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National Physiotherapy Month: Kristen Ward’s story


Kristen Ward, physiotherapist based in Prince George
Kristen Ward, 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 Kirsten Ward, a physiotherapist at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George who has worked with the Pain Clinic for nearly a year. Kristen was part of a pilot project measuring the impact of physiotherapy on chronic pain. Because of the success of that project, the clinic has received funding to create an allied health team within the Pain Clinic. It will include a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a social worker, and a mental health clinician.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Right now, my day-to-day is mostly one-on-one physiotherapy appointments with folks that are being seen by the Pain Clinic or that are on the waitlist. We're trying to get those folks seen in some way. We’re looking at doing group education and group classes in the future. This will help with the waitlist for allied health services in the Pain Clinic.

What do you enjoy most about your role in the Pain Clinic?

For me, the best part about my role is working with people. They’ve been dealing with problems for so long and waiting for some sort of help. A lot of these folks have tried physiotherapy or massage in the past, but it was 5-10 years ago. Being able to get them back and for them to say "Hey, I want to try this" is very rewarding. Even if it doesn't really change their pain, seeing them function better in life is rewarding.

Can you tell me a little bit about what it's like working in the Pain Clinic alongside physicians, nurses and the allied health team?

It's been a really great experience for me so far. We're trying to get it all set up with the allied health team, as the occupational therapist and the social worker just started at the beginning of April. Everybody is so enthusiastic. The physicians and nurses have been so kind, taking us under their wing and teaching us about their work. So, they've been great mentors for this.

How does your role impact the public?

I like to think that it's opened some doors for the general public. We'll be able to create chances for people to be seen by health professionals faster so they can live their lives more fully and with less pain. Hopefully now that we have this team in place, we’ll be able to get through a lot of the waitlist.

What’s one thing you wish the public knew about the role physiotherapists play in a chronic pain setting?

I think knowing that there's more options available than just injections or surgeries. They can take the form of exercise, education, graded exposure to activities, adaptation, or pacing. There's so many tools and strategies that you can use to live your life to the fullest!

Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your role in the pain clinic?

We're trying to take the education classes online. We’ll also be working with folks throughout Northern Health, so it's not going to be Prince George-specific. We're trying to take what we can to a virtual setting, as many pain clinic patients are coming from out of town. It's the only one in Northern Health, so it services the entirety of the area.