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National Physiotherapy Month: Baisakhi Sarkar’s story


Baisakhi Sarkar, physiotherapist
Baisakhi Sarkar, physiotherapist based in Prince George.

May is Physiotherapy month in Canada! Across Northern Health, we're celebrating the amazing work of physiotherapists. This week, we're highlighting Baisakhi Sarkar. Graduating from Western University in 2012, Baisakhi is now a physiotherapist based in Prince George. Baisakhi has been covering as a virtual physiotherapist for the community of Hazelton for the past two years, making a significant difference in how communities access care in Northern BC.

Tell me about your role and what your day-to-day looks like

In 2022, virtual physiotherapy started as a pilot project in Northern Health. It was focused on Hazelton due to the community having very limited in-person physiotherapy options. At the time, it was not something that had been explored too much in the North. So, when Hazelton wanted to try out virtual service, I went for that challenge.

On a day-to-day basis, I first join the morning team virtual huddle. Then, I have my schedule of patients for the day. They’ve already had a bit of screening to see which are appropriate for virtual visits. This includes finding what kind of electronic setup they have, if they need support on the day of for the call, etc. There's lots to do before seeing the patient so I can ensure we get the most from the session.

What do you enjoy most about providing virtual services?

I would say that what I enjoy most is being creative, especially in this realm, where you have to be nimble and change plans as you go. Sometimes it might be a challenge with the technology itself: I've had appointments where the video works, but the audio doesn't, so we would quickly switch to the phone.

Another wonderful thing about providing virtual services is that I get to see patients in their own home environment. I would say it's been a nice part of my job.

Now they're adding a physiotherapy assistant on-site in Hazelton. This has been super helpful, especially for my frail elderly patients, who may need a bit more help with technology or for safety if they’re at risk of falling.

What do you like about working in Hazelton?

The team is very supportive – I've been very lucky in that regard. If I have questions, I can always ask during team huddles about referrals, or about troubleshooting questions leading up to virtual visits. We can still have the professional collaboration through digital technology, which is great.

Another thing about working in Hazelton is that I get the opportunity to see all sorts of patients. I see patients from pediatric all the way to geriatric and everything in between. You wear many hats as a physiotherapist, and this position gives me the opportunity to use all those skills.

How does your role impact the public?

I would say it has allowed more access to physiotherapy services that the public would not normally have access to. Some of the villages I support are almost 45 minutes from Hazelton. For them, going to Smithers or Terrace would be out of reach.

If the patient can't do the call at home due to the technology, or if they lack family support, they can go to the local village health centre. I will connect with them there using the village's video set-up. Because I’m not there, and not able to physically touch or complete manual therapy, many sessions become self-management and education focused. I've seen great benefits for the patients; it shows the power of education and self-management, alongside traditional physiotherapy methods like exercise plans.

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about physiotherapy in the context of virtual health?

While virtual physiotherapy can be just as powerful as in-person therapy, it has its limits, of course. Virtual physiotherapy lacks hands-on assessment. It's hard in certain settings, like acute care or the intensive care unit, but in the right setting, virtual physiotherapy highlights the idea of clients being in charge of their own health. I can guide my clients through their physiotherapy, but the clients are the ones in charge and have the power to make a positive impact on their own lives.