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We will go further together

Spotlight on Healthcare

Q&A with... a physiotherapist
Stephanie Spencer, Health Science Centre in St John’s (Newfoundland)

1. Could you please introduce yourself?

I am Stephanie Spencer.  I am the physiotherapist with the Adult CF Team with joint coverage responsibilities to the Pediatric CF Clinic in St John’s, Newfoundland.  I am a graduate of Dalhousie University with Kinesiology and Physiotherapy degrees in 1994 and 1996 respectively.

I met my first CF patient in 1998 and plan to round out my retirement working with CF patients in 2028!

2. Why did you choose to work in a CF clinic?  

In my early career I was fortunate to experience the many facets of service delivery of Physiotherapy in both adult and pediatric world. Seeing these young adults with CF on my floor who looked so well yet knowing how unwell they were on the inside and the knowing the function they deserved to gain and own was what got me peaking an interest. 

At the same time in 2005, our CF Centre was emerging as its own entity and needing adult staff. I have been lucky enough to be a part of the growth of a program to support the emerging adult population in the outpatient clinic and during in-patient hospital admissions.

3. What is a typical day like?

The amount of autonomy in my position allows for great variability in my day- to-day practice from clinical hands-on care to academic work to program development. 

When patients are admitted to the hospital, I provide care on the floor – that can be airway clearance assistance, education, and/or exercise training. 

In the PT department, patients who want education and demonstration for exercise programs before they feel ready to take it to their communities are seen for teaching and ongoing practice with HIIT workouts, yoga and breathe control and/or basic strengthening and postural exercise programs.  These things are also discussed online and I’m hoping to soon use online connections for the same idea. 

Other days, freedom from direct patient care lends itself to offering clerical and clinic planning support at our CF Office.  This time also allows for being able to advocate for patient care, supplies, etc and participation in CF Clinic specific quality initiatives.

Currently we are a part of the Regional Dissemination Network looking at Lung Transplant Transition. These opportunities to build the processes in and structure of our clinic to improve the delivery of CF care fuels me with new energies for my work.

 4. What has been the greatest highlight of working with people living with CF for you?

Having people reach their full potential makes me professionally happy.  That doesn’t necessarily mean every person has a successful transplant – although the coordinated effort that gets a patient in the right place at the right time to receive new lungs is exhilarating! 

I totally enjoy the times where we as a team, led by the patient, are able to fulfill the patients care plan with educated decisions made and services provided to make that person truly happy.  I do take pride in looking at the complement of patients in our clinic from time to time and see how many of them have ‘achieved’ – it might be completion of a school program despite their multiple admissions, a successful relationship for someone who never thought that would happen, a chosen end of life path that leads to peace.  I feel professional gratification from them all.

5. Why do you think it’s important to support CF Canada?

Although the NL clinic is small in staff and patients, the amount of resources and funds that go into successful care for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with CF seems to be rather large and maybe a burden that a single health authority could not and would not carry, given all the facets of health and wellness that is expected by the general public. 

Having CF Canada at the helm of the funding, scientific research and database management points of operation makes for a solid support structure from which each CF Centre can operate. 

As a physiotherapist, I have an established network of like-minded professionals who share a like interest in the population of Canadians with CF.  Together we offer a strong blended approach to care, with academic support to lead changes in practice in our country and around the world, in addition to financial, educational and academic partnerships that CF Canada allows us to share here at home.