You are welcome to attend in person or online. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session with Prof David Nicholls.

Registrations for this event are mandatory.

Session abstract

Health professions around the world are entering an era of diminished power and prestige and they are becoming only one of only a number of ways people engage in healthcare. This post-professional era is already having profound effects on physiotherapy, but what will it mean for the profession into the future?

Post-professionalism is a term used to describe the gradual de-centring of professionals that has been seen from tourism to banking, commerce to education. Until recently though, it had hardly been discussed as a concept operating in healthcare. But COVID and the rise of digital medicine, the growth of healthcare markets and pressure on the public spending, the growth of lifestyle illnesses, and the public’s increasing scepticism towards traditional forms of authority, all point to a future in which the professions are less in control.

In my recent book Physiotherapy Otherwise, I argued that the signs of post-professionalism were already evident in physiotherapy, but that many of the profession’s responses have been misjudged. In this talk I will briefly discuss what post-professionalism is, how it relates to contemporary healthcare practice, and how we might ensure the physical therapies are available to people long into the future.

Relevant readings

  • Burns, E. A. (2019). Theorising professions: A sociological introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Nancarrow, S., & Borthwick, A. (2021). The allied health professions: a sociological perspective. Policy Press.

  • Nicholls, D. A. (2022). Physiotherapy Otherwise. Tuwhera Open Access. 

Biography Prof Dr David Nicholls 

David Nicholls is a Professor of Critical Physiotherapy in the School of Clinical Sciences at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand. He is a physiotherapist, lecturer, researcher and writer, with a passion for critical thinking in and around the physical therapies. David is the founder of the Critical Physiotherapy Network, an organisation that promotes the use of cultural studies, education, history, philosophy, sociology, and a range of other disciplines in the study of the profession’s past, present and future. He is also co-founder and chair of the International Physiotherapy History Association Executive, and founding Executive member of the Environmental Physiotherapy Association. David’s own research work focuses on the philosophy, sociology, and critical history of physiotherapy, and considers how physiotherapy might need to adapt to the changing economy of health care in the 21st century. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, many as first author. His first book – The End of Physiotherapy (Routledge, 2017) – was the first book-length critical history of the profession. A second sole-authored book – Physiotherapy Otherwise – was published in early 2022 as a free pdf/eBook (available from He was co-editor on the first collection of critical physiotherapy writings – Manipulating Practices (Cappelen Damm, 2018) – and was the lead editor for the follow-up – Mobilising Knowledge (Routledge, 2020). He is also very active on social media, writing weekly on contemporary critical physiotherapy issues ( He has taught in physiotherapy programmes in the UK and New Zealand for over 30 years and has presented his work around the world.


Session host: 'Healthcare Professional Practice' Research Group, Department of Health and Care Sciences,