by Nic Colombo
Work is sometimes so hectic that it can be hard to focus on something else than your patient list, your notes and other daily tasks; and you fail to notice your own accomplishments. But keeping track of your achievements is important for your career progression and also to feel good about work! Let's look at ways to track your accomplishments and use them to maximise your career progression.
Achievements you say?
I'm still surprised when I ask my junior physios to tell me about one of their recent work achievements and they struggle to answer. Not because they haven't got any to talk about, but simply because they haven't really thought about them.
Sure - they can tell me what they've been doing over the last 6 months. They've seen 12 patients a day, they've learned about this condition or this treatment technique, they've met this rotational objective. But that's what's expected of them: I knew that, otherwise they wouldn't be here! I don't fancy my junior physios to be doers, I want them to be achievers.
Sounds cheesy, I know.
But the difference between doing and achieving actually starts with a small change of mindset: thinking in results instead of tasks.
Hear me out: if in your yearly appraisal, instead of saying "I've read about treatment techniques for the cervical spine and now feel more confident seeing neck patients" you say:
"I took 2 hours of my admin & study time in September to read about the treatment of cervical spondylosis, and managed to successfully discharge 7 neck patients in the following month with a PROM score of x (x % increase). I was consequently able to take 10 patients off our waiting list, which increased my turnover by x% in October vs September. I then managed to maintain similar PROM scores and turnover rate throughout the rest of the rotation."
- now that's an achievement!
The two sentences talk about the same thing, but in the second one there's a clear sense of what you've done and how this has benefited you and the workplace. Remember: results, not tasks.
Take your CV for instance. We can be guilty of listing off job duties to describe a former placement or job: "Lead the back rehab class"; "Participated in the redesign of the ACL pathway"... Sounds familiar? Switch the focus to results and achievements and suddenly you sound more like the true hero that you are:
"As the leading therapist for the back rehab group, I designed an intro pack and updated the education components of each class, which lead to an increase in completion rate of x%, PROM score by x% and a reduction of the spinal waiting list by x%".
"I redesigned the ACL pathway to allow for differentiation between previous sports level, and updated each class according to the new evidence. As a result, ACL referrals increased by x and patient return to sport rate by x%"
- who's the employer going to give the job to now?
Try and think about the results to your actions that have changed your practice and benefited those around you. And suddenly you'll have loads of achievements to talk about! And your supervisor (and colleagues) will start thinking about you as a result-driven achiever, not just someone doing his/her job (hate this phrase).
So, what types of accomplishments should I track?
Of course, it's not all about waiting lists and discharges. But you still have to cherry-pick the achievements that are worth recording.
- Tasks and projects: Whether it was a team effort or a project you worked on individually, keeping a record of it is a smart move. While you may understand your role inside and out, you can’t expect others to have the same knowledge. Be specific in your tasks and how you completed them.
- Workplace challenges: We all face challenges in the workplace – it’s how you deal with them that matters. Whether you had a tricky situation with a colleague or a patient, you need to keep track of it. Overcoming these obstacles will have made you a stronger, more competent physio, and people like to see that you can problem solve.
- Departmental goals: Knowing about your department KPIs, goals and targets to meet, will make it very easy to quantify your accomplishments.
- Clinical achievements: As clinicians, we love these - obvs. This is our bread and butter. You've made Mrs Jones walk for the first time since her admission on the stroke unit? This is big. Put it down in your achievement list! You've managed to change a patient's mindset about chronic pain and his function has drastically improved? Put it down too. But always think about the bigger picture: how does this compare to what's expected of you, how has this affected the people around you (the patient, their family, the department...).
- Awards: Have you won any special awards within the workplace or even outside? Have you been recognised for your hard work or for meeting certain goals? Are you the one with the most completed outcome measures in your department for the month? Write that down!
What's the best way to track my achievements?
There's actually a million ways to do this, here's what we've seen work for us and physios around us:
- Use an app. Evernote, any note app, or even your calendar. At the end of each day, you can jot down your achievements on the date and even note upcoming goals. Getting into this habit will help you reflect on the small, daily ‘wins’ and also help you stay on track with your objectives.
- Create a brag book. Take a notebook and start jotting down achievements. Choose a frequency (every day, every week or month) and make sure to write as many details as you can about what you did.
- Use an online portfolio. There are loads of websites you can use to record your achievements, such as the CSP's ePortfolio. Be sure to choose one site and stick with it (don't start recording things on different platforms), and regularly update it with your latest achievements.
- Write on our blog! Have an achievement you're proud about or that has changed things in your place of work? Come and write about it on our blog! We love hearing your stories and advertise the great work you guys do! Have a look at Nikki's articles for instance - she blogged on our website during her whole first year as a physio. She can easily use these articles to help her career progression. Interested? Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with what you'd like to write about!
How can I use my achievements to help my career?
This is the important bit. Recording your accomplishments, being able to talk about them, and having a clear vision of what you've achieved and aim to achieve in the future, will help you in your job and at every step of your career.
- Prepare for a performance review. The obvious reason first. During your yearly appraisal, performance review (or whatever other name you want give it), keeping a log of your accomplishments means you can prove that you’re hitting your KPI’s (or even surpassing them).
- Update your CV and LinkedIn profile. If you don't have a LinkedIn account, go create one now. Your CV is the obvious place to advertise your achievements: instead of boring descriptions about your placements and previous jobs, start sticking results and achievements in there. And you've instantly made your CV 100x better! Regardless of whether or not you’re looking for a new position, you should do this regularly.
- Ask for a pay rise / better job role / more responsibilities. So, you’re looking for your next step up? What proof do you have that you’re worth it? Keeping track of your accomplishments means that you’ll have the answer to that question. When talking to your manager about what you bring to the table and why you deserve the promotion, you won’t even stutter.
- To search for a new job, of course. Similarly, when you’re searching for your next position, having a clear record of your work and accomplishments will be your secret weapon. You can easily show recruiters and hiring managers that you’re not only organised but also a valuable addition to any team environment.
- To improve your networking game. Networking events can be tricky, especially if you're not really sure what to talk about to the other attendees. Don't stand there looking lost, talk about any recent interesting achievements in your workplace!
As physios, we're often not comfortable talking, even thinking, about our achievements. Sounds like we're bragging, like we're in sales and not in healthcare. Reality is, it's a tough world out there, and results are what makes the world go round. Without showing those achievements to shareholders, your department might not get the funding they need. If we're not able to talk about results, how can we quantify how good we are? Without advertising our clinical achievements, what differentiates a physio to a personal trainer? What will keep the Physiotherapy profession alive? (Alright, that's maybe too deep.)
On a personal level, keeping track of your accomplishments has got many benefits as we've seen. It'll help you in your career and the change in mindset will help you in life too. And, hey, it feels good thinking we're achievers! ;)
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About the author
Nic works as a Senior Physiotherapist both in a busy NHS hospital in East London and privately. Since he qualified, he has gained a large amount of experience assessing and treating various conditions, but also meeting and working alongside all sorts of healthcare professionals. He set up QualifiedPhysio with the idea of making available to future and new physios all the advice, guidance and resources he got along the way, to bridge that gap between Uni and their first job.