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FROM UK TO THE UK: CHS PT alum working in London, England, as first-contact practitioner

By Ellee Sidebottom
CHS Contributor

This UK graduate and CHS alumnus traveled 3,000 miles around the world to find his calling.

Aaron Denham, who is originally from Nancy, Ky., graduated from CHS’s Physical Therapy Doctorate (DPT) Program in 2019 (he also graduated from UK with his bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from the College of Education in 2016). Post-graduation, he began working at an in-patient rehabilitation facility in Flagstaff, Ariz. While living and working there, Denham met his partner, who is from the United Kingdom.

When the pandemic began in 2020, Denham’s partner had to return to the UK — and Denham decided to follow. He researched and explored opportunities in the health care field in the UK. Due to the shortage of skilled physiotherapists, Denham learned that he could get sponsored for a Visa by an employer to be able to work in the UK. He then applied for jobs, was offered a position, and began the work visa process.

That meant a move to Brighton, England, which Denham made in Summer 2020, where he began working as a first contact practitioner under the National Health Service (NHS). But a first contact practitioner is not translatable to any role in the United States and is very different from what his education and work experience prepared him for.

In his role, he is the first provider that patients see after seeking health care services, which comes with a lot of responsibility. He evaluates patients and becomes aware of what he calls “red flags.” He requests X-rays, ultrasounds and makes referrals. Responsibilities like these require great problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills, which Denham said CHS helped him foster. It has allowed him to thrive in his new role.

“This expansion of roles and responsibilities was an adjustment but the company I work for is flexible, open to any questions, and has really helped guide me through this process,” Denham said.

Since being in England, Denham has also been a part of the COVID-19 vaccination effort, which is run by the National Health Service. After the vaccines were approved for administration, first-contact practitioners could go through training to become vaccinators, which Denham did. Since then, he has vaccinated over 400 people in London.

As an alumnus of CHS, he has stayed in touch with many of his professors and mentors, like Tony English, PT, PhD., and Kara Lee, PT, PhD. English even helped him with his visa paperwork when he started his journey from the U.S. to England.

“Study abroad while you can,” Denham said. “This will show graduate school admissions, future jobs, etc., that you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone and that you are adaptable.” He says that word describes what it takes to be marketable in today's career climate: Adaptable.

As a part of CHS, he was required to complete many observation hours at the PT clinic. This helped him find the passion for his career.

Additionally, Denham took Biomechanics while in CHS, which helped him gain an understanding of the physics of the human body. He now applies these concepts on a daily basis to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions as a first contact practitioner.

It all comes back to taking advantages of the opportunities UK provided, he said.

“Get involved in extracurricular activities inside and outside of college to build your resume,” Denham said. “Also, keep close contact with your academic advisor and have a clear idea of what your career plans are post-graduation.”

While he never saw himself doing this kind of work in England, it does seem to follow Denham's philosophy.

Adapt. Learn. Stay involved. 

Because you never know just where a CHS education will take you. 

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