Case study: Jenny R's story

Jenny Ratcliffe


Age: 53 

County: Cheshire

Simple tasks that can become impossible because of rheumatic conditions:

Working on a keyboard


Jenny trained in Birmingham and worked in neurological physiotherapy before working in Uganda for seven years. Upon returning and not liking the lone working involved in GP physiotherapy Jenny began a post as a rheumatology physiotherapist and has not looked back since.

Jenny’s career: ‘I find it an ever more rewarding area in which to practice'

Jenny trained in Birmingham and then worked in neurological physiotherapy for six years. She then spent seven years working in community health in Uganda before reconsidering her career path upon her return. ‘After returning from overseas work in Uganda in community health for seven years I wished to use my manual therapy skills again and specialised in musculoskeletal physiotherapy which I thought was a job for life.’

The transition from GP physiotherapy to rheumatology physiotherapy proved to be a positive move for Jenny. “As a GP physiotherapist there were many challenges but in time this lone working exhausted my interest and a post as rheumatology physiotherapist was vacant. Since then I have never enjoyed my role more developing education material and patient pathways for efficient service with minimal staffing.”

The working life of a rheumatology physiotherapist:

After cycling to work in the morning Jenny’s working day is busy with only 20 minutes for lunch, although she is buoyed on by her fellow staff. Rheumatology rotation itself proves to be an energy-consuming task. “The long term conditions are heart wrenching and the rheumatology rotation where I train and oversee junior staff has an energy drain that far outweighs normal muscoloskeletal disorders. We call it ‘the sink factor’ and use each other to lighten up and restore our ability to cope and be effective therapy for these patients.”

Jenny runs different clinics on each day, as well as holding sessions for musculoskeletal physiotherapists to teach each other new techniques, and helping her Trust try out new ideas. “Sometimes I have a week where I am training local gym staff on rheumatology so we can feed our patients into their care. Sometimes it is helping the Trust with new ideas. We have recently piloted the RACI management idea (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) which I have to say helped me immensely with the rotating junior physiotherapists I manage.”

Jenny takes immense satisfaction from helping her patients and making a difference. “Lots of things are rewarding such as when we see self-management which is a big encouragement, and treating neck and backs with just small amounts of manual therapy can really make a difference. Often patients have reached the rheumatology consultant as a last ditch attempt on some issue, sometimes inflammatory but often just difficult musculoskeletal problems. Sorting out these problems out is the enjoyable detective work that physiotherapy can be.”

Jenny’s window of opportunity: Small things are essential

Jenny believes that the Simple Tasks campaign is essential to highlight the importance of performing day to day tasks that we take for granted. “It is in the simple things that life is worked out; can I lie down without pain, can I get off the toilet, will my fingers bend enough to hold a pen or a cup? It is important to not give up trying and becoming an informed person able to work out knowing more about the way the body works and the whys of effective exercise, rest, planning, sleeping, cardiovascular training, and breathing. Small things make a huge difference in endurance and strength in individual lives.”

Jenny is sharing her story to help raise awareness of rheumatic conditions because it is essential that the patients that she works with are able to complete the simplest of tasks that can make day to day life manageable for those who are suffering. 

The window of opportunity is key in finding the right treatment for millions of people with rheumatic conditions.

If you are inspired by Jenny’s story, visit the Take Action section to learn about your window of opportunity to help, and learn what you can do to support the Simple Tasks campaign.