Deep reflections of a Physiotherapist
I am writing this entry to mourn my grief and loss of the recent passing of a very dear patient I have been working with closely, for the past 2 years.
I have been a physiotherapist for all of my professional life. Throughout my journey as a physiotherapist, I have had the greatest honor of serving people who need help, many of them at their most vulnerable periods of their lives.
Having served the public hospitals, private practices, and now serving patients under my own practice, the drive that motivates me has not changed — to help people.
I’ve had the privilege to learn and practice through various disciplines in healthcare, such as post-surgical rehab, stroke rehabilitation, musculoskeletal rehabilitation, geriatric rehabilition, post-partum women’s musculoskeletal health and rehab, Scoliosis management, ICU physiotherapy and Cardiac-Pulmonary rehabilitation. I’ve had the best clinicians who mentored me, and inspired me to provide clinical excellence to anyone i help. I have never felt like I needed to stop learning or growing, because I love what I do everyday.
Healthcare is a strange profession. We love to help people. However, many of us get burnt-out, or emotionally drained as we go along. As a result, we sometimes appear apathetic about the overwhelming needs of every single human being we work with. It ends up with ‘touch-and-go’ of our patients on these days that we experience a burn-out.
Many times we can be very objective about a patient’s prognosis, and we can foresee or predict the decline or progress of a person. Sometimes we get surprises, but for some patients, we are mostly fighting against time. In the last decade of being a physio, I have learnt that we can only support a patient’s decision, we cannot make a decision for them to live their lives, whatever the outcome we think it will be. This has given me a very valuable lesson in parenting as well — that we cannot lead our children’s lives for them, we can only support them.
When I learnt about the passing of this very dear patient, I was heart broken. I did not expect to feel so emotionally involved in the patient’s death, and I was scheduled to see the patient to review his condition.
I was reminded that as a healthcare professional, albeit we work for a living and use it to make ends meet, it was never ‘Just a job to make ends meet’. When people approach us with a need, we treat them with dignity and respect. We get them back on their goals, to help them live as dignified humans. We respect their inabilities, and we work harder towards finding out what is limiting their progress and compliance, beyond thinking they are just lazy people not doing exercises. Even when the goal is to ‘sit up just to have a meal’, ‘be able to start having intimacy with partner again after a cardiac surgery’, or ‘return to competitive sport’, physios are extremely privileged to work with them towards their needs and dreams. And when they do reach their goals, it’s life-changing for them, and absolutely gratifying for myself.
Once we genuinely understand their barriers to change, we can make a difference in their lives, and ours.
To all my fellow healthcare colleagues, thank you for all your passion to give every vulnerable human being a dignified presence. To young and evolving physios, I hope you will find that deep, genuine pursue in humanity to make the world, and the lives of humans, a better place.