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IN IT TOGETHER: Adapting to change to support patients’ rehab needs

Posted Oct 9th, 2020

IN IT TOGETHER: Adapting to change to support patients’ rehab needs

This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Dianne Reid, a Physiotherapist at our Greater Niagara General Site in Niagara Falls.

The versatility of her Niagara Health colleagues has stood out most for Dianne Reid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dianne is a member of the Physiotherapy team on the Trillium Unit (Complex Care) at our Greater Niagara General (GNG) Site in Niagara Falls. The goal of the Complex Care program is to enhance the health, functioning and quality of life of patients, and support them to meet specific goals to transition back into the community. Patients are cared for by a multidisciplinary team, including physiotherapists like Dianne.

“These patients are medically stable, but they come to our unit because they need rehabilitation,” says Dianne, a physiotherapist for 30 years, including the last 14 with Niagara Health. “They may not be able to walk as well as they did before or they cannot transfer as well from a bed to a chair. They come to our unit where they get rehabilitation and we set goals on what we need to do to get them safely discharged from the hospital.”

Patients would normally receive much of their rehabilitation in the gym at the GNG site, but the pandemic limited access to the gym for safety reasons.

“Before COVID, the gym would be full of people and we would do programs in there. The patients really enjoyed that because they could see each other, they could see people progressing and they could socialize a little bit,” she says. “When COVID happened, we had to work with patients strictly on the units. The gym was closed for groups and we could only bring one person at a time if people needed to work on the stairs or parallel bars.”

The team used the Trillium Unit hallways and other areas to work with patients. But then a COVID-19 outbreak on the unit in May restricted their rehab space even more.

“We had to shift to providing rehab to patients in their rooms. It was difficult. We were trying to mobilize people and build up their endurance, so you need space to walk. We had to be creative and do what we could. Sometimes we were walking people in circles in their rooms. It wasn’t ideal, but it’s what we had to do at the time to keep everybody safe and to still try to maintain their mobility,” Dianne says of the outbreak, which ended after three weeks.

The team’s ability to be versatile in a challenging situation is reflective of the dedication and commitment of her colleagues, says Dianne.

“I work with an awesome team in my department. As the virus evolved and we learned more, we had to change what we were doing. Everyone has embraced the change and we do what we have to do to get through this together and stay healthy, and to keep our patients healthy,” she says. “When the pandemic happened, we had to close our outpatient physiotherapy program and all the staff were deployed to the inpatient side of the hospital. They’ve all been going where they need to go to whoever needs help. It’s really been a team approach.”

The focus is always on ensuring patients’ needs are met, says Dianne.

Seeing patients reach their goals is a rewarding part of her role.

“I got into this profession because I love working with people and I enjoy helping them. It’s very rewarding when you set a goal with a patient and you reach that goal, and then you can safely discharge them home,” says Dianne. “Sometimes it’s just as simple as a person taking a step and it’s so rewarding because it’s taken them a long time to get to that point. It’s very rewarding and the patients are very appreciative.”

When she’s not working, Dianne says staying active is key to helping her relax and unwind.  

“I try to go for walks with my husband and my dog. I have a gym in my basement so I try to work out a little bit and do some yoga, which has been very relaxing. I also love to read, which sometimes takes me away from this world temporarily.”

Physiotherapists work across all five Niagara Health sites. Learn more about the team here.

Niagara Health System