Helen Johnson

Clinical Specialty Area: Seniors’ Health

Years in Practice: 31

Areas of Interest: Comprehensive geriatric assessment; geriatric rehabilitation; fall prevention; seniors functional fitness; education in geriatrics and seniors health for physiotherapists and their allied health colleagues

Where do you hope to see the profession of Seniors’ Health PT in 25 years?

With the aging population demographics, in 2040 Canada will be nearing the peak of the aging wave – by 2050 about one in four Canadians will be aged 65 or older. It will be vital to the health care system to have adequate numbers of physiotherapists with clinical expertise and skills in Seniors’ Health. I hope that physiotherapists will be seen to have a leading role in supporting seniors in maintenance of health and independence, managing chronic conditions of aging and restoring functional decline acquired during illness or hospitalization.

Why did you choose to become a Clinical Specialist?

I have held a philosophy of life-long learning and continuous professional development throughout my career. I had the opportunity to complete a Master’s degree in 2011 in Health and Rehab Science, Health and Aging. The launch of the Clinical Speciality Program and assessor training the following year was a timely next step. Prior to my Master’s degree, even though I had been working for 25 years (with 15 of those years in Seniors’ Health) I hadn’t had the opportunity to strengthen the competencies in research and teaching to the degree that would have allowed me to meet the criteria for a Clinical Specialist. I felt that the time was right to strive for this next achievement. I also believe that having a number of CPA members recognized as Clinical Specialists will continue to raise the profile of our profession and strengthen our professional identity nationally.

How do you feel the clinical specialization role has changed your practice?

Having completed the Master’s program, and seeking my next professional position, the Clinical Specialist Certification provided additional credibility to my application and acceptance into the role of Rehabilitation Lead in the ESC LHIN. Leading the implementation of best practices, developing care pathways and system performance scorecards in rehabilitation for seniors,  are allowing me to utilize my advanced clinical knowledge, while stretching my skills in the areas of knowledge translation and advocacy.

What new opportunities/roles/responsibilities do you think you will take on as a specialist?

My current role is ideal in utilizing and continuing to grow my Clinical Specialist competencies on all levels. I am hopeful that I will be able to continue in this role for the near term. I also hope to bring some research opportunities into this role.

What do you think makes a successful candidate for the Clinical Specialty Program?

A dedicated clinician, self-directed learner, and passionate leader concerned with providing excellence in their patient care, as well as striving for continuous improvement. 

How do you feel the clinical specialization role will change the field of Seniors’ Health physiotherapy?

Once we have a number of peers who have achieved this designation, the Seniors' Health Division (SHD) will have a core group of members who may be able to collaborate together to contribute to the mission and vision of SHD. All physiotherapists in coming years will need a level of knowledge and skills in seniors’ health, as older adults will be the majority of clients seeking our services in any care sector.

What are important things to consider for those who are interested in pursuing their clinical specialist designation?

Building a portfolio to document continuing education, leadership and advocacy activities. Seeking opportunities to be involved in research on some level, even if it is using research to assess care delivery or evaluate programs against best practice. Consider compiling some challenging cases which you can present in the clinical reflections or case presentations sections of the Clinical Specialty Program.

What did you find most valuable in the program?

The opportunity for clinical reflections provided great value in critical thinking about my practice with patients. Also the feedback from the evaluations by my peers was a valuable opportunity for growth. 

What advice would you offer candidates applying to the clinical specialty program?

Consider your mentors and where you have opportunities to mentor others. Go for it!

Education

BScPT, University of Western Ontario, 1984

MSc, Health & Rehab Science, Health & Aging, Western, 2011

I had a number of clinical placements at University Hospital in London during my  physiotherapy education, and had the opportunity to step into a position there right after graduation. I had strong mentors there from the start of my career – Gaye Sydenham, Marel Fielding, and others who were active in CPA & OPA at district, provincial and national levels. I was able to work in many areas there during my first 10 years – intensive care, cardiac surgery, stroke and neurosurgery, rehab, ALS and MS clinics, and had a Clinical Specialist role there.

Current professional activities

  • Active on Seniors Health Division as past Chair, and the Education Committee
  • Serve as Canadian representative for SHD on IPTOP (International Physical Therapists for Older People) a subgroup of WCPT
  • Accepted for a poster presentation at WCPT 2015 in Singapore

Emailhjohnson@ckha.on.c