APCP Survey: How Paediatric Physiotherapists Worked in the Pandemic



Early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, the Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists created a survey to look into how their members were experiencing the first three months of the pandemic. The findings reflected the experiences of 472 members, around 20% of the membership. Whilst such reports would usually only be published in the APCP’s journal, they have made the decision to make this report available to all, as they believe it is of use and interest to the wider physiotherapy community.  

You can read the report in its entirety here: https://apcp.csp.org.uk/sites/default/files/journal/2020-11/APCP%20Journal%20V11%20N2.pdf 

The APCP Covid-19 Survey Background 

The survey took the form of a questionnaire with 31 questions, divided into eight sections. It was made available to all APCP members, with 20% completing the survey. The study authors note that one of the reasons for the 80% non-response might be because the survey was only available to complete during a two-week period in June.  

78% of respondents worked in the NHS with a further 13% from independent and private sectors. The majority (64%) worked in community and primary settings. Respondents hailed from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

The study’s analysis with regards to role changing 

 The analysis offers a fascinating insight into the effects of COVID-19 upon the paeds physio community.  

Changes in work roles  

Physiotherapists have played a key role in the treatment, support and rehabilitation of Covid-19 cases and the pandemic has considerably affected the way they work. Not only have physiotherapists had to make huge changes to the way they see and manage patients, many paediatric physiotherapists were redeployed during the initial wave of the pandemic, into other roles.  

A considerable number of responses revealed that paediatric physiotherapists were redeployed to acute adult services. This included acute wards, intensive care and Nightingale Hospitals. Some participants felt that this sudden redeployment compromised their identities and marked a change that upset them.  

Other participants reported transitioning to virtual treatments and home working. Other changes in working conditions mentioned included the need for social distancing and PPE as well as dealing with more new patients than usual and supporting them in the absence of family visiting.  

The inability to fully assess physiotherapy patients – due to telephone or video consultations – was reported as being frustrating and difficult.  

Changes in caseloads 

Due to the redeployment and reduction in staff levels, many responses included a rise in caseload as respondents took on the work of their absent colleagues. This included some having to do their usual jobs under difficult circumstances and then continue to work in a redeployed role as well.  

For some, this meant reskilling and moving to departments that they felt they lacked the skill and experience in.  

This upskilling meant a steep learning curve for many, including in acute clinical and respiratory skills. This led to a feeling of overwhelm and information overload for some respondents. These skill changes also included learning how to use digital technologies to complete virtual appointments. Some felt that their transferable skills came particularly into use.  

Barriers to work 

One of the barriers to fulfilling roles was the uncertainty that Covid-19 brought with it. This included constantly changing environments, working with types of patients that respondents had little experience with and having changing instructions.  

Other barriers included the level or lack of support some respondents felt they had. In many cases, they received support from their new teams but felt overall communication from superiors was lacking. Some felt they received excellent support, communication and training. More senior respondents sometimes revealed that they had difficulty keeping up morale and had to find new ways of supporting their new teams.  

Co-worker and inter-team support was generally reported positively, with colleagues working well together and learning from each other. Some however, were more isolated and missed the face-to-face contact they’d previously had with co-workers.  

The full survey’s results 

This is simply an overview of how roles changed within the initial phase of the pandemic and the full survey takes a comprehensive look at a further seven areas of paediatric physiotherapy work. Questions posed within the report are not just reflective of paeds either, and anyone working within physiotherapy and patient care can benefit from taking a look at the report.  

Touching upon threats to continuing work, difficulties in professional identity and support from co-workers and superiors, this report is one of the first in which detailed experiences are outlined and analysed.  

To read the full report, head here: https://apcp.csp.org.uk/sites/default/files/journal/2020-11/APCP%20Journal%20V11%20N2.pdf 

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