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Vivienne Sheldon – Aotearoa New Zealand’s first APP registered physio

The Board is very pleased to welcome the first ever practitioner registered under the Advanced Practice Physiotherapist (APP) Scope of Practice – Vivienne Sheldon. We caught up with Vivienne and asked her what drew her to apply for the APP scope.

“I’m a bit of a physio geek, I love physio. I love what I do and I’m always learning and always wanting to do more. I had completed my Postgraduate Diploma and my Master’s so I was at that stage, I was like ‘what is the next step?’

“A colleague of mine who is a Specialist had been encouraging me toward Specialist scope, but every time I looked at it, it just didn’t sort of sit right for my role, I don’t participate in research, I don’t have any desire to be published but I love the clinical stuff and I love problem solving and treating patients.

“So, when APP popped up it made sense to me to apply because it seems more clinically based to me and more reflective of what I do and what I want to continue doing.

Vivienne’s involvement in the profession started in the 1990’s. “I was in the last cohort of the three-year physio diploma at AUT and after that went straight into private practice. My bias has always been sports. I’ve done a lot of work with sports and travelled with teams and really enjoyed it. I worked in the UK for a few years, as so many of us Kiwis do, and then came back and stayed in private practice.

“But I wanted to do something more, so I went back to AUT and did my Postgraduate Diploma. That progressed on to my Master’s and again all that time has been in private practice. I’m always looking for the next challenge.”

And APP was that next challenge. “It was quite time consuming; I was working full-time and I’m a mum and I’m running the household and finding those little windows of time to do all the writing meant the whole process took two years.

“The process was quite clear in terms of what the Board required. Identifying the level I was writing to was a bit more difficult, I knew I wasn’t aiming at a Specialist level but I needed to somehow reflect my knowledge. But Damon at the Board helped, and I had great support from my colleagues Rebecca Longhurst and Dan Harvey, and from Justin Lopes who I’d zoom with once a month. I really want to thank all of these guys.”

As the first registered APP, Vivienne has been a trailbreaker. Now she wants more practitioners to join the scope and has advice for those who are interested in applying. “I think the best place to start is to look on the Physio Board’s website and read through what’s required, particularly reading through the different competencies.

“To meet the competencies you do have to be in a role that you’re educating others; you have to be doing some management roles; you have to be a leader. So, if you only have a clinical load you might not be able to meet some of those competencies.

“It can be quite overwhelming, but just get started on the smaller tasks to begin with. I approached it by starting to write up the competencies first. There are about 30 different competencies and you’ve got to write small pieces about them or show proof that you’ve achieved them. So, these were little bite-sized chunks I started on before I moved to the big case studies.”

So, what now? “I want more APP colleagues so we can have a voice,” she says, “I think it’s a great thing to do and I’m happy to talk people through the process if anybody is interested but unsure. I know that having colleagues of mine that helped me was just absolutely critical.”