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A day in the shoes of Kim, Head of Physiotherapy + Rehabilitation

“I love the openness everyone in Team Ralph has to new possibilities, and how The Ralph is truly at the leading edge of how patient care should progress in the future of veterinary medicine.” – Kim Sheader.

In this edition of ‘A day in the shoes of…’ series, we meet our multitalented Head of Physiotherapy + Rehabilitation, Kim. Physiotherapy is all about boosting quality of life. Using different manual treatments and techniques, it aims to restore movement and function to the highest attainable level for that particular individual. But how does this happen, read on to find out more…

“My week is varied, so my daily tasks depend on what day it is! I start every day at 8 am and the first thing I do is check my emails and messages. I then visit our inpatients to see how they are doing, and if any of them would benefit from some physiotherapy to help boost their recovery or treat an existing condition. If there are any patients I have spotted, I have a chat with the vet whose care they are under to confirm before planning my day. 

Kim with Noel (RIP) during a hydrotherapy session.

During my week I see a mix of inpatients and outpatients with a variety of different problems. For a number of our patients, we provide physiotherapy post-surgery to help with their recovery. For example, this could be for an animal who has undergone orthopaedic surgery or neurosurgery. Some of our patients will have undergone this surgery at The Ralph, whilst other patients come from other veterinary centres. As well as post-operative care, physiotherapy can be used instead of surgery to provide conservative treatment for appropriate conditions. I really enjoy using my clinical skills to assess each patient and to devise the best treatment plan for them, and then observing the improvements when we carry out the planned exercises or treatment – this is by far the best part of my job. 

Kim assessing Dolly during a physiotherapy check-up following surgery to her pelvis.

I have also really enjoyed the challenge of building a new department from scratch – it has been challenging but fun. Everyone here at The Ralph is very open to physiotherapy and the key part it plays in patient care. Sometimes people don’t fully understand the different areas of physiotherapy, and therefore how it can support patients in some instances. But by chatting to our vets and nurses about different clinical cases and running educational sessions, it raises awareness of the power of rehabilitation. It is exciting to see the possibilities for what we can achieve with an integrated Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Service both now and in the future.   

For two days of the week when our other ACPAT Physiotherapist, Kaye, is working, I drive to London and conduct home visits where I treat patients in their homes. Before the hospital opened, Kaye and I ran The Ralph’s Mobile Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation service where we would provide home visits to all of our patients, so the home visits I do now are from this original service. 

Kim and Kaye with Ivy and her carer.

When I’m based in the hospital, I treat our patients using a mix of land-based techniques (including hands-on exercises and electrotherapy) and hydrotherapy using our underwater treadmill to help return patients to their best possible level of function. Helping people and animals to have the best quality of life they can is what inspires me daily. When I’m not assessing or treating a patient, you’ll typically find me making splints or supports for joints with my sewing machine – you sometimes have to get creative as a veterinary physiotherapist! I also run regular educational sessions with Team Ralph, teaching them about the basics of physiotherapy assessments and techniques. In between all of this I’ll be cramming my own CPD as I keep on top of the latest research and methods in human and veterinary physiotherapy. I’d really like to narrow the gap between physiotherapy used in human medicine and that used in veterinary practice, as there shouldn’t be a gap at all.  There is never enough time to do everything I want to do in my day – needing to sleep is such a pain!

Kim leading a physiotherapy training session with Team Ralph, and a little help from Milo!

I’m a Chartered Physiotherapist and started my physiotherapy career in the NHS treating humans. To be an animal physiotherapist you don’t have to be ‘human-trained’ first. However, I truly believe that I am a far better veterinary clinician for first having learned and honed my skills on a mammal that can give me verbal feedback. A human is able to explain the different sensations, and what they feel when they move a limb or when I apply a certain treatment method. A muscle is the same if it is in a human, dog, or cat, but if I know that when I treat a trigger point in a muscle that it likely produces a sharp shooting pain as compared to a dull ache, I can adjust my handling so my treatment is the most effective and the patient can tolerate it best. So, for anyone wishing to follow in my footsteps my advice would be to do it the long way and train as a Chartered Physiotherapist first before training to be a veterinary physiotherapist. 

Thank you for reading our latest blog. If you can’t wait for the next instalment of our “A day in the shoes of…” series, you can meet the rest of our team here.

Take care,

Team Ralph

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