Working In A Stroke Rehabilitation Centre: 3 Major Things I Learned

Working In A Stroke Rehabilitation Centre: 3 Major Things I Learned

Getting the right stroke rehabilitation early on is important.

Over the last three days, I have been lucky enough to observe the Physiotherapists working as part of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) at the Stroke Rehab Centre in Chippenham.

This was part of my observational placement for my Physiotherapy degree and was incredibly eye-opening.

I spent my time shadowing the physiotherapists, interacting with patients and asking, a probably annoying amount, of questions about everything that I’d seen.

Since starting my degree and doing my first Neurological Science module, the brain has absolutely fascinated me and has become one of my favourite subjects to study.

We have studied just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s already got me hooked. Learning about the different diseases of the brain and how it works and adapts is something I really can’t wait to learn more about! Here are my top 3 things that I learned during this placement…


Communication is VITAL

Communication Is a huge part of our jobs as therapists, and actually probably makes the most difference with our patients.

Giving someone a positive experience through the right communication and demeanour can be the difference between someone progressing through a treatment plan and not.

This placement taught me about the importance of being adaptable with your communication, learning new ways to phrase things and that communication is as much about non-verbal cues as it is about verbal instructions.

On a stroke ward, patients have varying degrees of cognitive ability. This includes difficulty understanding and comprehending, difficulty communicating, contextual understanding and memory loss among other things.

This can make communication and understanding between therapist and patient very difficult. While selective language and verbal cues, combined with physical cues and demonstration can help one patient produce the movement you’re after, it can also cause distraction and confusion in another.

Familiarising yourself with your patients and understanding what communication they respond best to can be the key to unlocking a faster and fuller recovery.


Everyone’s Story Is Different… Listen

I manage to learn some background story on a lot of the patients I saw over the three days. Some were background information by the staff about how the patient came to be on the stroke ward, what kind of stroke they had, the differences in comparison to normality and a bit about what they were like before the stroke, what they liked to do for fun, what they did for work, what support systems they had.

This information is crucial in understanding the mindset of the patient, setting goals and making their rehab as specific as possible.

Some stories I heard first hand from the patients, including anecdotes of what they once loved to do, and what they desperately want to be able to do again.

Hearing all of the different stories of the patients definitely reinforced to me that no area of rehab is a “one size fits all” approach, and that we need to treat the patient and not the condition.

On the stroke ward, the physio and the occupational therapists used what the patients used to love doing as a motivator for their rehab and designed specific exercises that were clearly relatable to previous activities.

A patients story is a critical part of the puzzle, the more you listen, the more ways you’ll find to optimise and enhance the stroke rehabilitation process!


Stroke Rehabilitation Should Be Adaptable 

Things don’t always go to plan, especially somewhere as unpredictable as a stroke ward. Some days the patients felt extremely positive and motivated to do their physiotherapy session, but other days they wouldn’t even want to get out of bed.

Being able to change your plan and react to what your patient is experiencing is the difference between getting some progress from a session, even if it wasn’t what was planned, and getting zero progress whatsoever.

For example, if a walking session had been planned for a patient, but they didn’t want to get out of bed, the therapist would change the goal of the session to some strength work in the bed, or some upper limb mobilisation, or even just sitting practice.

The point is, that they never wasted a session and helped the patient get as much out of it as they could. When things don’t go to plan, be adaptable.


Speak soon Abbie Parsons and The Physio Crew Team


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