Thank you to everyone who responded to our last post on 10 reasons to love physiotherapy (link). These are strange and unsettling times, and it helps sometimes to be reminded of the good things that we do.
This post follows on from last week’s, asking the question whether there anyone better placed to take advantage of the changing face of healthcare than physiotherapists. Physiotherapists can sometimes forget how perfectly their skills and abilities line up with what people will want in the future, and we have perhaps been our own worst enemies in ignoring or minimising the power of some of these things in the past.
So ask yourself this*:
- Are doctors better placed than physios to be at the heart of future healthcare? Doctors are orthodox health professionals and our primary diagnosticians, but their focus is on the body’s biochemistry or its surgical repair. Not everyone needs such specialised intervention, they are expensive to train and consult, and many people are now looking for something much more humanistic, personal and embodied for their care;
- So are nurses the future? Perhaps. Like doctors, they are a large, orthodox profession, and much loved by the public, but they aren’t diagnosticians or therapists, so while many embody care, their focus is not purposefully rehabilitative;
- What about other rehabilitation workers like Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists? They too will play a part, but their professions are small, specialised and not first contact professions;
- How about the ‘psy’ disciplines (psychology, psychotherapy, counselling, etc.)? These have certainly captured public interest and connected mental health with people’s lived experiences, but their focus is on the mind and they recoil at approaching the body or using any form of physical therapy;
- Perhaps some of our musculoskeletal colleagues and competitors have the advantage? Certainly osteopaths benefit from some mainstream attention unlike chiropractors, who remains marginal. But both are anchored, like podiatrists, midwives and dentists, to a single body system or region, and could never be considered ‘holistic’;
- What about the exercise therapists, physiologists and personal trainers then? Certainly these have recognised the importance of maintaining health through activity and function, but they lack the clinical experience physiotherapists get from their work in the public healthcare system, many are unregulated and the quality of care can be very variable.
So if we know that people will always want someone who can use their hands to soothe and heal; who can differentially diagnose and advise from a position of trust; who can prescribe programmes that account for people’s co-morbidities; who can speak the language of orthodox healthcare system and knows how the body works; who can be a generalist or a specialist as the need arises; who can practice without masses of expensive equipment; who can spend time with people, listen and support them to help themselves; and who can cut through all of the complexity of choices now available to people to find a sensible, workable plan; my question is who is better placed to do all of this than a physiotherapist?
*Lest we get carried away with self-congratulation, it’s probably worth remembering that the future of healthcare is collaborative and that physiotherapists won’t be at the centre of the reforms unless we do something about it. So there is a blogpost coming which is perhaps less celebratory and asks ‘why are we not there yet?’ There’s no doubt we need to turn the focus back on ourselves if we are going to open some doors to an ‘otherwise’ physiotherapy. Until then, perhaps reflect on some of the many things physiotherapy does do well, and have at their disposal as the New Year beds in.