A day in the life of Caroline Waterstone, Community Physiotherapist
Community physiotherapist, Caroline has been practicing for over 25 years, during which time she’s been presented with many interesting opportunities and challenges. She works four days a week, keeping Wednesdays free for her many interests, which include church, breakfast with friends, her local market and Nordic walking.
We asked Caroline to tell us about her work as a physiotherapist, which, as it turns out, involves a lot more than just stretches and exercises.
“I really do believe in the power of physiotherapy to rehabilitate. Over the years, I’ve treated a wide range of patients; some are post surgery, whilst others have suffered a fall or a stroke. Many of my patients have a degenerative condition - such as arthritis or dementia - or a long-term illness – such as diabetes, lung disease or a neurological condition.
Physiotherapy involves a lot more than people think; a lot of it is about enabling patients to carry out the tasks that most of us take for granted, safely and confidentially. We practice getting in and out of bed, for example, or walking up and down stairs. Negotiating the kitchen to make a cup of tea, prepare vegetables or wash up.
I decided to be a physio when I was 13: I wanted to help people. I wasn’t good at sport, or even interested in it – another misconception about physios. I was just interested in people and their conditions, and wanted to learn how to help improve their physical functioning and emotional wellbeing.
As well as learning all the time, I’ve experienced so much kindness and had so much fun over the years. I’ve worked with a huge range of people: orthodox Jews, conservative Muslims, people of other faiths and people with no faith at all. A large part of my work involves listening - really listening - to a patient whose worry or discomfort is being aired for perhaps the first time. My communication skills have been used to the max; I’ve spoken French with orthodox Jews from Egypt, Cantonese with patients from Hong Kong, where I lived some time ago, had to a-r-t-i-c-u-l-a-t-e clearly with people who are hard of hearing and worked with interpreters in a variety of languages.
And then of course there is the actual physiotherapy: hands on rehabilitation, getting people walking again or using their arm and hand after a stroke or a bad fall and fracture. Helping to increase confidence by working towards goals that a patient has identified as important to them no matter how small and insignificant they might be to someone else. Using a stair lift unattended, for example, can be a huge triumph and increase independence. In the summer, mat work and balance and coordination exercises on a quilt in the garden is always fun!
Of course there’ve been some difficulties: dogs, angry patients, frustrated relatives, cherished patients passing away. But in my experience, most people appreciate being listened to and consulted. Hearing about peoples’ lives is so interesting - sometimes sad, sometimes awe-inspiring and funny. I’m a strong believer in listening and being genuine – usually the precursor for a meeting of minds.
I never work independently; I’m always part of a wider rehab team of occupational therapists, district nurses and GPs. I really appreciate their wisdom, which has proved invaluable many a time. The physio is often the first clinician to be aware of a change in a patient’s condition so the GPs are our first port of call and forging strong links with them is essential. The patient’s friends, family and neighbours are also valuable team members.
Pulse was recommended to me as a great locum agency, and so it has proved to be. I’ve developed a great rapport with my colleagues there; we’ve had some great times and I look forward to our relationship continuing for years to come.