The COVID-19 lockdowns were a difficult time for physiotherapists, who struggled to remain employed while their clients were forced to stay at home.
Griffith’s Megan Polkinghorne took on this challenge head-on by launching her own business, physifitness, in 2020 – a one-woman operation that somehow managed to grow during COVID and continues to thrive.
The daughter of former world number 13 squash champion, Robyn Polkinghorne (nee Belford), Megan also excels at tennis. She has won a host of junior titles, once reached the top 150 in Australia and currently coaches at Griffith Tennis Club.
Region caught up with the Griffith-born and raised 27-year-old to find out the secrets to her success and her advice for others.
What made you want to become a physiotherapist?
Growing up I played a lot of sports: tennis, touch football, netball and basketball. I had a few different sports injuries and spent a lot of time at the physio. That opened up my eyes to the career. I always wanted to work with people too, being a people person myself. So I went and did a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at Charles Sturt University, then worked in Albury for a bit before I got a job here when I returned home.
How daunting was it to start your own business at the age of 24?
It was very daunting. But having two parents who both have owned businesses helped; they gave me a lot of advice. There are so many things you don’t think about when you start your own company.
I definitely started small by doing a couple of classes, then did a few consults, then more classes and consults. I aimed for a gradual progression but it took off pretty quickly.
What’s the hardest thing about running your own company?
Working for myself and not having administration staff can be quite stressful, doing all the paperwork, paying all the bills – it’s all just me. Juggling everything is tough, but I’m pretty organised.
How is your private practice different to what other physios might do?
I have always wanted to do exercise-based rehab, that’s what the research is telling us to do these days. I have a bigger space here where I work to use for group classes and we also have a gym out the back.
I do a small proportion of hands-on work, but most of what I do is exercise and education-based rehab. I do a lot of classes – in pilates, pre-natal and post-natal with bubs.
Who are your role models?
Andrew Noad, he was my tennis coach from the age of four until I was 18. He was a great role model. Cheryl Rawle was a great coach too. Also, both my parents.
Mum, who has just turned 60, is a former world squash champion who played all over the world.
Were you tempted to take up squash to follow in her footsteps?
I’ve actually never played squash; Mum said it would ruin my tennis swing.
Why is there a shortage of physios in Griffith and how do we fix it?
A lot more people are going to university and not moving back to their country town.
Getting young people to come back to the area is needed to fix the shortage.
There could also be more support for those studying physiotherapy. I did a lot of placements when I was studying, but they were all unpaid. You have to pay for your own accommodation, you’re working full-time and don’t have time for paid work. It makes it very difficult.
What advice do you have for those who have finished Year 12 this year?
Work really hard, it’s important to be diligent and apply yourself. You can only do your best. There are plenty of other opportunities if you don’t get the HSC results you hope to get.
Any plans for the future?
I would like to do a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy, when I’m a bit older.
For more information about Ms Polkinghorne’s classes and private consults, get in touch with her through her Facebook page.