In the face of adversity, we find strength

 

The last few months has been about as challenging as many of us can remember. This pandemic has affected our workplaces and profession, placed our own finances and health at significant risk, impacted on our schools, social interactions and created significant fear and uncertainty.

As we continue to navigate our way through this dreadful period, there are signs that Australia has regained a level of control and should be cautiously optimistic about the future. But let’s not deny that the impact of this has been devastating.

Our APA member survey is currently open, and I thank everyone who has or will contribute. We have genuinely worked as hard as possible to provide you with the right level of support, representation and guidance during this period, but I’m the first to acknowledge these have been unprecedented times, and the challenges varied and complex. Indeed, much of the last few months has seen government advice change, sometimes daily.

Many professional membership organisations have found this period really difficult. We have reconfigured the operations and strategic directions of the APA in line with the massive shift that this crisis has caused, and will continue to reorganise and reset as the landscape changes.

So, while we have worked hard to support you as best we can, you can be assured that this will continue, without rest or complacency.

There have been some learnings for me through my role with the APA, as well as through leading my own business, a paediatric private practice, through this. My business partner Karen Schubert, APAM, and I have worked through the questions of:

  • do we stay open?
  • if so, how do we do that safely?
  • how do we have the right and responsible conversations with parents about their options?
  • how do we keep our business afloat as we downsize?
  • how do we make sure we can scale up quickly at the right time?
  • what state and federal financial supports are we areeligible for? 
  • how do we support our staff in the best possible way while making the correct business decisions?
  • how do we look after our own health and that of our families?

All of us have been in this space in the last few months. For me, there has been no one right answer to this. Having spoken to many hundreds of our members, there are strong and appropriate decisions that have been made in looking at these issues. In short, it has been about making the best decision based on practice needs, financial position, client base, the impact of the virus on the relevant jurisdiction and the impact on staff.

A number of our practice staff have considerably reduced their work or stopped temporarily. This really hurts, there is no denying it.

Like many of you, we increased our telehealth consultations. A large proportion of my own caseload is babies with severe congenital deformities that are either painful, severely limiting or have significant detrimental functional future implications if not treated. Many of these bubs are in plasters or splints that our staff apply, modify, manage and progress as clinically required.

This is usually a considerably emotional and stressful time for new parents. If we stopped our operations, many of these bubs would have been transferred to the local children’s hospital to continue their treatment, so the decision has been that they are safer—and more seamlessly treated— by staying with us.

Those suitable for telehealth consults have really enjoyed the experience, and valued this as an option to further protect their safety.

After trying relentlessly for more than four years, this crisis has enabled the APA’s advocacy with the private health funds to finally support physiotherapy telehealth. To many of you reading who have been able to continue treating people through face-to-face or telehealth, this has been important to reduce pressure on EDs and GP clinics, and was recently recognised to me personally by the president of the RACGP.

At the time of writing, it seems as though community sentiment is easing and people are starting to become more confident in attending face-to-face sessions. The obvious next challenge is how we ramp back up, as consumer confidence is restored and more ‘normal’ conditions return.

We don’t really know what the future looks like, but we can make some informed assumptions. Around the APA executive table, we are planning for a range of future scenarios, and how we will adapt and lead member services in each of these scenarios. We are aiming to innovate and secure the profession’s long- term standing and strength.

In our practice, Karen and I are doing this as well— but things change rapidly and the future is hard to predict.

Apart from relying heavily on the advocacy, information and business supports provided by the APA, there are a few things that I have found have helped us to navigate this. I have been so incredibly indebted to my colleagues in similar practices who have banded together and shared information, innovations and strategies for survival. This can’t be underestimated, and is a strength of our profession.

Our tribe has stayed aligned and unified through this crisis, and I have no doubt that this will continue.

The other level of support that I have found helpful has been actively talking to colleagues outside of health, in order to see what other industries are doing to survive and thrive.

It’s important you know that around our APA Board of Directors and executive tables, we are striving to innovate, maximise the long-term future of the profession and support you as well as we possibly can. I’m incredibly confident that we can survive and ultimately thrive through this. But this is made much easier if we stay aligned, stay supporting each other and find innovation and opportunity in this unprecedented time. 

To all of you who have reached out to provide advice, praise our efforts, suggest ways we can improve and just simply offer to help, I can’t tell you how much it is appreciated and makes a difference.

Thank you all for helping us to continue on the journey of helping more Aussies to recognise our value and to Choose Physio.

 

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