/ Stories

Celebrating National Physiotherapy Month


Man standing in front of an ivy covered wall.
Physiotherapy student Mike Vandergaag has been enjoying his placement with Northern Health at the PRISM clinic in Prince Rupert.

May is National Physiotherapy Month, where we highlight how physiotherapy can support healthy aging! As part of our celebrations, we’ll be sharing a couple of stories to highlight physiotherapists from across the North. Take a journey with us and discover how physiotherapy can positively impact your life.

To start, we interviewed Michael Vandergaag, a physiotherapy student from Smithers, who is currently working in Prince Rupert.

Where do you work?

Right now, I’m at the PRISM (Prince Rupert Interprofessional Student-led Model) physiotherapy clinic at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. The PRISM clinic provides a unique opportunity to work with many people, with many different backgrounds. I have been learning about local and Indigenous cultures, as well as traditional medicine, which I have found is unique to my learning experience with Northern Health.

In school, we work in different areas of practice for shorter chunks of time to gain experience in a variety of settings. I’ve been here for six weeks so far, and I’ll be going back to Vancouver soon to do more coursework. I’m almost done my schooling – I graduate in November 2021!

How would you describe your work as a physiotherapist?

My main goal as physiotherapist is to empower the patient to take care of their own health care. We provide education and different exercise programs so patients can be independent in their own rehabilitation and work on it at home.

The beauty of the PRISM clinic is there is such a huge variety of patients. I see patients with complex pain, knee replacements, vestibular issues (dizziness), shoulders, broken bones, and so on. I think that is what’s unique to this placement; the work I get to do is so diverse.  

What do you like about your role?

Physiotherapy is unique in that we understand patients’ goals, history, wants, and needs in a supportive manner. We spend time building our relationship with the patient and supporting that over time. I love being able to see people improve over time and feel empowered to get better.

What impact does your role have on patients?

I think the biggest impact I have on patients is providing them with more independence and having more hope in their rehabilitation journey, so they can see themselves get better.

What is one thing about physiotherapy that you wish you could tell everyone?

It’s less about exercise and bone/muscle, and more about patient education for different conditions – cardiology, respiratory, breathing techniques to increase lung capacity, tests to see if people have dizziness/vertigo, postural education, exercises for nervous system and strengthening nerves. Physiotherapy is so diverse in how we work and what we do, and we can help so many different people with a variety of conditions.