Why did you become a physiotherapist?
This is kind of a long and round-about story. In high school during the 70's, I kept hearing stories about a blind therapist in town that performed “miracles” with his magic hands. Each time I heard someone’s experience with him, I would imagine myself with these magic hands, but always came to the same conclusion: I couldn’t because I was not blind and I did not want to be blind. At that time I wasn’t aware of any health practitioners being able to do what he could do. There was no job shadowing or work experience opportunities back then, so I did not know much about physiotherapy other than hot packs and what seemed to be very basic exercising. The profession didn’t appear to be helpful or enticing!
In the meantime, I became very interested in teaching physical education because of the teachers I was lucky to have had. They inspired students to do better, challenge themselves, and achieve things they would never expect themselves to be able to do (myself included). I decided I wanted to be able to do that, so when I went on to university, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Education program specializing in Physical Education and Social Studies. Interestingly, even during this time I would occasionally hear about the same blind therapist! I had the same “magic hands” image in my head, but would always come to the same conclusion.
In my third year of Education, I took an Athletic Injuries course and several of us volunteered in a very basic first aid room for athletes at the university. I liked the hands-on tasks of assessing, taping, first aid, etc. The next year, a physiotherapist came to the university and a full Athletic Injuries Room was opened up. This led to more learning, more skills and getting more hands-on experience. I saw the physiotherapist using a variety of manual techniques, which were generally quite successful treatments. Seeing this manual therapy in action, I gradually realized that I did not have to be blind to do what the blind therapist could do and that it was not magic!
I finished my Education degree and went on to pursue my Physiotherapy degree. Since completing my degree I have continually strived to learn more and do what is best for my patients, including getting better at what my hands can feel and do.
In hindsight, I have always wanted to be able to help people – especially through my hands.
What is your educational background?
I received a Bachelor of Education in Physical Education and Social Studies in 1980 from the University of Victoria. I then graduated from Queen's University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy. I chose Queen’s because of the fuller 4 year program and the offering of several manual therapy courses. I wanted to get as much of this knowledge and training as possible.
Having a teaching degree in physical education has provided me with valuable insight and skill often required for educating patients with exercises, care, and precautions. This teaching ability is especially useful in the difficult task of breaking down an activity and giving appropriate progressions to enable the patient to do the activity again.
I have been thankful many times for the variety of techniques I learned through my teaching degree that have been extremely useful in the area of physiotherapy.
You mentioned Athletic Injuries; what has been your involvement?
During my last 3 years at UVic and my 4 years at Queen’s, I was fortunate to have very excellent mentors in the head Physiotherapists and Athletic Therapist who were working at the time. I could not have asked for better leadership that provided me with great knowledge and practical experience. I spent countless hours volunteering with all university sports and activities - especially rugby, football, field hockey, basketball, and volleyball.
Since graduating, I have continued to gain extensive experience in Sports Therapy at International, National, Provincial, University and Local levels of sport. This includes numerous
World Cup events (cycling, swimming, softball, curling), the
Commonwealth Games, various
International competitions (track and field, skating, rugby, triathalons),
Canada Games, numerous
BC Games, and local teams or events (rugby, soccer, hockey, basketball, field hockey, wrestling, marathons, triathlons, ballet, track and field). For about five years, I was the
Vancouver Island Events Coordinator: organizing therapists to provide Sports Therapy to numerous Island events.
In 1989 I successfully obtained my
Sports Physiotherapy Certificate that requires over 1200 hours of practical experience.
To date, the
highlight of my career has been helping organize and provide physiotherapy at the 1994 Commonwealth Games as one of the Chief Therapists for the host team in Victoria, BC.
While helping raise my wife's and my 2 children, I became less involved doing sport therapy at events to be able to spend more time with them. Presently I do occasional event coverage, but keep fairly busy with my private practice clinical work. I have been the team therapist for the local high school basketball team for the past 10 years.
Where did you first work?
My first job was at the
Gorge Road Rehabilitation Centre in Victoria, BC. I was there for five years: initially doing Inpatient Orthopedics (post-surgical for hips, knees, shoulders, spinal, joint replacements, post-accident/MVA, etc.), and then doing Outpatient Orthopedics (a wide variety of conditions similar to working in private practice, but often saw more complex and/or chronic conditions, esp. necks and backs). I then spent two years at
Fairfield Health Centre doing Outpatient Orthopedics.
This working environment gave me
excellent learning and experience in the treatment of the conditions I saw. It established a very good base of knowledge and skills that made using them more effortless to recall and use as needed. I have always been thankful for these years because it made working and learning new skills easier to build upon.
They also helped me to understand that many people have multiple problems requiring a number of treatment techniques, and that the person requires a thorough education to allow them to better manage their problem(s). Many times I was reminded - there is no quick and easy fix!
As I learned and accomplished more, I found I enjoyed the challenge and it gave me more incentive to keep improving myself. I have developed a special interest in complicated conditions and often get referrals specifically for that reason.
What types of therapy and courses interest you?
I have taken numerous orthopedic and related courses over the years. Some have been very good, some okay, and several that have been not helpful at all. If a therapist pays attention to what they are doing and tries to be as evidence-based as possible, you learn
there is no “Holy Grail” treatment out there and you cannot keep jumping from one technique to another. You also cannot stick with one type of treatment and expect to help everyone.
There is a unique treatment for every patient and every condition.
Starting way back, I have learned
Cyriax (disc, joint and soft tissue problems),
Maitland (joint, muscle), and
Kaltenborn (joint). Over the years I have added
McKenzie (disc, facet/mechanical problems),
Mulligan (joint, muscle and I believe fascia problems),
Muscle Energy Techniques (muscle, joint, fascia issues),
Butler (neural mobility/tensioning problems), as well as courses on posture, whole body awareness/movement (
Feldendkrais, Somatics), treating fascia and many other manual therapy/orthopedic courses available to physiotherapists. I have completed
Level 3 of the Orthopedic Manual Therapy syllabus.
In my early years of working, people presented with varied signs and symptoms that introduced me to learning and treating
Vestibular, Dizziness and Balance problems - which may include visual, cervical or a combination of issues.
I have added to my knowledge of how to further assess and treat for
Concussions and Head Injuries from an on-the-field care to a physiotherapy and rehabilitation perspective. It is important to be able to recognize the often subtle signs and symptoms of a minor brain injury and know when to refer patients on for further medical investigation.
For many years I have pursued the ongoing task of learning about pain and keeping up with the newest teachings of
Pain Management (following what Butler, Moseley and many others have to teach us).
I have and continue to take many advanced and refresher courses in areas such as shoulders, backs, necks, Whiplash Associated Disorders, physiotherapeutic modalities, sports therapy, taping, first aid, and other orthopedic techniques.
I never stop reading through quality research and literature to further my knowledge and skills.
I love to treat any musculo-skeletal problem within my scope of practice. Obviously I have a special interest in sport injuries, as well as neck and back conditions. Shoulders, hands, hips, knees, feet all have their challenges and I work just as hard at overcoming them as the other problems.
Some problems may be an isolated area while others may be a combination of problems. Our bodies are very complex and often conditions overlap where there is usually more than one tissue involved. Some treatments are simple wherein the problem is easy to solve, while others are very difficult and require a variety of techniques, exercises, and education.
What do you enjoy about your work?
I enjoy getting people better, but it is also very satisfying to have them be able to self-manage their condition. It is very gratifying to see or hear the, “Ah-ha!” moment.
I also enjoy the challenge of complex cases. Most often you can help people out - usually by listening to them, assessing them thoroughly, following up with the appropriate therapy, and teaching proper exercises and self-management. Sometimes, you just can't help someone because: their condition may be too severe; they have other problems hindering them; they don’t want to listen to what they need to do; or maybe they want the magic wand (I never did get those magic hands I dreamed about).
I enjoy learning new things and expanding the knowledge I already have. Sometimes, we learn things that challenge our previous thinking - but we also have to keep things in perspective and keep looking at the bigger picture. Other times we may learn something that we need to realize is not worth the time and effort we are putting into it.
I am always using critical thinking to improve myself through courses, reading and clinical experience in order to provide the best physiotherapy possible.