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The unique relationship between a rehab physio and their patient.

Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, Adam Monteith
Photo: Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, Adam Monteith
An authentic care factor is critical to the outcomes of patients being treated by rehabilitation physiotherapists, but practitioners must be mindful of their own wellbeing too.

Rehabilitation in the physiotherapy world is care that addresses one’s physical health, more specifically movement and pain management.

If the patient is unable to perform their necessary activities of daily living, safely and confidently, and without pain or discomfort, then a physiotherapist will be engaged to help the patient achieve full function.

Causes can vary, from falls or accidents, to joint overuse or even mental health challenges.

“The aim is to maximise the patient’s potential, and provide them with the ability to exceed their own expectations in all that they are required to do – no matter what level that they are playing the game,” says Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, Adam Monteith.
While necessary, the rehabilitation process can be a traumatic one, as patients struggle with inability and sometimes slow progress.

“Patients experience a wide range of emotions before, during, and at the end of the rehabilitation process,” says Mr Monteith.

“Generally speaking, a pain journey often begins with fear, anxiety, avoidant behaviours, and sometimes sadness.

“However, as the patient begins to understand the nature of their pain, and the reasons underlying its cause, they begin to accept their new normal environment.

“Acceptance turns to hope, and positivity and confidence starts to shine through, and every achievement thereafter continues to reinforce this happier state.”

With patients susceptible to bouts of frustration, helplessness, and even depression and anxiety, Mr Monteith says its crucial for practitioners to be genuinely invested in their journey.

“For me, it is a non-negotiable,” he says.

“In order to get the best result achievable, the physio must be invested. They must be empathetic. They must be warm. They must understand, intimately, the wants and needs of the patient.

“You can’t fake this stuff.

“If the patient can see and feel that the physio is emotionally invested in the rehab process, and ultimately the result, they too will invest more.”

As a result, patients may be more compliant with their home program too, giving more of themselves to the process, and ultimately improving their chances of a positive outcome.

“We completely understand what they are going through, and we genuinely care about the person sitting in front of us, and the result that we help them achieve.

“We know everything that they know, we ‘almost’ feel what they feel.

“At this time, we take the lead and show them that we understand, we support them and we don’t give up on them.”

Of course, a natural consequence of an authentic interest in the outcomes of patients you treat regularly, is the development of personal relationships.

“Physiotherapists that care about the result that the person sitting in front of them achieves, can’t help but develop ‘something’ for their patient,” says Mr Monteith.

“A soft friendship might be a good way to describe it, one where respect is held high and travels in both directions.   

“There’s mutual understanding and trust as we experience the highs and lows of rehabilitation together.

“You may not realise it, but they will likely remember every word that you say, and they will embody your enthusiasm for the process in the week to follow.  

“To not have that relationship with a patient will most probably lead to poorer outcomes.”

Of course, the development of genuine feelings for patients means physios can acutely feel the impact of the highs and lows that come with rehabilitative treatment.

“One issue that may arise on the rehab journey is the realisation that the result is now unachievable,” says Mr Monteith.

“If the goalposts for the result need to shift, or the trajectory changes on the journey, the physio needs to be transparent, and perhaps seek help from other health care providers/professions – it is always a team effort.

“You can never promise a result in health, but you can always promise to give it your absolute best shot.”

Like many health professionals, physiotherapists need to keep their own mental health front of mine, particularly when working with patients whose outcomes are not guaranteed.

Mr Monteith suggests taking time each day to focus on achievements.

“Always take a moment to enjoy the little wins, even celebrate them.

“Put things in black and white and regularly list the positive gains or wins on the journey.

“If in doubt, you – the physio, should grab a colleague and present the case in detail – it can often be quite cathartic to talk through the case ‘out loud’.”

To ensure you remain at your best, both mentally and physically, Mr Monteith says you should regularly take part in activities you enjoy outside of work, unplug mentally at night, and get seven hours sleep.

“Fill your own bucket first, then you can give to others.” 

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.