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‘Choosing to work on the frontline seemed like the right thing to do’ - a blog by physiotherapist Mariusz Kadziela

Physiotherapist Mariusz Kadziela

Today (Tuesday 8 September) is World Physiotherapy Day, focusing on rehabilitation and Covid-19. Which makes it the perfect opportunity to share a blog from (pictured), one of our MSK (musculoskeletal) physiotherapists. All our physiotherapists have played a huge role supporting Covid-19 patients during the pandemic, and Mariusz tells us how this experience has been for him, and why he chose to work on the frontline.             

“Firstly, on World Physiotherapy Day, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of my colleagues so much for your hard work in this difficult year. We rose to the challenge and delivered good quality care for our patients.

What a year it has been.

Last World Physiotherapist Day we dedicated our efforts to chronic pain - the leading cause of disability - and its burden on global health. Covid-19 unquestionably deserves to be the main theme of this year’s day. The awareness of the contribution physiotherapists make to the recovery of critically ill Covid patients has been widely appreciated.

To meet the demands of growing numbers of Covid patients, I was deployed to join our Critical Care team and left behind the comfort of dealing with MSK patients. I certainly will remember it for many months, if not years to come. It’s not often your department is closed overnight; you have a day of training for respiratory competencies; then go onto the medical wards to join colleagues. And credit to our managers and colleagues from the respiratory team for organising it at such a short notice.

That morning just before the respiratory training we were all briefed by our team lead, Rebecca Coughlan, about the plan for next few months. There was a lot of uncertainty, fear and sadness that our team would be split. We were all asked about our preferences where we’d like to work.

We all chose to be at the frontline, working with Covid-19 patients. It just felt like the right thing to do. I remember feeling proud and honoured to join our ward colleagues in the fight. Then - and on many occasions after - I felt an immense sense of belonging and a greater purpose. That drove me through the good, bad, and ugly periods of the pandemic.

The day-to-day MSK efforts are dedicated to helping our patients to manage their pain. We train and coach them to ‘tame the beast’, as famous pain guru Professor Lorimer Mosley said. In this new reality we were deployed to try ourselves against a different beast.

All physiotherapists showed extraordinary bravery by working in close proximity with Covid-19 patients; making them cough to protect their airways was a standard routine. We worked everywhere, seeing the most acutely affected patients whose breathing was taken over by mechanical ventilators in critical care units. We also provided rehab on wards to those who’d lost the ability to breathe, sit up, and walk.

We were expected to plan, implement, and adapt to new ways of thinking and working. We learned new skills and provided a seven day service at short notice. And we did it really well. As always, we showed tons of enthusiasm, integrity and positive humour. We followed our supportive managers and drew on the best available scientific evidence to do the right thing.

Telephone and video appointments replaced face-to-face contact so our patients could stay at home. While some of us continue to deliver rehab to a range of patients on the wards, other MSK physios have returned to the team. Now our service is back working at its full capacity and the number of face-to-face appointments increases on a weekly basis.

The work to learn more about the virus and how to deliver the best rehab both for Covid and non-Covid patients is ongoing. It will be at forefront of our minds for months and possibly years. Our values, knowledge, and skills mean we have a special role to play in helping our most vulnerable patients to regain independence and quality of life at a scale we have never seen before.

We work in different teams but share one quality: we are experts in movement physiology and exercise science, and how to adapt it to the complex biopsychosocial needs of our patients. Exercises and how we guide our patients to make the most of it for optimal rehab has never been more important, especially for a new group of patients who were severely affected by Covid-19. These patients will be seen in various settings and will require different types of care to recover from the debilitating effects of the disease. 

Covid-19 affected everyone worldwide; the consequences can still not be fully measured. Always looking at the bright side, I personally believe that it has changed the status quo. As a result, new possibilities emerged and were - at speed of light - implemented in our practice and healthcare, including:

  • Rehab pathways for Covid-19 patients
  • A seven-day service for our ward patients
  • A virtual MSK clinic
  • Working from home.  

This has made me feel proud to be a physiotherapist and I hope this feeling is shared by all. I understand that although we are a bunch of unique individuals, we can work really well as part of larger teams.

We all had an important role to play in the great scheme of things. Bonds have been made between us and boundaries dissolved. Have we ‘tamed the beast’? Only time will tell. Regardless, we will do what we do best: focus on the best and most innovative way of delivering care to our patients, and keeping them safe.

Best wishes to all of you. Stand up straight and work with passion.”

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