physiotherapist. Once in Turkey, after having to leave his home because of the war, he had no choice but to work in whatever way possible to sustain himself and his family. In his spare time however, he helped other Syrians in Turkey by providing physiotherapy (currently the health system in Turkey seems to struggle to provide care to refugees due to the increasing demand), especially to those that needed it the most like children with scoliosis or neurological problems.

Luckily a charity working to help refugees in Turkey (TIAFI) found out about Mohamed and managed to support him so he could work as a full time physiotherapist for those Syrians in need.

At this point I felt ignorant. I knew nothing about Syria, let alone that they had trained physiotherapists like myself. Did you know that Syria had 41 general hospitals and 152 specialised hospitals? That in the 90's they managed to cultivate an increasing workforce for their health system and after 2011 little those hospitals and professionals could do as they saw before their eyes how many of them were destroyed or bombed. And by them I mean hospitals, health and physiotherapy centres and people in them, no discrimination in that aspect…

After this one I have found many more stories, loads about syrian physiotherapists fleeing to neighbouring countries and providing their skills to whoever needs them. And many more about the estimated 5 million Syrian refugees outside Syria.

The Worldwide Tribe shared Mohamed’s story on their social media platforms. They do an incredible job sharing these real life stories, they do it in a way that you cannot help but feel a connection.

With this new year also comes future projects, the "what do I want to do with my life this year" questions and of course resolutions… I am very fortunate to know what I want in life, personally and professionally, and also can be almost certain that I will achieve it. Many others, like Mohamed, might not feel that way. As part of my new years resolutions, I wanted to contribute to the Worldwide Tribe's cause and help spread the word. Myself and a fellow colleague have made a small donation through the World Wide Tribe specifically for Mohamed’s cause. You can do the same via this link:

Worldwide Tribe and Mohamed's story are just one example amongst many others. If you are still looking for inspiration for your new year’s resolutions or if you are looking for new projects to get involved with in 2018, there are tons of organisations and millions of individuals that could do with a hand, that being literal or through donations. More importantly, I invite you to share this story around you, and try not to think about the refugee crisis as a distant abstract concept, but see it like the real story that it is: with people like you and me, going as far as sharing the same profession! And that’s my second new year’s resolution: raise the voice for those who are unable to, because unfortunately, this is also international physio news.


At this point I felt ignorant. I knew nothing about Syria, let alone that they had trained physiotherapists like myself. Did you know that Syria had 41 general hospitals and 152 specialised hospitals?


Thanks to the Worldwide Tribe for letting me share this and also for their fantastic role in their mission of helping refugees all over. Also a wider thank you to all those NGO’s, and other platforms for being that link between us all and their crucial, relentless work.

If you would like to know more about what is happening right now on this topic, you can follow The Worldwide Tribe or The Tribe Turkey on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If you know of other similar organisations that we can follow please do not hesitate to comment below and share them with us.

Do follow QualifiedPhysio on Facebook or Twitter for more stories like this one. You can check out QP Blogger Nikki's interview of Pete Skelton from Handicap International. Finally, I hope is not too late to wish you a very happy new year!



About the author

Lara Garzón

Lara is a Spanish physiotherapist who has been working in the UK for the past 3 years. Having worked as a rotational physiotherapist over here, she's had experience in a wide range of specialities and now works as a Band 6 Physiotherapist. However, it hasn't always been easy finding her way and adjusting to the UK system. She's since been sharing her experience and helping other foreign-trained physios to come and settle here; firstly through her own blog, and now as part of the QP team!