This is another post in our series of new bloggers on the criticalphysio site. This post comes from Professor Dina Brooks, Canada Research Chair in Rehabilitation in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease at the University of Toronto in Canada.
Let me start with two confessions: 1) this is my first blog ever; and 2) I am a quantitative researcher who has done basic and applied research and conducted multiple randomized controlled trials. With any luck, these disclosures will not turn you off reading this blog but intrigue you to know why I feel compelled to write my first blog ever, for the CPN.
The day after WCPT Congress, I attended the CPN Salon in a beautiful venue in Cape Town. I had become a member of CPN about 6 months ago, mostly out of curiosity. I didn’t feel like I belonged or that I shared similar philosophies but I was intrigued by the group. After chairing the scientific program of WCPT, I thought it would be refreshing to spend a day at the CPN Salon listening to intellectual discussion among individuals that thought quite differently than I did. I had the intention of being a passive listener as I didn’t feel that I could contribute much. I was slightly intimidated by the topics on the agenda, as they were not part of my daily discourse.
As often is the case in life, expectations and reality did not match and the day was greatly enlightening and highly relevant to my world. I would like to share with you four reflections on the day.
- The CPN Salon took me outside my comfort zone. Comfort kills productivity and pushing our boundaries can not only increase efficiency, but also maximize creativity and make it easier to push boundaries in the future. I felt outside my comfort zone for most of the day and came away invigorated.
- By no fault of its own, the CPN speaks to the converted. Despite the fact that anyone can join CPN, members of CPN are mostly qualitative researchers or clinicians who are not happy with some aspects of practice. They are like-minded individuals who think in a similar way and mostly agree with each other. Although I appreciate the need for a group that supports this common thinking, more could be accomplished to improve physical therapy care by expanding the network beyond those individuals.
- Critical doesn’t mean judgmental. Critical means “challenging physiotherapy practice and thinking and critically reflecting on the profession’s past, present and future”. However, at times, I felt that critical could slip into being judgmental, making it counterproductive. It is true that the ideas of critical physiotherapy are not main stream and need to gain more momentum. However, we must pay attention to language and tone to make sure we don’t create alienation in the profession. For example, I can agree with many sensible comments about the limits of randomized controlled trials. However, I will become defensive and even argumentative when disrespectful or snide comments are made about this research design.
- “Let’s build bridges not walls”. A wall stops us from connecting with one another and creates distance. Instead, let’s create means to meet even when our ideas are drastically different, making it possible to create solutions and new knowledge. Building bridges will help empower physiotherapists to engage in thinking and practice that will move physiotherapy profession forward. In addition to a CPN Salon, let’s bring the ideas of CPN into the more indoctrinated areas of physical therapy. For example, I could benefit from the ideas of CPN when designing an international randomized controlled trial of balance training in COPD. Maybe PEDro could benefit from some of the ideas in CPN and so could many of the special interest groups in the profession.
After the CPN Salon, I no longer feel the “us”, quantitive researchers involved in generating conventional scientific evidence, and “them”, critical thinkers who challenge conventional research and practice. Instead, I have come to appreciate how important it is that these two worlds collide and interact regularly. Let’s break the walls and create bridges!