Janet Bowring
Janet Bowring

#IamMGH – Meet Janet Bowring

#IamMGH tells the story of our people. In celebration of National Physiotherapy Month, meet Janet Bowring, physiotherapist at MGH.

“I’ve been working at MGH since 2003. People are always surprised by the number of areas that physiotherapists work in – we’re in a lot of departments! I currently work in the ICU which is my home base, along with cardiology, the Family Birthing Centre and paediatrics.

I became interested in physiotherapy in high school because my sister was getting treatment from one.  During my career I’ve worked in rehabilitation, neurosurgery and neurotrauma. A lot of those experiences come in handy now, especially when I’m working with patients who are heading to rehab. I feel like I’m able to help them understand what the road ahead will look like.

I think my favourite part of working with so many different people is the brief moments of personal connection you can have with patients.  Maybe your personality gels or they just have these really funny one-liners that crack the whole room up. But mostly I think it’s the people that have surprised me with their grace and humour despite being critically ill that have stuck with me. They’re hard to forget.

COVID-19 has definitely impacted the variety of people we see and how we’re treating them. All of the patients we see present differently. In the ICU, we have patients who are very sick and are often intubated so our role focuses a lot on maintenance – doing joint movements and making sure they aren’t getting stiff. Once they are awake, our role becomes bigger. We’re making sure they can move, helping them get reoriented – all while making sure we’re staying safe.

The one positive outcome of COVID-19 has been how it has brought my peers and I together. Physiotherapy is an evidence-based practice but COVID-19 is so new that we don’t have a lot of evidence to go off of.  So over the last few weeks, physiotherapists across several hospitals have been informally connecting to compare notes and see if we can identify some guiding principles to help all of our patients. It has united us and allowed us to meet people we wouldn’t have otherwise.

As a profession, physiotherapy is so interesting. It’s not a job- it’s a lifelong career. There's an art and science to it but it also comes down to following your gut. Sometimes a patient will seem fine on paper but something in your gut will say something isn’t right – trust it. At the end of the day you’re following your instinct to keep your patients safe.

For any students who are contemplating getting into physiotherapy, I say go for it! Try your best to get some in-person experience – either by volunteering somewhere or maybe shadowing a person at work. It will give you a true insight to what happens behind-the-scenes. But most importantly – don’t give up!

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