Physiotherapy: Sophie Woodhouse

After qualifying as a physiotherapist, Sophie Woodhouse soon achieved her dream of running a holistic physiotherapy practice in her hometown of Shepparton.

Sophie W

Sophie Woodhouse loves her job and the people she helps. Now a physiotherapist and director of GV Sportscare in Shepparton, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2013 and a Doctor of Physiotherapy in 2016.

Sophie runs the practice with her partner Tom and manages a client caseload, runs Pilates classes, speaks to other health professionals, mentors staff, supports the administration team and balances the books. “I love the mix and challenge that being a clinician and business owner has brought to my career,” she says.

Why the University of Melbourne?

The University of Melbourne had great pathways for those from regional areas and regional schools and were able to offer guaranteed entry, which was great peace of mind for me in Year 12. I also studied Japanese in Year 12 and wanted to continue at university level. UoM was able to offer this as a breadth option.

What are your strongest memories of university?

I was lucky enough to stay on Residential College at University College where I made lifelong friends, was supported in my first year of study and had great options to play sports and attend plenty of social functions. The longer I stayed at UoM the more I fell in love with the campus and the history. I spent a lot of time with friends at the library and in the sports stadium of Tin Ally.

Who motivated you at university?

I am proud to say I motivate myself. I want to do well to prove that I can and put my efforts to good use in the healthcare field. I have always been organised and studied hard and I think this has paid off. My Pa was also a strong believer in me and was very interested in my studies and always wanted to see me do well. He was a major motivator as was the rest of my supportive family. We were also lucky to have some high-quality lecturers and some anatomy tutors in particular that pushed me and I am grateful for those challenges as well.

What goals did you set, and have you stuck to that plan?

I wanted to own my own physiotherapy business in a regional area and I am happy to say I have achieved that goal in the last two years with my partner and now business partner Tom. I think there is such a lack of rural healthcare and that I have found a place where I am truly needed and valued.

What drew you to your area of expertise and what do you love about it?

I was drawn to being a physio as a teenager. I led a lifestyle full of sport and I was fascinated by the human body. I have learnt being a physio is so much more than that. We can really improve a client’s life simply by listening, using interpersonal skills to connect with them and finding relevant ways of improving their situation. At our clinic we speak with people about weight and diet, sleep, and sunlight and this brings another dimension to the client’s outcomes and overall lifestyle.

Tell us more about your role and how university helped you prepare for it.

I manage four staff as well as seeing a case load of clients. The university prepared me by setting a high level of expectation on quality of work. Overall UoM helped me to be able to critically analyse situations and think on my feet.

The university also supported me to complete placements in my hometown of Shepparton, where I now run our business, and this enabled me to gain an understanding of the health situation. I was also placed in a private practice in Melbourne. The two Directors at this practice were instrumental to my business plan and continue to support me as mentors.

What is your driving force at work?
There is such a great satisfaction helping people in pain or people who have fallen away from healthy levels of physical activity and watching them regain confidence. You can see the decisions you assist people with make real differences to their lives and pain journey.

What are some career highlights and what’s next?
We opened our business in March 2020, unaware that 10 days later the country would become heavily affected by the pandemic. I am proud that we became so versatile and managed our own emotions and that of our staff. I think this will set our business up for the long-term.
From here we want to continue to employ local people and grow our network to be able to provide high quality healthcare to many people in our region. We also want to support students and become mentors and advocates for the private sector, just as I was supported in my degree to become a qualified physiotherapist.

What advice do you have for current students?
Enjoy your university time, study in the beautiful libraries, immerse yourself in Uni life and join sports teams or clubs. I studied for six years, and I always think those were the best years of my life. Take advantage of the people you have in front of you and learn while you have such great access to these clever individuals. I still have an amazing support network of physiotherapists and other health professionals from the friends I made at university.

What does success mean to you?
Success to me means being respected in your profession and to be known as … a caring, intelligent, and effective therapist, but also as a fair, inspiring and supportive director to our staff. When I hear that a client has been told by a friend ‘just go there see anyone, they’re all good’ it is so exciting and really shows a coherent clinic where our goals and values are aligned.

How important is work life balance?
The number one thing my partner Tom and I spoke about before we opened our business was work life balance. We are strict on our business hours, we schedule the next holiday as soon as the last one is finished and we have learnt to say no. We have a clinic motto of ‘we can’t treat everyone, if we want to treat those we do treat well and with the quality they deserve’.