Student testimonials

The richness of being an apprentice

Estelle Demeurs - apprentice Assas

Hi, my name is Christelle Nagy-Demeurs (graduated from Assas as a physiotherapist in 2013). After 2 years as an apprentice then 2 years as a post-grad before becoming an AP-HP civil servant, I’ve just left my job as I’m moving to another region with my husband. I managed to experience half a year of service (which enabled me to be at level 3 six months earlier) thanks to a 2-year CFA.

From a professional point of view:

  • I worked with a technical fleet and used the equipment: bikes, rowing machines, strength equipment, lumbar and cervical traction tables, pulleys, steppers, isokinetic core and lower body strength, upper body/lower body and core strength machines with playful proprioception software, cryotherapy, ultrasound and electrotherapy, spa therapy with water bikes, massage jets and treadmills. It couldn’t have been better.
  • I was fortunate to work with different physiotherapists (ages, countries, training) which was very rewarding and interesting.
  • I supervised K1, K2 and K3 placement students which taught me a lot.
  • I had the opportunity to be trained in the McKenzie method at the Hôpital Cochin and passed Part A: The Lumbar Spine McKenzie France (course, transport and accommodation covered by the hospital). I also had the freedom to use the method on my patients.
  • I attended monthly meetings about the clinic, diagnostics and treating different ailments encountered as part of the training course.
  • I went on monthly rounds with Professor Poiraudeau, Professor Rannou and Dr Lefèvre-Colau then the head of rehabilitation and interns and externs. These visits enabled me to expand my knowledge of rheumatology ailments and how to read X-rays and MRIs. It was fascinating and exciting.
  • I also expanded my knowledge about treating patients in general and the role of each practitioner with weekly multi-disciplinary staff meetings e.g. doctor, occupational therapist, speech therapist, podiatrist, social worker and psychologist.
  • I was sent to Hôtel Dieu de Paris hospital where I met colleagues from Professor Maigne’s school (doctor-PM&R-osteopath) who opened my eyes to other forms of treatment.
  • I had the chance to appear on the Allô Docteur TV programme on France 5 discussing post-knee replacement recovery with Professor Rannou from Hôpital Cochin.

From a personal point of view, it was an incredible experience as I met my husband during my time at Hôtel Dieu hospital. I also met colleagues who taught me a lot, helped me in my work and became my friends.

I also have to say that I was fortunate to have incredible supervisors who always supported and encouraged me in all my projects (McKenzie) and initiatives (dance workshop). These are the reasons why I’m delighted to have experienced the CFA and I’d recommend the Hôpital Cochin for the standard of its work, its atmosphere and for professional development.
Christelle Nagy-Demeurs – Graduated in 2013

My name is Antoine and I’m currently in K3 at IFMK Assas. My Apprenticeship Training Contract began when I was still in prep school. I’d heard about the contract and, at the time, Assas was the only college you could join after a physics, chemistry and biology exam which offered the contract. From the start of my first year, I looked for an employer and in March I received an offer from the Centre Hospitalier Intercommunal de Villeneuve Saint Georges (94).
My first placement at the employer was in July. I couldn’t wait to start because my interview had got me excited but I was also a little nervous because I was going to be meeting my future colleagues. The team soon managed to make me feel comfortable by doing their utmost to do their best for me and provide what they could to boost my training both so I’d be ready to work in Villeneuve when I graduated and so I’d be an accomplished physiotherapist.
Although most of my placement time was on my employer’s premises, the team encouraged external placements, not only to add to my placement journey but also to experience other professional cultures. The team at Villeneuve had front row seats to watch the progress I made between placement periods and knew how to pinpoint the areas which it could help me progress in. This enabled me to have a complete training experience and I’d even say it was in-depth in terms of the employer’s specialities.
Obviously, one of the many advantages of the CFA is the vital financial support provided by the employer. It brings a sense of stability and peace of mind in the face of college fees. It also brings greater freedom to throw yourself into different projects which is great whilst you’re a student and you have the advantage of having guaranteed work once you’ve graduated.
The advantage of being at Assas for a CFA student is that they have real knowledge about this system that’s been around since 2009. As a student, you feel supported not only by the administration team but also your fellow students who are increasingly choosing this option.
I am completely happy as an apprentice at the Centre Hospitalier Intercommunal de Villeneuve Saint Georges which has met and exceeded my expectations.

Antoine, K3 2015 – 2016
Photo CFA Laval - testimonial

An apprentice under the watchful eye of her apprenticeship mentor

I’d like to share my experience as an apprentice physiotherapist. I qualified as a state physiotherapist this year and I’ve been working at the SSR de la Jonquière clinic in the 17th arrondissement in Paris where I conducted my apprenticeship training with the CFA.
The CFA helps fund one or more academic years, in physiotherapy in this case, in exchange for one or more years of guaranteed work in a company. The work is paid.
It’s not easy to find work in a company during the physiotherapy course so you have to do it during half-term or placement periods. 13 weeks out of one CFA K3 year are spent in-company. The student’s status is that of an apprentice meaning between a placement student and graduate.
The hardest part is finding a company that suits you and offers a CFA. However, the system is becoming better known and more companies are interested now.
At the very start, I did the CFA to fund my final year and get more practical experience. I wasn’t expecting to learn a lot about orthopaedics since the clinic’s patients were the elderly (average age: 85). So when I arrived I immediately wanted to work as a replacement. I was made responsible for a department overseen by the physiotherapy Apprenticeship Mentor. That meant I had to handle my patients alone (I couldn’t choose the most interesting patients!), join the treatment team (doctor, nurse, carers and other therapists: occupational therapist and physical therapist) and coordinate staff as the department’s physiotherapist. It was nerve-wracking taking the lead and giving my opinion (a physiotherapist’s opinion) at the start but it soon became natural and people saw me as a professional. As well as being a placement, the experience taught me to be confident in my ability and knowledge and to be professional with patients and teams.
Also, having a glimpse (13 weeks) of my future workplace helps you get to know the different staff, future colleagues and become a part of the system more easily. When I arrived as a graduate, I was instantly made part of the team (since I already was!).
From a practical point of view, the CFA gives you more years of work experience (I graduated in July 2010 but I’ve been salaried since November 2009!) and that looks great on your CV.
I’d recommend this experience to any student. It means sacrificing a year to work in the public sector (if you’re wanting to work in the private sector) and holidays but it’s a smooth introduction to the world of work, gives you professional experience (not just practical) and it helps fund the expense of learning to be a physio!
Good luck to everyone in your studies!

Gwenaëlle – Graduated in 2010

Personally, the launch of the CFA sandwich course system in physiotherapy was a really pleasant surprise. It meant financial independence and early entry into the world of work. For all that, I wanted to remain as versatile as possible during my foundation training and first years of work.
The Bourget after-care and rehabilitation clinic seemed to be the perfect place for my apprenticeship. It completely matched the direction I wanted my career to go in. With the exception of paediatrics, it had all the fields of physiotherapy in one place.
I discovered a new world when I arrival at the Clinique du Bourget: the world of business. It gives physiotherapy students a whole new outlook. The label of being a student is soon replaced by responsibility. I soon had a degree of independence in both treating patients and handling administrative tasks. I no longer had a teacher advising me but instead colleagues who kindly assisted me.
I soon became a part of the team of physicians and they trusted me. Involvement in department meetings enabled me to see another side to managing a clinic. Relationships with other healthcare professionals gave me a better understanding of the physiotherapist’s role in the healthcare system.
In terms of apprenticeship, the number of hours worked in addition to the regular placement process enabled me to cement my skills and learn new techniques. I took internal training courses within the clinic which sparked my curiosity.
I was able to constantly go to and from teaching provided at IFMK and everyday practice.
A year after starting the CFA, I think the main difficulty is that you don’t have much time to relax. The second year is already very packed in terms of teaching so it’s a real marathon which required good time management. But the time and energy that you put into apprenticeship are nothing compared to what you get out of it. I’m sure you’ve guessed that I strongly recommend sandwich courses as I believe they are truly beneficial to training and the profession.

Benoît – K3 2010 – 2011

I had mixed feelings when I heard about the CFA. Of course the financial benefits are tempting but there are a lot of disadvantages: no holidays for at least a year, diligence in class, a timetable based primarily around work, placements, lessons, revision, personal life and huge concentration in class as there is less time to work at home.
But the pros of the CFA certainly outweigh the cons.
I don’t regret my decision now because the quality of the sandwich course puts its disadvantages in the shade.
Writing my CV and cover letter, looking for a company and going to interviews introduced me to the professional world. It enabled me to grow and become more responsible. I was assisted and supported by the CFA and college in my search and each stage of the process.
My plan was to start in a hospital because it’s an environment I’m used to and I’m comfortable in. I was lucky to be accepted in a department where the physiotherapists are friendly and there’s a great atmosphere.
Working periods enable me to practise more than students on the regular course. I also get advice and different opinions about working methods and techniques which improve my knowledge. These periods enable me to put the theory I’ve learnt in college into practice in the field. It’s enabled me to use the information provided in class more easily. The CFA bridges the gap between theory and practice. I’m constantly drawing on my theory skills as I am responsible for the patients.
My diligence in class means I’m ready for patients. In the hospital I meet patients with ailments I’ve never seen before which motivates me to learn even more.
I’ve noticed a difference in people’s attitude to me between the physiotherapists I met during my placement and those I met in the workplace.
During my placement, I’m seen as a student who knows nothing about physiotherapy. I’m constantly monitored and anything I say or do is analysed without actually giving feedback on my work. On the other hand, my colleagues at Cochin see me as a healthcare professional. They trust me, train me as best they can and see me as their equal.
To illustrate my point, here’s an example: during one of my placements, I remember placement students ate between 12 and 12.30 and physios between 12.30 and 1. We couldn’t mix. However, I sometimes have lunch with my superiors and we discuss our personal lives just as I would at college with the other students.
Also, without me having to ask, Cochin offered me the chance to attend a meeting with doctors, nurses and physiotherapists. I asked if I could do this during my placement and they said no. It’s a shame because staff meetings give you an understanding of all the departments involved in treating patients and you gain information which may not necessarily be in medical records. It gave me a new understanding of the patient and streamlining treatment.
What I liked about the sandwich course is that I became more professional day by day. When I put my coat on, I really feel like I’m one of the practitioners. I noticed it because patients always look surprised when I say I’m just an apprentice. I am also really happy that now, when I look at a file, I don’t need to ask what the words mean anymore.
The sandwich course also means I can start working straight after I get my state qualification as I’ll know how the department works, the infrastructures and the type of patients I’ll meet.
I decided to work every other Saturday morning for my work periods which enabled me to maintain contact with the hospital throughout the year and experience a wide range of “physiotherapy emergencies”.
To sum up, sandwich courses are the perfect way to learn and I recommend them to any student with a real passion for physiotherapy.
Anne-Sophie – Graduated in 2012

I signed an apprenticeship contract with a rehabilitation centre at the end of my K1.
The main reason was financial as the CFA took care of all my academic fees and paid a percentage of the minimum wage for each month of college.
But being part of a team and a centre in a more permanent way than as a placement student was also rewarding. Placement students aren’t treated the same way as apprentices as they’re more involved in how the clinic works.
The time I spent in the clinic enabled me to gain experience and independence when treating patients. Just meeting more patients and getting a better understanding of other physios’ and professionals’ techniques forms the bases in terms of ailments and methods which help in theory lessons.
Personally, the CFA was a success and gave me a great deal of satisfaction but the hard part is finding a centre where you can see yourself in the future as it’s a 4-year commitment (if the contract starts in K2) and you have to understand that it involves some sacrifices (fewer holidays and less time to review assessments).
Ludivine – Graduated in 2014

I began a CFA in K3 mainly for financial reasons. It meant my academic year was paid for and I received a monthly wage for that year. But the CFA didn’t just provide me with vital financial support. Over the course of the year, I gradually grew professionally and continued to train. It also enabled me to put the knowledge I’d gained at school into practice. Being an apprentice gives you a better understanding of the realities of our future career than being a placement student. It helps you be a part of a rehabilitation team who almost sees us as qualified physiotherapists.

Vanessa – Graduated in 2014