Connect’s Graduate Development Programme challenged me (in a good way!)

Joana Rodrigues, Senior MSK Clinician in Pain Services at Connect Health, tells us about how the Lincolnshire Pain team helped to support and encourage her towards a Senior Clinician role after joining the Graduate Development Programme (GDP).

19 April 2022

I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare as I’m caring by nature

I’m Portuguese but I went to a German school in Lisbon and I was torn between studying physiotherapy or psychology. I opted for a work placement in physiotherapy in year 10 in a local hospital.

When leaving school I was still between nursing, physio or psychology but I chose physio as I like to be active. I was very fortunate that the university in Lisbon is the oldest one dedicated to physio, OT, speech
and language therapy and the education was at a very high standard.


After working for a year in Portugal, I decided I wanted something different

In 2019, during my final year at University, I applied for the Graduate Development Programme (GDP) at Connect Health. I wasn’t successful the first time I applied but I was still really interested in Connect Health and my aim was to come to the UK.

The job opportunities and job roles in Portugal are not as well paid as in the UK, and the CPD time and support from senior staff offered was very limited.


I applied to 2 other places, but I had my heart set on joining Connect

Connect Health appeared to be a very vibrant and dynamic organisation. After a successful application to the GDP for the Nottingham MSK Service and the Lincolnshire Pain Service, I had an interview with Connect and discovered that my values were very much in line with the company values. They then invited me to another interview with the Lincs team. Everyone was really friendly and I got a call later that day offering me the job.


I started to prepare my journey to the UK

Two other grads who were successful in their application for the Pain Service were also relocating. I had to get my grades and course information converted into English and I applied to the HCPC (Healthcare Professional Council) as part of the process as well. HR were a huge help, they guided me through which documents were necessary.


Connect was flawless in the way that they supported me moving from overseas

They conducted an interview to talk about the challenges of moving to Lincs. For graduates who are thinking about moving to the UK, you can trust that you will be well supported at Connect Health.


The induction was brilliant

The support from team leads and our ‘buddy’ made the induction process a lot easier. Patients are different here, not only due to their chronic pain but also because of the remote location in Lincolnshire, so having support from the team made a huge difference.

I got the best of both worlds at Connect by being supported through my training but also being independent.


I sought to do courses around mental health and dealing with challenging behaviour so I
could understand and identify interventions

Feelings of distress and hopelessness that go along with living with chronic pain are common. These courses also helped to boost my own confidence as well.


I’m very proud and grateful for this promotion to Senior MSK Clinician before the official end of the Graduate Development Programme

The GDP usually lasts a year with an exam at the end of it, but I was promoted to Senior MSK Clinician in Pain in September 2021, before the programme finished. I think it was the right thing for me and it is a great responsibility which I took on with a lot of respect. All patients within the Pain Service are complex. The main change when moving to a senior position was reduced time for CPD and we started to be more independent.


I think it is a very fun, engaging and dynamic place to work

There’s always something going on and different groups to get involved in. It’s a place where you can get creative and work to your strengths but there are also lots of opportunities to work on your weaknesses as well. The Academy offers lots of learning opportunities and lots of CPD to take advantage of. A new grad and even an experienced clinician can continue to develop in a fun and engaging way.


I’m quite an emotional, caring person and I want to bring that to my role

Having a sense of connection with people drives me. The positivity within Connect motivates professionals to continue to do their best and I think that having a place to recognise others and thank people is quite important.

I think Connect is a very positive place that embraces difference. I never felt I couldn’t be myself or had to adapt to fit in.


A lot was put on hold due to covid and it’s exciting that some of those things are resuming

My aim is to engage with projects both company wide and in my own pain management programme. I’ve also applied for a post graduate course to further my education in the pain management field in a formal and structured way.

It is challenging (in a good way!)

Especially in the pain service, but it’s rewarding and it makes your brain tick. It’s a place you can develop and learn and it’s definitely exciting.

If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact

Click here to download Joana Rodrigues’ Story