We live in a fast-changing world where new practices are being developed, new technologies are being invented and new discoveries are made. We need to be able to keep up and adapt quickly.

The physiotherapy profession in New Zealand appears to have been caught unaware by the rapidly changing demography of health services. Things are changing, and physiotherapy needs to change with it. One notable change is the shift towards ‘multi-disciplinary care’. Multi-disciplinary care is where people of different disciplines of health work together and draw on their unique skills and knowledge to provide a more well-rounded approach to client care. Sounds good? Sure! But effective multi-disciplinary care put into practice can be difficult to achieve due to multiple factors. These factors include location of different health practitioners, lack of communication between health professionals and lack of education for the client. We see lack of education as a major contributor as it can leave the client feeling push/pulled in many directions (physio, podiatry, specialist), and left unsure as to how to prioritise who to see first as injuries occur or who the best person is to treat an injury. Patient education in an integral component of physiotherapy and ultimately drives a successful rehabilitation outcome therefore is of upmost importance for us.

Despite the challenge that comes with multi-disciplinary care we think the model holds a lot of benefit for clients and that’s why Sports Lab prides itself on being a multi-disciplinary clinic. Sports Lab are at the forefront of this move toward multi-disciplinary care by not only removing the barriers such as different location of health providers and communication between different providers, but by having our staff from each discipline as part of ONE TEAM. We’ve tackled the difficulties of being multi-disciplinary by providing a clinic where we don’t just work alongside each other but we train each other and train with each other. This is a unique set up where we have multiple modalities all under one roof working together cohesively as a team to optimise patient outcomes.

We see this education as the secret-sauce to doing multi-disciplinary care effectively. The hand needs to know what the arm is doing, and the arm needs to know what the brain is up to- similarly each practitioner needs to have a firm understanding of what another does and what they can offer. What better way to achieve this understanding than by training alongside each other and regularly sharing skills and knowledge. We at Sports Lab pride ourselves on being leaders in our field and leaders in the shift toward multi-disciplinary care and so there is an expectation of continued staff upskilling and development to sustain this purpose.

Our upskilling program has multiple layers. While most of you are out enjoying your weekend it’s not rare to see one of the Sports Lab crew at a course learning and developing their existing skills. We regularly attend workshops and courses to develop our skill base. We also do regular mentoring where we benefit from the experience of our more senior practitioners as well as benefiting from the fresh formal education of our more recently qualified practitioners, challenging us to not get stuck in our traditional ways of thinking. The layer of our upskilling program specific to our commitment to effective multi-disciplinary care is weekly in-services where one of our team members leads a practical session to educate and teach each of us new skills/ideas on treating patients with certain conditions or injuries. This not only expands our knowledge and skill sets but let’s the hand know what the arm is doing.

Multi-disciplinary education as part of a model of multi-disciplinary care ensures our clients get the best treatment and best possible outcomes for their rehabilitation journey. We challenge other health care practices to do the same in the face of this changing health care system.

Ashley Harmsworth is a Sports Lab physiotherapist with a passion for sport and injury prevention. She is impressively involved in netball throughout New Zealand, overseeing the netball recovery programme at Saint Kentigern College and Physio’s over various levels at Auckland Netball. She is our go-to netball and team-sport specialist for return to play assessments and programmes.