Alexandra Stead

Alexandra Stead


About your course/programme

Why did you choose to study your course?

This course appealed to me due to the feeling that I had a gap in my knowledge and clinical abilities related to sports medicine and exercise prescription. I felt I could be giving my patients more during my physiotherapy sessions, but felt I lacked confidence in providing exercise prescriptions for those with more complex comorbidities and conditions. I really wanted to build upon my basic knowledge of exercise and be able to adapt to any patient and make it more personalised. The Sport and Exercise Medicine course at the University of Leeds covered a mixture of MSK conditions and sports-focused rehabilitation, in addition to including how to modify advice to a range of co-morbidities, which suited my gaps in knowledge. Having now completed the course, it met my learning needs and it has improved my holistic management of patients.

What do you enjoy about your course?

The practical sessions and dissections really suited my learning style and enabled me to apply new skills straight into practice. The external speakers were all specialists in the field, really approachable and provided insight into surgical, physiotherapy and sporting. I also enjoyed having a mixture of professions being on the course, including doctors, sports therapists and sports rehabilitators, which helped us to learn a lot from each other and how different professions are trained and work. As the cohort was small, it allowed us to get to know everyone and we became close as a group, which made face to face days enjoyable.

What have been the highlights of the course?

One of the highlights of the course was learning how to conduct ultrasound imaging. We had a whole morning for this and were only three of us to a machine, with one experienced professional and so had lots of support and practice. Another highlight has to be the staff, in particular, Dr Camilla Nykjaer the course lead. Despite the struggles and changing circumstances of Covid-19, she was always so supportive to us and tried her best to not let it disrupt our university experience and found alternatives when restrictions stopped us from doing parts of the course.

What has been the greatest challenges throughout your course so far?

As we were one of the ‘covid cohorts’ we have experienced many challenges due to restrictions placed on campus. Sadly, due to spikes in covid cases in the second semester, this resulted in nearly all university days being virtual. Although the content covered virtually was really good, I missed the social interaction with the other students on the long teaching days, which were tough sat behind a screen.

What is your research project on and what has it involved?

My research title was ‘UK physiotherapists delivering physical activity advice: what are the challenges and possible solutions?’. This was a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with physiotherapists who manage NHS patients and is part of a larger study looking at a number of different healthcare professionals. The interviews were to understand physiotherapists current knowledge on physical activity and the guidelines, what they believe are the barriers to delivering physical activity advice and what they believe would the solutions are to support physiotherapists.

How do you think doing a research project has benefited you/will benefit you in the future?

I have found the project very informative to my clinical practice and has resulted in me disseminating information to my colleagues to educate them on physical activity and has also increased the amount of advice I give to patients. It has opened new doors for me, with the potential to complete follow up research based on the data I collected and I am also hoping to publish my project findings.

How would you rate the facilities available to you throughout your project? How have these enhanced your experience?

Due to the nature of my project being conducted via Zoom, I did not require any facilities on campus. However, the support I received from both my clinical and academic supervisors, made my experience an easy one and I felt fully supported every step of the way.

About the University

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I live locally to Leeds, and the University of Leeds has always had a good reputation for succeeding in league tables and for a high standard of teaching they offer.  The specialist labs and dissection rooms offered on my course also put the course above the rest and luckily despite covid, we were still able to experience these facilities. Having completed research on many different universities, the University of Leeds seemed to offer the most flexibility for those still wanting to work whilst doing a Masters degree. I was able to work three days a week part-time, whilst doing the full-time course, and found this manageable to do on top of other commitments I had.

What key aspects of your experience of Leeds would you highlight to students thinking about coming to do the same course?

The course is really flexible and supportive to students who are either working full time or part-time. The majority of us were working in some capacity and commuted to university on teaching days, so we were all going through similar experiences and pressures. Despite covid limitations and us living all over the country, we were a close group and supported each other in our WhatsApp group. The workload is manageable alongside working and other commitments but it is best to stay on top of it as it can build up quickly as the course covers a lot of content. The structure of the year suited students who returned to university after some time away. Most of the essays were in semester two and so you have time to get back into the routine of academic writing. 

What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have specific career plans? Has the University (careers centre/lecturers etc.) helped you with these goals in any way?

I have always had an interest in mentoring and teaching. My goal is to progress into lecturing, and potentially also go into research. The course lead has been really supportive of this and has asked me to deliver some lectures to undergraduate students next year. I am also in discussion with the course lead for potential PhD ideas to do in the future.


Stead A, Vishnubala D, Marino KR, et al UK physiotherapists delivering physical activity advice: what are the challenges and possible solutions? A qualitative study. BMJ Open 2023;13:e069372. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-069372