Section of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

A Spinal Cord Injury Symposium is held at Foothills Medical Centre in 2019. 

Dr. Sean Dukelow

Section Head: Dr. Sean Dukelow

PHYSICAL MEDICINE AND REHABILITATION is a branch of medicine that is focused on improving quality of life and maximizing independence in activities of daily living. A physician with specialty training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is called a physiatrist.  We have 40 members of our division. We have many different programs within our division that focus on patient populations with a variety of different medical conditions. These would include many individuals with neurologic conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury, acquired brain injury, neuromuscular disorders, cerebral palsy, and musculoskeletal conditions such as neck and back pain or individuals with amputations. Physiatrists have training in working within interdisciplinary care settings and often work in teams including social workers, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and others.

This most recent year started in a usual manner with everyone working away in their clinical, research, and educational domains. Retreats were planned, grants were obtained, and clinics and inpatient wards continued to see many patients. Unit 58, our Tertiary NeuroRehabilitation inpatient unit at Foothills Medical Centre was renamed the “TNR Unit”, as recognition that the focus on our unit is a little different than the other acute medical units within Foothills. A simulation program was developed with the assistance of a grant and simulation assessments were held jointly with the Department of Psychiatry in order to advance training and assessments in both residency programs. Quality improvement activities were undertaken to improve patient care, including a fun compression challenge on the TNR Unit to update and improve accuracy for chest compressions during CPR that including many groups including physicians, nurses, and allied health.

Then along came the COVID-19 pandemic and disrupted many aspects of care and planning. Our members continued to contribute the medical community at large. Members were on working groups for COVID rehabilitation practices for the province and helped review the COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group Rapid Evidence Report. We were part of a series of speakers put on by the University of Calgary called COVID Corner. We learned how to do clinic assessments by telephone and virtual means whenever possible. Contingency plans were made for Phase 1 of the pandemic, many of which did not need to be enacted. However, the plans are now in place in case they are needed for Phase 2.

We continue to be very proud of our residency program. Our graduating residents were successful in completing their Royal College examinations. We have an excellent set of residents who always bring their best to the forefront. Several residents stepped up when the clinical learning opportunities were limited and worked as contact tracers for the pandemic.

Quality care to individuals that require it remains our top priority, both prior to the pandemic, during, and following. Some of the care has changed in how it is delivered, but we remain committed and continue to work alongside our colleagues to provide care where needed.