Leading the world with frontline training against COVID-19


As global health services worldwide began to ramp up their response to the current health crisis, physiotherapists were deployed to provide specialised care to patients with COVID-19.

To provide physiotherapy staff with an update in cardiorespiratory physiotherapy practice for intensive care, and to plan for potential physiotherapy roles in the management of patients with COVID-19 in this environment, the APA and NSW Health partnered to provide world-class training for physiotherapists on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.

While NSW Health started the vision through funding, APA cardiorespiratory physiotherapists rose to the content challenge to ensure the live session was up and running by the end of March. Access to the webcast recording and resources is still available at no cost.

More than 4500 physiotherapists with previous experience in intensive care have undertaken the training, including participants from Australia, Ireland, India, Malaysia, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, the UK, and Estonia.

NSW Chief Allied Health Officer Andrew Davison said: ‘The intention is that upskilling physiotherapists will help more efficiently wean patients off much needed ventilators and improve patient positioning to optimise oxygenation and patient outcome. Physiotherapists and all allied health clinicians are an essential part of the multidisciplinary team and response to treat and support patients with COVID-19.’

NSW Health physiotherapists were trained first to provide vital support as part of the multidisciplinary team in the critical care environment, assisting patients with respiratory performance and weaning from ventilators. Hospitals will use this training to support the practical skills of physiotherapists in ICU.

This two-day virtual training course provides a refresher and update for physiotherapy staff working in ICUs with increasing cases of COVID-19 and ventilated patients. It combines key topics from the APA Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapy Level 2—ICU course and incorporates COVID-19 respiratory management based on The Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) ‘COVID-19 Guidelines’ and the NHS ‘COVID 19: Respiratory Physiotherapy On Call Information and Guidance’.

The course is the first part of an extended learning program:

  • Two-day Virtual Cardiorespiratory ICU Physiotherapy Update course
  • Post-course learning package — demonstration videos, guidelines, readings
  • Individual learning—review your local protocols
  • Practical component—in local settings.

APA Cardiorespiratory Group National Chair Meredith King engaged leading cardiorespiratory intensive care physiotherapists from around Australia before three of them, all members of the Australian College of Physiotherapists, developed and presented the course material.

Dr Peter Thomas, PhD, FACP, is a Specialist Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapist who leads the Physiotherapy Intensive Care physiotherapist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. Peter has embraced the use of eLearning and simulation for cardiorespiratory physiotherapy and intensive care education and contributes widely to multi-professional education at state and national levels. Peter’s research interests include the fields of healthcare education, surgery, trauma and intensive care.

Michelle Paton, MACP, who graduated from a Master of Physiotherapy in 2001 from Griffith University, has specialised in cardiorespiratory physiotherapy and in particular critical care. After working in Queensland and the UK, Michelle returned to Melbourne and completed her cardiorespiratory physiotherapy masters in 2011. She is currently the Advanced ICU Physiotherapist and Critical Care and Surgical Services Stream Leader for Monash Health, and is completing her PhD investigating the effect of exercise dosage in ICU on functional outcomes.

APA Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapist Wendy Chaseling, MACP, is the Senior ICU Physiotherapist at St George Hospital. Wendy was chair of the NSW Health ACI ICNSW ‘Suctioning the Artificial Airway of the Adult ICU Patient Clinical Practice Guideline’ and helped update the NSW Health ACI ICNSW ‘Physical Activity and Movement Clinical Practice Guideline’. Wendy educates new graduates in simulation skills centre and is currently Site Principal Investigator for the TEAM Trial at St George Hospital.

We thank the NSW Ministry of Health and Health Education and Training Institute (HETI), which funded and continue to support this amazing initiative, and the outstanding presenters Peter, Michelle and Wendy.

>> Go to australian.physio/VirtualCardioICU for more information about this course.


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