Alison McDonald

 

Clinical specialty area: Neurosciences

Years in specialty practice area: 27

Areas of professional interest: stroke rehabilitation; aerobic conditioning; upper extremity recovery; neuroprosthesis

What did you find most rewarding about the specialty program?

I like the idea of challenging myself and setting goals for my career. The clinical specialty program is a good measure of my progress towards those goals and aspirations. The specialty program provided the opportunity to reflect on my career, the professional development I have taken and my involvements in different organizations relating to my chosen field. It was good to look at how each of those experiences (courses, research, volunteer efforts, etc.) contributed to who I am as a physiotherapist.
 

What were your reasons for applying to the program?

There are many ways to advance our profession, and I feel that specialization is one way. It recognizes that we are building our skills, critical thinking, clinical reasoning and application of research to our patients. This, and the mentoring of students and colleagues is important in helping advance our scope of practice.

I love working clinically and believe that my work in clinical research, post-graduate courses, and professional leadership have helped hone my clinical skills and knowledge. I thought that CPA’s Clinical Specialty Program would be an excellent way to evaluate my skills and knowledge. When I was on the Executive Committee of the Neurosciences Division (1993-1996), I remember hearing about the early work that Marilyn MacKay-Lyons, Laura Klassen and others were doing on clinical specialization. I was excited to participate in the pilot specialization process and then to undergo the rigorous program once it was finalized. 

What advice would you give to applicants going through the specialty process?

Take the time to reflect on your growth as a physiotherapist, on what you have learned and your goals for the future. The clinical specialty program is hard work, but an excellent process. The Case Based Discussions can seem nerve-wracking at first, but enjoy the chance to speak with colleagues who are interested in hearing how you think and it is another learning experience. 

Biography

I graduated from Dalhousie School of Physiotherapy, which was something I had dreamed of. This was followed by working in Winnipeg at the Health Sciences Centre and then in England for 4 years. 

I have benefited from mentors throughout my career, who have helped me improve my skills and knowledge and given me opportunities to participate in research projects.

I have been involved with stroke best practices through national projects (co-chair Canadian Stroke Strategy Best Practices and Standards Working Group, 2005-2005) and panels (stroke rehabilitation outcome measures). I have taken courses in gait re-education with neuroprosthesis, such as WalkAide and Bioness L300.

My professional affiliations have provided opportunities to assume leadership roles. I am a longstanding member of CPA and the Neurosciences Division; presently Branch President of the Nova Scotia Physiotherapy Association and a member of the Physiotherapy Competency Exam Development Committee (NS Branch). I have also volunteered for the Heart and Stroke Foundation provincial Stroke Committee and through that helped with developing the Nova Scotia Integrated Stroke Strategy which has formed the basis for the improvement of stroke care in Nova Scotia. 

I enjoy teaching students, through being a guest lecturer at the Dalhousie University School of Physiotherapy and mentoring students in their clinical practicum. My role as Adjunct Clinical Associate with the Dalhousie School of Physiotherapy is to foster ongoing contribution of the clinical physiotherapy community in educating physiotherapy students for entry to professional practice.