“Medicine is not only the practice of Science; it is also the practice of Art.” - Hippocrates
I am a primary care physiotherapist and clinic owner in rural Saskatchewan with 23 years of clinical experience in acute care and private practice. My new self-assigned job title is “Pandemic Physiotherapist.” Due to the need for essential physiotherapy service in my rural community, I provided primary care therapy to patients with conditions requiring in-person consultation during the pandemic. While my colleagues shut their doors completely for various reasons, or only provided virtual care, I opted to remain open while respecting the government-imposed restrictions on health care facilities. And, while following all health recommendations needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I provided triage, assessment, treatment, education, and support to a cohort of emergent patients.
My clinic was fully stocked with PPE and hospital grade disinfectant, and my acute care training in sterile technique and appropriate use of PPE, meant I could safely continue to provide care and train my staff accordingly. My associate could not practice as he is older and has a heart condition himself, increasing his risk for complications related to contracting COVID-19. Financially, my clinic has suffered, as many others have. But, I elected to keep my staff. They agreed to work reduced hours, use PPE as required, and disinfect the clinic as needed after every patient.
My training is South African, where we practiced front line care as young, inexperienced therapists. In the face of contagious disease epidemics, including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Cholera, Typhoid fever, and TB, we took the Hippocratic oath and worked side by side with equally young inexperienced doctors, community nurses, and other paramedical health care workers. We were sent to hospitals, community clinics, TB facilities, and prisons. We willingly went into low socio-economic townships, schools, and patients’ homes, which were unhygienic and dangerous. We were on-call for ICU and high care, carrying a beeper, often working 16-hour days. We didn’t have fancy assessment tools or treatment equipment; we didn’t even have PPE, as required, sometimes; BUT, we had our hands, we had heart, and we had a passion to help!
We took the Hippocratic oath; we were committed to caring for others before ourselves. We had to be willing to take risks so that our patients could benefit from an improved physical and emotional quality of life. We had to improvise and use initiative. This training and experience gave me the courage, confidence, and consideration required to persevere for my patients through this pandemic.
I have made a difference in my patients' lives. I have achieved positive outcomes and helped patients control their pain, reduce swelling and inflammation, maintain/improve strength and range of motion, and prevent further complications and emotional stress.
The doctors and specialists who referred the patients, the families' caregivers of the patients, and the patients, themselves, thank me and my staff every day. They are grateful for the care they have received. They appreciate all we are doing for them during this time.
I am proud to be a Primary Pandemic Physiotherapist in my community. It is my mission and my passion to strive to provide care to my patients to the best of my ability. I will always practice the science of medicine, but never without the art of warmth, kindness, and compassion for the people who walk through my clinic door.
Yours, in health & wellness,
Physio Fit Therapy & Fitness
Prince Albert, SK