The purpose of this study was to describe the attitudes of physical therapists towards physical therapists who have mobility impairments.
The method of this study was a photo-elicitation. Physical therapists were shown two pictures of physical therapists in wheelchairs. One picture was of a male and one of a female. The subjects were asked to describe and discuss what they saw. They were also asked a series of questions regarding disability and the prospect of having a colleague with a mobility impairment.
Twenty five subjects were interviewed. The interviews were digitally audio taped and then transcribed by a professional medical transcriptionist. .The transcripts were analysed, coded, and six themes were developed..
1.Job Performance: The work related activities expected of a physical therapist and how well those activities were executed.
2. Safety: Relative freedom from the occurrence of risk of injury, danger, or threat of harm to the patient or treating physical therapist.
3. Work Experience: Familiarity with a skill or field of knowledge acquired over a period of time. In this case, having familiarity working with a physical therapist with a mobility impairment.
4. Attitudes: A view or feeling of a patient or a colleague towards a physical therapist with a disability
5. Contributions: The ways in which it would be beneficial to have a physical therapist with a disability.
6. Setting: Refers to which type of physical therapy clinic in which the therapist is working;
It was generally felt that having a colleague with a mobility impairment would be positive, not only for the department, other therapists, but also for patients.The major concerns centered around possible safety issues and could they work in all health care settings, particularly home care? It was pointed out that "just because they might not be able to do it all, it didn't mean that they shouldn''t be allowed to do any of it". It was also mentioned that if an able bodied physical therapist sustained an impairment that might prevent them from working in an area that they were currently working in, they would probably find another area where they could practice successfully and safely.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education
A profession that would create opportunities for physical therapists with impairments would be revolutionary.It would not only provide educational and vocational opportunities for those individuals, but it would also provide modeling for patients and able bodied physical therapists, as well. Able bodied physical therapists would have a better understanding of the complexities of accessbility and would be in a position to benefit from the 'lived experiences' of the therapists with impairments, leading to a dramatic improvement in patient care. Lastly, the gap between the biomedical model of disability and the social justice model would be reduced, whereby individuals with impairments would be viewed and treated as 'people' and not just 'patients'.
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