Off duty

By ahhb
Thursday, 01 August, 2013

Katie Vine is completing her Master of Sports Physiotherapy at La Trobe University while working at Canberra Hospital as an Emergency Department Primary Contact Physiotherapist.She is also an ACT Health Directorate Project Officer with the Health Workforce Australia Expanded Scope of Practice Project, investigating and implementing extended scope of physiotherapy roles. Katie was awarded the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s (APA) Award for Professional Excellence five years in a row, between 2008 and 2012. 

What does your current role entail? 
I am a primary contact physiotherapist working in the emergency department of a large tertiary hospital.This means I provide assessment and first line treatment to patients presenting with musculoskeletal complaints.
Positions like this are relatively new across Australia. At my hospital we have been providing this service since 2007. It represents quite a change to traditional physio roles with hospitals where most patients require a medical referral to access physiotherapy. I can access patients directly from the waiting room and, given the right circumstances, discharge them from hospital without a doctor having to review the patient. This saves the patient unnecessary waiting and admission times and frees doctors up to see patients who are more acutely unwell.
Why did you decide to work in this area?
I looked forward the excitement that emergency medicine presents. I found in my previous private practice job I particularly like the problem solving and reasoning behind assessment of complex injuries, so ED suited me well. I was encouraged that the hospital was looking to physiotherapists to provide care to a population who previously had limited access to such services.
What is your favourite part of the job? 
I love the variety of the work. I see so many patients with different types of injuries with many different mechanisms. I also get to help people throughout the lifespan – from little toddlers to the elderly. The fast-pace of the emergency department is together challenging and motivating. I enjoy the pressure a busy, busy day provides. It is also very gratifying to be able to help people who are acutely injured and often very anxious about heir prognosis.  As a physiotherapist, I feel I can provide them insight into their long-term prognosis and what rehabilitation may be required.
There must be a lot of challenges in your role. What are some you face? 
What first comes to mind is the business of the emergency department. Although enjoyable, it can be hectic at times and trying to minimise waiting and length of stay times for every patient is quite challenging.
What are some of the major issues physiotherapists are facing at the moment? 
Relevant to my practice, two issues facing physiotherapists are limitations to medical specialist referral and limitations accessing medical imaging. I can, through local governance agreements within my hospital access in-house medical specialists and imaging. However, outside the hospital, I (and my colleagues working in private practice) cannot refer directly to specialists (for example orthopaedic surgeons or sports physicians). Nor can we access affordable diagnostic images such as MRI.
Describe the perception versus the reality of your position. 
I think most people expect only the very unwell or severely injured patients present to an emergency. However we see quite a variety of musculoskeletal conditions from the mild and benign to the very serious.
When you have time off, what do you enjoy doing? 
Despite working in emergency and seeing broken people all the time, I love adventurous sports, like snowboarding, mountain biking and surfing. As such have found myself in my own department a couple of times!
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