InterACTION 2016: Queen’s PT students take home valuable lessons
Guest Blog by Dr. Trisha Parsons,
Professor, Queen’s School of Rehabilitation Therapy
From April 8-10th, 2016 the Ontario Physiotherapy Association (OPA) held their annual conference, InterACTION 2016, in Toronto, Ontario. As a member of OPA, I have previously enjoyed this meeting as an opportunity to connect with colleagues, clinicians, and researchers. The three things that impressed me the most at this year’s meeting were the updates on the role of physiotherapists in primary health care, the inclusion of a stream of talks related to compassionate care, and the strong student presence. Of over 300 attendees, 128 were students from Ontario MScPT programs. This impressive achievement was in part the result of a strategic direction made by the OPA Board of Directors to facilitate student engagement at their annual meeting. This facilitation included a complimentary shuttle bus to the event for students travelling from Ottawa, Kingston, Hamilton, and London. I also had the opportunity to connect with a number of former students, many of whom following their entry-to-practice, have taken on leadership roles within OPA.
The conference agenda was packed with professional development opportunities: there were four blocks of educational programming, including 23 presentations delivered by 45 presenters from clinical and non-clinical backgrounds; two sessions with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario; a poster session highlighting research; and the Annual General Meeting. While there were a number of outstanding sessions at OPA InterACTION this year, for me, the most important information was presented at the standing-room only panel discussion on the role of physiotherapists in Primary Health Care. In November of 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care committed to the creation of 38.3 full-time equivalent positions for physiotherapists working in Primary Care settings in order to address a significant gap in access to rehabilitation services. These organizations included Community Health Centres, Family Health Teams, Nurse Practitioner-led Clinics, and Aboriginal Health Access Centres. The panel included physiotherapists working in these roles in Hamilton (Amy Hondronicols), Toronto (Emily Stevenson), and in Northern Ontario (Wendy Smith). Wendy Smith, physiotherapist on the interdisciplinary team working in the Aboriginal Health Access Centre servicing seven communities between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, summarized the emerging role for physiotherapists in primary care:
My role as a physiotherapist within an Aboriginal Health Access Centre has enabled me to participate in development of strategies and programs to address population health concerns, chronic diseases and continue to work with clients on a one to one basis. Our care delivery model includes use of physiotherapy assistants which has proven to be a critical partnership in the delivery of effective and efficient client centered care within the communities that we serve.
What became clear through their presentation is that there is no single recipe for primary health team composition in our province. Rather, there are several options for team composition available that can help regions meet the evolving needs of their patients and communities. Greg Smith, MScPT ’17, who was in attendance at the Primary Health Care panel, had this to say of his OPA InterACTION experience, “The OPA Interaction conference reinvigorated my twin beliefs that interprofessional healthcare teams are essential to giving the best healthcare to Ontarians, and that physiotherapists play a crucial role in these teams.”
I was also encouraged by the space given to compassionate care at InterACTION this year. As an Associated Medical Services (AMS) Phoenix Fellow, I had the privilege of presenting a workshop on Narrative Practice, wherein I was able to share stories with an engaged group of participants. This session mirrored the activities that I deliver within a Queen’s University entry-level MScPT course on complex health conditions. It was an exceptional experience to do a session of close reading and reflective writing with physiotherapists who represented diverse areas of practice and scholarly work. Time and again, I am impressed by the power of story to facilitate the co-construction of knowledge, to share experiences, and to reach a deep understanding of oneself.
Finally, I was thoroughly encouraged to see the 18 first and second year Queen’s MScPT students who were able to navigate the challenges of clinical placement and examinations in order to attend the meeting. There were four students from the Queen’s MScPT Class of 2016 presenting abstracts or workshops. Tamara Poropat and Emily Czechowskyj, along with their supervisor, Prof. Diana Hopkins-Rosseel presented findings from a scoping review of physical activity monitors. The purpose of their review was to better inform participants in cardiac rehabilitation centres about available options in the marketplace. They also included a framework and tool to help clinicians keep abreast of the ever-changing landscape of wearable tech. Connor Reid and Jamie Corkal presented findings from a secondary analysis of Dr. Kathleen Norman’s College of Physiotherapists of Ontario sponsored survey of Ontario Physiotherapy practice patterns, “This is PT Now”. Their new findings point towards a concerning trend for growing employment precarity amongst newly graduated physiotherapists in Ontario. When I asked him about his experiences, Connor had this to share:
Attending and presenting at the 2016 OPA InterACTION conference was a truly positive experience. I was able to participate in valuable conversations with academics, practitioners, and other students in PT. I am grateful for the opportunity to disseminate information from research …. I would definitely recommend attending the annual meeting to any PT student.
The overall experience was highly valued by Jamie Corkal, “the conference provided a great first-hand introduction to both the Ontario Physiotherapy Association and College of Physiotherapists of Ontario.” Witnessing the engagement of so many Queen’s PT members (both current and past students) and seeing how this engagement led to emerging leaders within our profession called to mind the words of Dr. Randy Pausch. In his Last Lecture, Dr. Pausch highlighted that the greatest joy is not in living your own dream, but in enabling the dreams of others. Watching these students step forward into the light, in part through the support of their supervisors, the Queen’s University Student Experience Fund, and the Ontario Physiotherapy Association’s efforts to prioritize student engagement, left me feeling most encouraged for the future of our profession. My hope for InterACTION 2017, when the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s celebrates its 50thAnniversary, is that we are able to set a new record for student attendance.