What I learned about physiotherapy during the pandemic
Sometimes it takes losing something to make you realize how important it is to you. During the pandemic I’ve learned that my job as a physiotherapist is about much more than simply applying treatments to clients. I’ve been able to learn from the restrictions of the pandemic and I feel we are now offering an even better service. Most importantly, I’ve learned we have amazing clients and that I love my job.
I’ve always thought the greatest portion of my job as a physiotherapist is to apply treatments, for example manual therapy, acupuncture and other modalities, to clients to improve their conditions. I realize now that an equally important part of my job is to listen, understand and educate my clients.
Last spring during the first lock down, the clinic was completely closed to in person appointments from March until late May. During that time it was unclear when and how we would reopen. We offered online appointments through video calls, a concept I’d learned about during a persistent pain course several years earlier, but which I’d never applied in practice. There was a steep learning curve for these appointments, both around using technology, and in what we could do with our clients. I realized during those sessions that simply listening to a client describe his or her condition, explaining why the injury occurred and how to improve the condition has an enormous therapeutic value. I didn’t always have to do something or to apply a treatment with my hands, to have a positive effect. This was somewhat of a revelation to me. I have taken this knowledge with me into my practice now that we are seeing clients again in person. I allow myself to take most or all of a session to listen and explain to make sure my client understands his or her condition and how to take care of it.
On a more concrete level, during those video sessions, I realized that seeing a client exercise in his or her home is much better than simply showing exercises in the clinic. When I see someone exercising in his or her own space, I can cue more appropriately making sure the exercises are done correctly. I have continued to offer this as an option when I discharge someone to a home exercise program.
Another improvement to our home exercise prescription is a great program called PhysiApp. It allows us to create a web-based individualized exercise program for our clients they can access online or through an app. We’ve had really positive feedback from our clients, and much better adherence to exercise programs since starting to use PhysiApp.
On a personal level, not being able to work last spring made me feel like I’d lost a part of myself. Sure, early on I was terrified about how COVID was affecting the world, or losing my business, but I also felt like my days had lost their purpose. I really enjoy meeting new clients, learning about their injuries and guiding them through their rehab process. I also like going to work and seeing my coworkers. We all need a purpose and reason to get up in the morning. I have learned that part of my purpose is to be a physiotherapist and to help people. I’m thankful for this realization, and I feel more joy and satisfaction from my work than I did 18 months ago. I want to take this chance to thank all of my clients and staff for being supportive of and kind to me during what has been the hardest and most satisfying year of my life.