Alison Hoens - Physiotherapist

Written by Evan Duxbury

What’s your role at PHC?

As the PHC Physiotherapy Research, Education & Practice Coordinator (PT REP- C), I support our 130 PTs and 40-50 Rehab Assistants across PHC to participate in research, access continuing education and support clinical decision making for complex patients.

I also hold a part time position as the Physical Therapy Knowledge Broker. This position is funded by PHC Research Institute, UBC Faculty of Medicine (Dept of Physical Therapy), the Physiotherapy Association of BC and VCH Research Institute. This role facilitates partnerships between clinicians, researchers and decision makers in order to enhance evidence-informed care. These two roles complement each other well.

Wow that’s a lot of stuff. So what does a day in your shoes look like?

I help take clinical questions from front line staff to either search, synthesize and ‘translate’ the evidence into clinically relevant resources or , when the answer is not yet available in the literature, guide staff through the research process; from inception and data collection to eventual publication.

A recent example involved a team from PT, nursing and occupational therapy who had never done any research previously. They wanted to know, “after total knee replacement, is it better to use a motorized cooling& compression device or an ice pack?” We undertook a 5 year randomized control trial, which concluded that there was no difference in clinical outcomes of pain, range of motion, nausea/vomiting, blood loss, length of stay or function, but that patients were more satisfied with the motorized device.

How does your role differ from your counterparts at other Health Authorities?

My role is unique, and much more formalized at PHC. I am not aware of a similar position that integrates research, education and practice.

How did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in Vancouver and was trained at UBC. I worked at PHC, did my post grad training in Australia then worked in private practice before returning to PHC. I have been working in the PT REP-C role for approximately 10 years.

Why are you working publicly and not in a private clinic?

I like the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration. I work with many researchers from other departments and specialties. It is more challenging to undertake inter-professional research and education initiatives in the private sector and there is no existing infrastructure, such as the PHC Research Institute, to support these activities.

When did you know you wanted to become a PT?

Initially I wanted to become a marine biologist, then an oceanographer and then a journalist. 

I played field hockey when I was young so I had plenty of exposure to PTs. When I realized that physiotherapy was a blend of art and science, offered a huge spectrum of work and seemingly limitless opportunities, I latched onto it. The positions of the PT REP-C and PT Knowledge Broker are both relatively new roles and I love them.

What’s been the biggest surprise?

The rate of growth of new evidence to support effectiveness of physiotherapy interventions has been exponential.  Increasingly high quality research is yielding more practice/treatment improvements than was conceivable even 10 years ago. I really enjoy being able to not only support, but also advance our profession.

What advice do you have for young PTs?

Be open to opportunities and possibilities. If you want something that doesn't exist, help to create it for yourself and the profession.Participate and contribute at every opportunity. Pay close attention to your  own experiences with patients so that you can recognize patterns in different patient populations that can inform your decisions as to what is the most appropriate treatment for a particular patient as a specific phase in their disease process/recovery. 

What’s the first step for a PT with a research question?

Contact me! I’ll help you tease out whether the answer exists somewhere already or if a research project should be done.

What’s the best part of your job?

I love the variety. I work at 11 different sites and work with so many different people, so I get to work with a large number of talented and passionate people working in such a wide variety of settings.


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