It’s been almost three years since the Dalhousie Physiotherapy Clinic (DPC) opened its doors in Dalplex.
Open to anyone needing physiotherapy service, the clinic has a focus on meeting the needs of the Dalhousie community.
Established through a collaborative partnership between the Dalhousie University Faculty of Health’s School of Physiotherapy and the Department of Athletics and Recreation, the clinic provided an opportunity to offer innovative experiential learning and clinical placements for physiotherapy students. It also afforded an opportunity to link the cutting-edge research taking place in the School of Physiotherapy’s labs and centres with service provision to the broader community.
Not unlike other physiotherapy clinics and public hospitals, licensed physiotherapists supervise student-patient interactions with students in Dal’s Master of Science in Physiotherapy program as well as students in the School of Health and Human Performance. The DPC is also home to the Dalhousie Athletic Trainer Program (DATP) which provides first-aid and preventative care at competitions and practices for the Dalhousie Tigers varsity and contact-sport club teams.
Under the leadership of clinic manager and physiotherapist Rhonda Reardon, the DPC opened in December of 2017, with just two other staff members; an administrative assistant and a therapy assistant. It was open Monday to Friday for seven hours each day.
Fast forward three years later and the DPC has experienced substantial growth with two full-time physiotherapists in addition to Reardon, an administrative assistant, two therapy assistants and several junior administrators. They are currently open weekdays from 7am to 8pm.
A very hands-on profession, the delivery of physiotherapy care during the onset of COVID-19 changed dramatically at the DPC. Unable to physically see patients during the second half of March along with all of April and May, the entire staff went into teleworking mode to focus on clinic projects and deliver physiotherapy care via telehealth.
“Although not an ideal situation to be in, we saw an opportunity to focus on some projects while we were unable to treat patients in person,” says Reardon. “We revamped the education sessions and content delivery for the DATP and spent some time updating the process for on-boarding Dalhousie student-athletes. We also worked on improving our social media presence to include an educational component for all of our followers.”
The DPC opened back up to physically treat patients on June 10th in adherence with all Nova Scotia Public Health, Nova Scotia College of Physiotherapists and Dalhousie University Return to Campus guidelines and protocols. The telehealth program was such a great success its now a mainstay at the DPC.
“It allows us to ‘see’ patients offsite and has become a valuable resource to connect and deliver education and exercise to them,” continues Reardon. “It has also shown our patients what physiotherapy care looks like virtually. We are able to identify when a person requires in-person care, allowing us to reduce in-person time with no loss to the quality of the treatment we deliver.”
Keeping the Clinic sanitized and following all of the necessary protocols to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients and staff takes time and has changed the number of patients that move through it each day. In addition to telehealth, the physiotherapists have 30-minute one-on-one sessions with patients as needed.
Reardon is happy with where the Clinic is right now, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have big plans for the future.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to become stronger and more adaptable in the delivery of patient care, student education and the trainer program,” adds Reardon. “Looking ahead, we plan to expand into a multidisciplinary collaborative clinic that aligns with the strategic goals of Dalhousie University.”
“The continuous support we receive from the School of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health and the Department of Athletics and Recreation is outstanding and I’m very fortunate to have an amazing team at the Clinic who share the same passion for delivering top-quality physiotherapy to our patients every day as I do.”
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