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Physios take their work on the road to drive change

Physios take work on the road to drive change
Photo: Project Physio
Physiotherapists Clare Austin and David Dimech improve health care accessibility Australia-wide by taking their work on the road – literally – via a self-converted mobile home bus.

The adventurous duo makes up Project Physio, a mobile initiative that provides physiotherapy to clients in rural and remote communities – including hospitals, aged care facilities and more.

The inspiration for Project Physio came out of a desire to combine their love of travel with career goals.

"Australia is a huge, beautiful country, and to stay in just one location for an extended period seemed like a waste to us.

"As we started to look into locum opportunities and talk to recruiters, we saw a big gap in the number of allied health professionals going rural," the pair told Health Times.
Project Physio's goal is to make a difference in the country's most remote areas, but it's not with challenges.

"The communities are grateful for the assistance, and the experience gained is invaluable. 

"We have definitely seen first-hand the difficulties rural areas have with accessing health care.

"At times, there is a lack of awareness of how physiotherapists can help patients, as well as how patients can access government funding opportunities to reduce the cost of care.

"There has also been some pushback among rural medical practices as we’re not staying long term.

"For patients, the alternative is often not being able to see a physiotherapist at all, so we believe some is better than none."

A focus on sustainable treatment is the foundation of operating as a mobile physiotherapy service.

"We rarely use manual therapy and focus on more evidence-based care such as exercise prescription, healthy lifestyle changes and education.

"The last thing we want to do is leave patients high and dry when they are in need.

"We always strive to promote independence and autonomy throughout our treatment plans.

"We make sure we set up our clients with independent exercise programs."

If clients require ongoing or long-term care, telehealth appointments or a referral to another health practitioner in the area, if available, are options.

"We always try to inform and source funding options available to our clients, such as registration with 'my aged care', NDIS or utilising Medicare rebates."

A combination of locum roles and Project Physio keeps the pair busy as they make their way around Australia.

"We've had a lot of success helping residential aged care facilities in rural areas, who would usually otherwise have to hire a physio from the nearest major city.

"We have been able to get facilities up-to-date with resident assessments, which is essential for their ongoing funding."

The pair has also recently partnered with Sonder, a rural health government organisation, to deliver exercise programs.

"This allowed us to develop and deliver two exercise group sessions a week, including resistance circuit training and hydrotherapy, to people with chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis and cardiac disease.

"We hold weekly information sessions on topics such as creating SMART goals, exercise guidelines and understanding osteoarthritis."

Partnering with Sonder also meant participants weren't out of pocket and could access one-on-one sessions targeting conditions such as Parkinson's and respiratory diseases.

"The program was a great success with many of the participants choosing to continue with the group exercises independently.

"The clients improved their balance, strength and aerobic capacity in a short amount of time."

The pair are currently making their way up to Alice Springs from the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia.

"We are looking at picking up some short-term roles throughout the Northern Territory and then basing ourselves in Northern Western Australia for our next stint of longer-term work.

"We are eager to get involved with FIFO work to some remote Western Australian communities and gain more experience working in a different setting."

For physios and other health professionals considering working in remote communities, Project Physio say go for it!

"You will not regret the experience.

"You do not have to go the extreme of having your own business and living full time on the road.

"You can find a two to four-week locum opportunity in an area you have never been to, or maybe somewhere you love to go on holidays!

"Do it part-time and have a bit of a holiday as well or gain new experience in a different field of your profession.

"There are so many options out there, and you can make the options fit for you.

"Hopefully, with more people doing locum roles, this will increase the chance of a health professional living and working permanently in the area."

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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.