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Catherine Lauzon

This November, the CPA hosted Leadership Forum in Ottawa.

Throughout the three-day event, attendees explored what leadership means through the themes of self-improvement, innovation and practice management. On the final day leaders were asked to commit to taking at least one action in the next month to help achieve their profession's new vision.  Participants wrote the action they would take on a postcard, which they addressed to themselves. After analyzing the responses for patterns, the CPA team mailed out the postcards on December 4th. Here are some of the ways physiotherapy leaders plan to achieve their profession’s new vision: 

Physiotherapy shared vision from CPA’s Strategic Plan 2018-2023:  Physiotherapy is Canada's essential partner for optimizing health.


1. Spread the word

Most attendees agreed that the first step is to spread the word within the profession. Forum attendees plan to bring this vision and the things that they've learned during the forum back to their colleagues, staff, and students.

This can go beyond simply repeating the vision statement to others. Some plans included:

  • Making posters, mugs, shirts and other items to display our vision statement
  • Finding ways to help physiotherapy professionals recognize their own value and the value of physiotherapy
  • Planning activities to introduce the profession’s vision to their staff or students by replicating this postcard exercise, having frequent brainstorming sessions, and encouraging them to write personal vision statements
  • Some component leaders who attended plan to align their branch's vision with the profession’s shared vision



2. Lead by example

Another way some plan to promote the new vision among other physiotherapists is to lead by example, by:

  • Providing excellent patient care
  • Making and encouraging others to make healthy life choices
  • Staying up-to-date on trends and advances in physiotherapy
  • Being active members of their communities.

Many have pledged to become more engaged with their local physiotherapy organizations, teaching programs, and teams in the coming months. A few have said that they're planning to stay in contact with the innovators and PT professionals they've met during the Forum and are looking forward to attending future CPA events. Nine people even said that they plan to contact the CPA directly to ask what they can do to help achieve the shared vision. We look forward to hearing from and working with them!

Dr. Dave Walton plans to write at least three chapters of a manifesto on the current state of and the future of physiotherapy in Canada. Others pledge to use their writing to not only present research and raise awareness, but to create guides, books, and other teaching or reference documents for physiotherapists and students.




3. How we fit in the team

It won't be enough for physiotherapists to know how essential they are to optimizing Canadians' health. The rest of the country’s health care team needs to know and believe this as well, so that they can work with and refer patients to physiotherapists.

One of the most common sentiments shared by attendees was the desire to raise awareness of the roles physiotherapists can play in health care. Some physicians, nurses, and other health care providers have misconceptions about what physiotherapists can and cannot do. Some will refer their patients with back pain or sports injuries, but are unaware of the full scope of what physiotherapists can offer their patients.

Some attendees hope to raise awareness of how physiotherapists and physiotherapist assistants fit into the health care team by:

  • Reaching out to other health care professionals to talk about the value of physiotherapy
  • Highlighting some of the lesser known services physiotherapists provide, such as the roles PTs can play in women's health care
  • Planning, hosting, and attending events where they can discuss this topic with the larger health care community

Raising awareness of the vast roles physiotherapists can take on in health care is an essential step. But will it be enough to convince health care professionals that physiotherapists are Canada's essential partner for optimizing health? Do all health care professionals have the same understanding of what fits the definition of essential care?

Probably not, which is why a few CPA members plan to host interdisciplinary discussions to work on defining and expanding the term. If physiotherapists and other health care professionals know the value of physiotherapy, this message will also start reaching the public.



4. Promote how physio can help to the public

Having a limited or misinformed understanding of physiotherapy is a barrier to accessing treatment. Patients can't seek out services or recommend them to others if they don't know they exist. Some attendees plan to talk directly with their patients about the value and roles of physiotherapy in health care.

Some online and traditional outreach actions include:

  • Running a social media campaign
  • Writing a letter to the editor of their local paper
  • Practising in-person outreach in rural and Indigenous communities and community-dwelling seniors



5. Explore ways physio can help in the future

Finally, instead of focusing on the value of physiotherapy today, some leaders chose to focus on how the profession can increase its essential role in Canada’s health care system in the future. These attendees plan to:

  • Advance the profession through their research, teaching, writing, and advocacy
  • Look into deficiencies in the health care system and determine whether physiotherapists could be part of the solution
  • Refine, validate, and discover new treatments used in physiotherapy
  • Teach students the importance of being active in Canada's physiotherapy community and to prioritize their own health and wellbeing



6. Advocating for the profession

Others are planning to do what they can to advocate for the profession and its patients.  Several attendees have identified issues that are close to their hearts. One that came up again and again was the need for accessible physiotherapy services for the uninsured and for rural and indigenous communities. Some physiotherapists plan to address this by contacting decision-makers to inform them on issues and how physio can help.




Moving forward

While reviewing these postcards, it became clear how passionate CPA members are about their profession and that they have the drive and determination to turn their ideas into action.

Whether it's a long-term project, starting a conversation, or anything in between, there's so much that can be done to inform health care professionals, decision-makers, patients, and the rest of the public about the value of physiotherapy.

The Leadership Forum has ended, but this activity doesn't have to.

Let us know what you plan to do in the next month to make physiotherapy Canada's essential partner for optimizing health!



Catherine Lauzon, CPA volunteer


Great job Catherine!!

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