Activity with Arthritis (AWA) lead Physiotherapist
Tell us about your role
My role involves working in a small team to create and implement a new physiotherapy service for people with hip or knee Osteoarthritis (OA). AWA is a non-surgical management pathway involving education, exercise and community support. I am going to hold AWA clinics at Base Hospital and Hāwera Hospital as well as in the primary care setting at Tui Ora New Plymouth. Over time the aim is to provide the AWA service 100% in the community to make it easier for people to attend appointments. Due to the small amount of FTE allocated to the programme, I am only taking referrals from the Orthopaedic team, Taranaki Orthopaedic Triage service (TOTS), and certain GP clinics. We will collect qualitative and quantitative data to prove the effectiveness of the programme with the goal to expand our service to help more people.
Are you working on any special projects?
The AWA project is a special pilot project which is hopefully going to shape the way we manage OA in Aotearoa. OA is a common joint disease that affects the health and wellbeing of approximately 1 in 10 people living in Aotearoa and costs the country an estimated $12 billion annually. People with OA often experience pain, joint stiffness and weakness, which can affect their mobility, function and mental wellbeing.
It is well established in international best practice guidelines and expert consensus statements that exercise and education should be first line treatment for OA. These nonsurgical management strategies have been proven to reduce pain, improve function, delay and even avoid the need for some surgeries, however they are often not performed or not performed well. In New Zealand physiotherapy treatment for OA is often difficult to access due to the cost of the private physiotherapy (not covered by ACC) and only a small percentage of people with OA are referred to the DHB due to extensive wait list times.
AWA’s focus is to provide an equitable service for people with knee and hip OA that upholds the core principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We aim to provide a holistic service based on the Māori health model – Te Whare Tapa Whā, which will be timely, cost free and accessible.
What’s your background?
My background involves working in a variety of physiotherapy settings including DHB, private practice, and as a locum in Melbourne. After Melbourne I returned home to the Bay of Islands and dedicated my spare time to looking after Te Tai Tokerau Rugby League teams while also working in private practice. I spent most of my weekends in the middle of nowhere, seeing the most remote playing fields and having hangi every Saturday. I was immersed in Maori culture whilst trying my best to keep these teams injury free. Most players had never seen a Doctor before let alone a Physiotherapist. From this experience I became much more aware of access to health care, the social determinants of health and the importance of implementing new strategies to reduce these inequities.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Working alongside great colleagues and seeing my patients come back smiling.
What inspires you to keep doing your work?
Making a positive impact on people’s lives and the community. Physio is an interesting and varied career which always has new developments and research which keeps me on my toes and allows me to keep learning.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Exploring Te Maunga and the coastline of Taranaki.