Astrid Vayson De Pradenne – BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy graduate

Year of graduation: 2011

Current Employer: Self employed

Current Job Title: Locum Physiotherapist; Professional Golfer

Current Location: Provence, France

“Having done an LLM at a French university, I thought that I knew what a university was. Then I came to Plymouth University and I was so pleased with the entire infrastructure that was available.”

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

After graduation, I decided to start my career as a locum physiotherapist so I could gain work experience in different settings before settling in. The institutions I worked at were various: rehabilitation centres in orthopaedics and neurology, physio practices based in the community with some domiciliary visits mostly to the geriatrics population, a sports-orientated practice, and a mental health hospital. I also moved a lot geographically, treating patients in Paris as well as little villages in rural areas, and also a more exotic location in the Indian Ocean.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

When I first graduated in 2011, in my mind I was ready to settle into the career of a physiotherapist for the next five years. However, in 2013 golf became like a virus for me. It was a sport that I had been practising as a hobby since I was 15 years old, but I was good at it. I was a scratch-score player – the best level for an amateur. So I turned professional in the spring of 2013. I now hold a conditional card of the Ladies European Tour and my physiotherapist workload only represents 20 weeks a year.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Dealing with patients that are at the end of their life is always a challenge for me. I still remember vividly a patient I was taking care of in a small village in Mayotte, a French island in the Indian Ocean. She was under the ‘hospital at home’ scheme for end-stage cancer and my intervention consisted mainly of positioning, passive mobilisation, and massage. She was so frail that she was more bone than flesh. One day, as I entered the room, her family told me she had passed away in the last hour or so. I was emotional for having lost a patient, but also for seeing how the mystery of death was dealt with by the community. That day I felt that my white uniform protected me, because I cried later at night.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I worked a full night as a physiotherapist during the ‘Telethon’ in 2013. It's a very popular event in France where people all over the country will raise about 130 million euros over a weekend in December for rare diseases and medical research in gene therapy. I provided physio care during a 24 hour charity run, but I felt like I was taking part in something way bigger than just a run. That sense of collective euphoria for a great cause was memorable.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I would have liked to have completed a university diploma in sports physiotherapy in one of the French leading universities by now, having graduated five years ago with a First Class Honours degree. It has not happened yet, because managing a sports career as well as a physiotherapist career is very challenging. It does put a toll on your social life and on your finances.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Our studies were very much orientated towards a problem-based approach and an evidence-based practice incorporating a reflective philosophy. Now that I work in a physiotherapy practice, I feel that I have been equipped to manage any patient who appears on my case-load. If I have doubts about some patient's management, of course I can turn to more senior co-workers; but I know that independently I have the competency to access the right information, and I feel that I can reflect on my practice.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

There were so many good experiences during the three years I was at Plymouth that it is hard to pick one. What sticks with me is the special relationship you build with some lecturers. The teaching team were all very enthusiastic, you could tell that by the level of support they were offering; for example, one to one tutorials, supervised group work, visits in the middle of Cornwall and Devon during placements, and even personalised physiotherapy advice for your worn out body.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

Five years down the line I only really interact with two people from the course: people who I consider to be lifelong friends. I have visited them in England – I even went to a wedding! I have a more distant relationship with other alumni through social networks.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Having done an LLM at a French university, I thought that I knew what a university was. Then I came to Plymouth University and I was so pleased with the entire infrastructure that was available: brand new PAHC building, sports halls, gyms, GP, Counselling practice, and Students’ Union. Being a nature lover, Plymouth was also the perfect town with the sea and Dartmoor National Park so close.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

In our class, there was a wide variety of students. Of course, you had the English students fresh out of their A levels, but you also had people in their late twenties, thirties, or even forties, with kids and former successful careers or previous university degrees. You had people from Italia, Zimbabwe, France, Wales, Scotland... If you know deep in your soul that you want to work in healthcare, don't let anybody tell you that you don't have the profile or that you are too old. Chase that dream until you are out of breath and then just keep swimming!

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying physiotherapy, please visit our BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy course page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Health Professions, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other alumni from the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences are currently doing, please visit the health and social work interest area.