So, What is this exactly?

The Physio Moves Canada project is the signature project to be undertaken during the sabbatical leave of Dr. David (Dave) Walton’s, Associate Professor with the School of Physical Therapy at Western University in London, Ontario.  It has two broad arms: an ethically-approved research study and a documentary-style video collection initiative of innovative and/or unique practices in Canada.

What are the primary objectives of this project?

The research arm of the PMC project has two primary objectives:

  1. To experience and describe the practice of physiotherapy across distinct and unique practice settings, with a focus on the ways in which physiotherapists currently conceptualize mobility for their clients and community and how they are providing care to optimize mobility, and
  2. To capture the perspectives of clinicians on the future of physiotherapy practice in Canada with a focal point of the next 5 to 10 years.

The documentary arm is part of a broader project to capture video footage of  innovative practices in Canada. The footage will be shared with sponsoring professional physiotherapy associations to be used as they create public media materials for the Physiotherapy 2020 celebrations.

What sites are you visiting?

We currently have at least one site in every Canadian province and the Yukon Territory.  The list of sites will be linked to shortly.

How did you choose these sites?

A broad call for interested sites was disseminated through CPA in fall of 2016.  All interested sites submitted a description of their practice and why they’d like to be part of the project.  In total over 70 different sites across Canada were submitted, from which 26 were selected to be included as part of the cross-country ‘road trip’ component of the Physiotherapy Moves Canada project.  Other sites located in Southern Ontario (a day trip from London) will be visited separately in September/October to allow us to maximize our time visiting sites further afield.

How will you accomplish your primary objectives?

The research arm will involve two different methodologies.  The first purpose, ‘understanding the current practice of physiotherapy in Canada’ will be through a focused ethnography approach where the lead investigator (Dr. Walton) passively and unobtrusively observes practice, gets information about the practice setting and broader community, and engages in occasional dialogue with clinicians, patients, administrators or other key players.  Focused ethnography involves collection of rich data on a focused topic, in this case through the lens of mobility.  The second purpose, ‘perspectives of clinicians on the future of physiotherapy in Canada’ will occur through either direct one-to-one interviews with the lead investigator or small focus groups of 3-6 people each.  All data will be held in accordance with current standards for data protection and will be analyzed upon return to Western in the Fall.

The documentary arm will occur as one might expect such a video to be created.  Consent forms will be required (separate from the research arm) for anyone appearing on film.  Depending on the event being captured it may include video, audio or photo capture.

Why Physios? Why Canada? Why now?

The simple answer to this one is: why not?  The research team believes that front-line clinicians are optimally positioned to sense threats and opportunities to clinical practice as they live the realities of practice day in and day out.  So it makes the most sense to engage clinicians for the purposes of this project.  Canada is a land of diversity; it is the second largest land mass in the world, with diverse environments from plains to mountain, rainforests to deserts, and is also one of the most culturally diverse countries on the planet.  When seeking physiotherapy, and the way physiotherapists and their clients define mobility, what better option is there than Canada?  And why now?  A confluence of factors: the approved sabbatical leave of the lead researcher that will allow the team to focus on research for 6 months, and the upcoming Physiotherapy 2020 anniversary marking the 100th year of physiotherapy in Canada.  So now is the perfect time.

Who is the research team?

The project is being led by Dr. Dave Walton, an Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at Western University (London, Ontario), a clinician-scientist of 18 years experience in the field.  The co-investigator is Dr. Debbie Rudman, a Professor of Occupational Therapy at Western and a recognized authority on qualitative research methodology.  A project of this size requires a dedicated planner and coordinator, and that role is being filled by Amanda Walton, a physiotherapist of 19 years experience and currently the Program Manager for the OTA & PTA Education Accreditation Program.

Who is funding this project?

The arm’s length funders for the Physiotherapy Moves Canada project are: the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, the Ontario Physiotherapy Association, PTAlberta Association + College, l’Association Québecoise de la Physiothérapie, the Nova Scotia Physiotherapy Association, the New Brunswick Physiotherapy Association, the Prince Edward Island Physiotherapy Association, and the Newfoundland Physiotherapy Association.  The Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia and the Yukon Physiotherapy Association are providing in-kind support.  As arm’s length partners, none of these associations will influence the outcomes of the research or affect dissemination of the findings.

So to be clear, this is a full-on ethically-rpproved research project?

Yes, this is a legitimate research project with outputs that are expected to inform the future directions of physiotherapy evolution in Canada.  These include at least 4 scientific publications, an active and frequently updated YouTube channel along with Twitter and Instagram accounts to keep the community updated.  Dave will be writing pieces for professional newsletters and magazines and presenting his findings at conferences in Canada and internationally.  We will do everything we can to make sure the information gleaned from this project is made available to the public and professional community.

OK, so are you ambitious or just crazy?

I can say with confidence a little bit of both.  But what is truly driving this project is a passion for the profession and a belief that there are a lot of very interesting things happening out there in clinical practice that no one else gets to see or learn from.  By sharing those innovations, or lessons learned from working with unique, especially marginalized, populations, we can all become stronger as a profession.  An additional belief is that physiotherapy in Canada is currently standing at a critical nexus in its evolution and that the next 10 years is likely going to look very different than the past 100.  If we don’t prepare for that now, we risk getting left behind in a rapidly evolving and digital society.  As a clinical researcher, I want to know if the questions I’m asking are the right ones, and as an educator I want to know if we’re adequately preparing our graduates for the realities of current and near-future practice.  These are the kinds of passions that are driving this project.

What exactly are you hoping or expecting to see?

We have already engaged with some outstanding clinicians who are practicing in ways that are pushing the boundaries of physiotherapy practice.  These include installing mobile (tablet) technologies in remote indigenous communities to improve access to care, creating new practice areas in primary care, psychiatric care, orthopedic triage, and emergency medical departments.  Inventing new devices, developing apps for novel and engaging intervention strategies, and harnessing virtual reality to optimize function in combat veterans.  And these are just a sample of what we’ve learned about through our conversations with clinicians so far.