What did you want to be when you were at school/growing up?
I initially wanted to become a surgeon because I was fascinated by the intricacies of the human body. However, after completing my A levels in India I was offered a place to study dentistry, but I realised that working with the mouth wasn't my preference.
I explored other healthcare professions and discovered physiotherapy, which appealed to me because it allowed me to work with patients to improve their overall function and help them achieve their goals.
Can you describe your work in 1 sentence?
Physiotherapists examine and assess patients and collaborate with them to help them regain normal function through tailored advice and rehabilitation programmes.
But what about the ‘“first contact” bit?
First contact practitioners are experienced physiotherapists with advanced skills allowing us to assess, diagnose and recommend appropriate treatment or referral for musculoskeletal problems on a patient's first contact with healthcare services, eg, when they visit their GP surgery.
What makes you skip to work?
I love the unpredictable nature of my job – each day brings new challenges, from diagnosing and assessing patients to actively listening to their needs and guiding them towards their desired outcomes. I also get a lot of satisfaction from being a mentor for first contact practitioners, supporting them on their professional journeys.
Why would you recommend your career to a young person?
I would wholeheartedly recommend a career as a physiotherapist. Over my 16-year career, I have witnessed countless lives being positively transformed by the efforts of my colleagues and I. Physiotherapy is a multidimensional, patient-centred, and holistic profession that brings immense pride and satisfaction.
What has been your biggest career disappointment or challenge and why, and how did you overcome it?
After coming to the UK from India, I faced difficulties moving up the career ladder. However, I overcame this challenge by changing jobs whenever I felt ready for the next level and applying for higher positions. My friends and family often tease me about changing jobs frequently, referring to me as "miss itchy feet," but it has been a strategy that has helped me progress.
What was your best career move?
Taking on the role of a first contact practitioner. In this role I have the opportunity to assess, diagnose, advise, suggest rehabilitation, refer, inject, prescribe medications, and more within a limited appointment time. It's a challenging role that keeps me engaged and sharpens my clinical reasoning abilities. Saving lives by identifying serious illnesses during the pandemic was a humbling experience.
Did you have a career goal or dream?
Yes. Starting my own business was my long-term dream. It has been an incredible journey of continuous learning and becoming a first contact practitioner was the first step to help me pursue that goal. As well as seeing patients, I love creating online education content for them, and learning about marketing and management (the harder bits that are not taught to physiotherapists). I love the challenge of being a businesswoman.
What qualities do you think you need to do your job well?
Active listening skills, empathy, quick thinking and decision-making. Strong interpersonal skills, the ability to connect with patients, and a curious mindset.
What 3 words would your colleagues use to describe you?
Kind, helpful, and conscientious.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever got from a patient or work colleague?
To learn to say "no" sometimes and take care of myself because I cannot pour from an empty cup. This advice has helped me realise the importance of setting boundaries and prioritising self-care.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of career advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Cultivate patience and plan your career more strategically. Having a mentor to guide me would have been invaluable, and I would have advised my younger self to seize opportunities when they arise.
What do you do to relax/de-stress?
I enjoy going on hikes and watching movies with my husband. Engaging in activities like boxing, playing cricket, and football with my son also brings me joy. Additionally, socialising with friends helps me unwind and recharge.
What do you hope will be your legacy to your profession and colleagues?
That I inspired colleagues to love their work, make it their passion, and treat their patients with the same care and respect they would want for themselves.
Is the thought of retirement a dream or a nightmare - and why?
A nightmare. I am someone who thrives on being active and continuously learning. I find it challenging to sit still, and I currently juggle multiple roles. I plan to manage my private business until I can no longer do so.
If you won £1m what would you do?
I would use it to establish a chain of holistic clinics to aid people’s mental, physical, and social health. The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the need for a shift in healthcare systems, and my aim would be to contribute towards a more comprehensive and integrated approach to healthcare.
What do you wear at work?
I like to dress professionally for work, wearing either a uniform or office attire. I believe that dressing smartly enhances both my confidence and the confidence of the individuals I interact with.
What single change would you like to see in the NHS?
The integration of all IT systems into one unified NHS digital platform. Sharing patient care plans among relevant healthcare professionals would streamline processes, reduce stress for patients and healthcare professionals, and potentially minimise staff sickness and the need for extensive sickness cover.
Sam Bhide is an advanced physiotherapy practitioner in primary care at Kingston Hospital, Surrey. She completed her physiotherapy studies in India in 2006 and has since been passionate about learning, education, and research related to musculoskeletal health and physiotherapy.
She holds a Master's degree in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy and has acquired additional qualifications such as injection therapy, advancing practice in musculoskeletal medicine (2018), and independent prescribing.
In her NHS role she is also a “train the trainer” educator for Health Education England and a first contact practitioner supervisor. She is the clinical director and founder of Physiozen Ltd, a private physiotherapy service that also provides fitness and wellness classes.
In addition, she is a primary care champion for the National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society (NASS), which campaigns for greater awareness of the condition and reducing delays with its diagnosis.