New fellowship supports rehabilitation professionals at Providence Healthcare to conduct research projects

Vanessa Foucher, Samantha Lombardo, Nicola Bell, and Peggy So.

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Staff in rehabilitation professions innovate in their practices daily – yet historically, many do not have the protected time to study the impacts of those innovations in depth.

But a new donor funded research fellowship for rehabilitation professionals at Providence Healthcare is providing them with support to engage in applied education research.

The “Bellamy Manucha Rehabilitation Applied Education Research Fellowship – At Providence” is a new fellowship that offers $100,000 per year in funding to support multiple clinicians or trainees to complete a research project under the supervision of one Applied Education Research Operatives (AERO) scientist and one individual representing either Providence or rehabilitation expertise. AERO is a group of scientists and investigators from across Unity Health Toronto that connects with health care educators, supporting them to design studies that test new and better methods of teaching, learning, and assessment in clinical education practices.

This year’s Bellamy fellows are tackling projects in the areas of concussions, falls prevention and suicide risk assessment.

“At the end of the Fellowship, each fellow will produce a unique scholarly project that they will disseminate to their local and national communities,” says Dr. Ryan Brydges, AERO Director and Education Scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and Education Portfolio at Unity Health.

“That can be a conference presentation, a peer-reviewed publication, and likely a shift in the standard of practice at Providence. The Fellowship is about helping them to mobilize some form of knowledge to make change and report on that change to the broader rehabilitation health professions and education communities.”

This year, Brydges and the selection committee received applications for eight projects and were able to fund three projects led by four fellows.

“One of the reasons we hope for a general fellowship is so we can target clinical areas that are really in need of funding to help clinicians to engage in academic scholarly work,” he says. “If we want to be comprehensive in ensuring our entire health care system is robust and is being improved regularly, then all of our health disciplines need such supports made available to them, along with the structures that come with academic work – dedicated time and funds to do a project.”

We spoke to this year’s fellows to learn about their projects and why the Bellamy Manucha Fellowship has been important to them.

Vanessa Foucher, Physiotherapist, Orthopaedic and Amputee Outpatient Clinic, Providence

Vanessa Foucher

VF: My fellowship project is about bringing a concussion screening tool/symptom checker to Providence. I have identified a gap in care at our hospital, as we don’t use a formalized screening tool or symptom checker for our patients who have a suspected head trauma or sustained one. This is an important step in correctly identifying and treating patients effectively.

I have been in communication with other rehab hospitals and other members of Unity Health to find a tool that is most widely used among our patient population. They have identified the Rivermead Post Concussion Symptom Questionnaire as their tool of choice.

It is an easy to administer tool, time efficient and can be used numerous times to measure changes in a patient’s symptoms as they evolve. My hope is that I will be able to implement this screening tool for both the inpatient and outpatient departments at Providence and that we can be more prudent in identifying concussions when they happen.

This fellowship is important to me because I am a physiotherapist who has worked in sport and with concussions/Post-Concussion Syndrome for many years. The diagnosis of concussion is one that flies under the radar a lot of the time and many people do not know how to treat it or when to refer. I am hoping that with some education and implementation of this tool, we can demystify the process and better treat our patients.

Nicola Bell, Physiotherapist, and Peggy So, Occupational Therapist, Falls Prevention Clinic, Providence

Nicola Bell and Peggy So

NB & PS: The Falls Prevention Clinic at Providence is a client-centered, holistic program offering a comprehensive falls risk and mobility assessment and treatment program to individuals who are at risk of falls, have had a fall and/or are fearful of falling.

The clinic aims to maximize safety in the community, promote healthy aging and reduce the risk of a client sustaining a fall. Clients attending the clinic currently engage in a one-to-one, tailored, exercise-based treatment program. We currently do not deliver any structured group education sessions within the program.

The support of the Bellamy Manucha Fellowship is enabling us to work towards our ultimate goal of developing, implementing and evaluating a formalized, structured Falls Prevention Education program. This will be delivered in small groups to clients attending the clinic and allow a space for clients to interact, share personal experiences and get the benefit of peer support.

The current caseload demands do not allow time or resources for this to be completed without the additional support provided by the Fellowship. We are looking forward to seeing how this work can improve the care we deliver and make a difference in our clients’ lives.

Samantha Lombardo, Physiotherapist, Complex Continuing Care, Providence

Samantha Lombardo

SL: Many of the known risk factors for suicide are present in patients in the rehabilitation setting–including medical complexity, loss of function and social isolation. We also know the prevalence of mental health concerns and suicide risk are on the rise.

Allied health teams (physiotherapists, occupational therapists, rehab assistants, pharmacists, etc.) in rehabilitation hospital settings have a unique opportunity to develop a strong rapport with their patients, and are well positioned to be able to identify risk and communicate this back to the team in order to facilitate efficient and effective supports. However, allied health staff are not consistently trained in how to conduct a suicide risk assessment.

We are hoping to provide a new learning opportunity to allied staff members at Providence to engage in a virtual reality simulation module on suicide risk assessment. The module was developed by CAMH, and will be offered to interested staff as an opportunity for learning how to conduct a suicide risk assessment in the rehab setting. There will also be an opportunity to evaluate the impact of that learning on staff members’ confidence and knowledge to better understand if this learning modality would be helpful to implement in the future.

The Bellamy Manucha Fellowship is providing a very innovative opportunity to be fully engaged in studying a focus of interest – specifically for me that is mental health. With protected time away from practice, I can be immersed in research and innovation at Providence in a way that was not possible in the past.

It is an incredible learning experience for rehab clinicians to grow their skill set, and bring their expertise to research and academia. This fellowship is fostering a direct connection with researchers, developing research skills, and building potential for involvement in future research endeavors that will grow the body of knowledge surrounding care in the rehab setting.

The “Bellamy Manucha Rehabilitation Applied Education Research Fellowship – At Providence” is made possible by a generous donor to the St. Michael’s Foundation (St. Michael’s Hospital & Providence
Healthcare).

By Danielle Pereira.

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