The scientific programme at WCPT Congress provides a good barometer of physiotherapists’ interests and the things that it thinks are current or ‘coming’ in the profession. But when people pay their registration fee, they’re signing up for everything, so it’s not until after the event that we get to see what people attended and what they didn’t.
On the other hand, the pre- and post-congress courses can really show what physiotherapists are prepared to invest their money in, and so give us a very good indication of physiotherapists’ interests.
So with the call going out this week for pre- and post-congress course proposals, there’s an opportunity to gauge whether radical shifts are really happening in the profession, or whether people still feel the need to offer the tried and true ‘big hitters’.
Given that, the image that’s posted on the WCPT website accompanying the call is interesting. Here’s a screenshot (click on the image to go to the page itself).
Nothing particularly radical here, and it would suggest on first glance that WCPT very much wants some more of the ‘big hitters’.
I wonder, though, if there’s not an opportunity here to offer some courses that reach beyond the comfortable and familiar and challenge us to think otherwise?
Look at the ‘restricted list of topics’ for the course proposals, and some things stand out immediately:
- Ageing population: falls prevention and rehabilitation
- Health promotion, primary prevention and public health
- Advocacy and leadership skills for all physical therapists
- Business skills eg communications, marketing, preparing business plans
- Research in the clinical setting: generating practice informed evidence
- Communicating with patients
- Clinical topics in the following areas:
- musculoskeletal: particularly tendon injuries and the prevention and management of osteoarthritis
- neurology: particularly stroke rehabilitation and Parkinson’s Disease
- mental health: particularly dementia
- pain management
- aquatic physical therapy: of relevance to different populations.
The first thing is that clinical topics only make up one of six different themes, the other themes span a whole range of different ideas and approaches.
Secondly, the list suggests that even the strongly ‘clinical’ areas can be taken in a different direction to the traditional approach to assessment and treatment, as WCPT itself has done with the ageing population, which might have been bracketed alongside paediatrics in the clinical topics. Instead, ageing is seen more as a policy issue, so why not think of musculoskeletal or pain management the same way?
Thirdly, there is clearly a call for more ‘economic’ upskilling – with four of the themes broadly attending to the changing economy of healthcare. There will be a tendency to promote ideas of efficiency, rational cost-cutting, proving our worth, and other such discourses. But there is also an opportunity here to critique these ideas and argue for physiotherapy that is the antithesis of neoliberal economic reform – practice that is more person-centred, ecologically and socially aware, anti-oppressive, diverse and inclusive.
WCPT, of course, can’t dictate what kinds of courses people offer up, so it’s up to us to submit proposals that will offer something different and will challenge people to think otherwise. Simply not submitting a proposal that feeds the ‘old’ ways of thinking about physiotherapy would be a start. But new ideas too are needed, and only we can provide these.
Then it will be up to WCPT to play its part in deciding which courses receive the Confederation’s support and which don’t.
We’ll then have a better idea how well the profession is preparing itself for the future challenges and opportunities of practice, and what people think is worth spending their money on.