Amy Ellis – Clinical Supervisor Physiotherapy in Fraser Health

Name and Title(s): 

Mrs Amy Ellis 

Clinical Supervisor Physiotherapy, Critical Care and Medical Nephrology

Where do you work? 

Surrey Memorial Hospital – Fraser Health

Amy Ellis on LinkedIn

What is the most rewarding part of your job?  

Seeing patients return to their life and enjoying the quality of life with their families post-admission. I have the privilege of being able to work with people when they are at their most vulnerable. In critical care, we often start working with patients while they are on a ventilator and sometimes need maximal assistance to mobilize. Being able to start there and see them improve and walk out of the hospital is extremely rewarding.

Early mobility in critical care can be quite impactful for our patients. Patients are often overwhelmed by all the lines and monitors in critical care, when we work with them we help them move with everything that is attached. The shift from thinking they couldn’t move to be able to see what they can do is quite profound. 

What is your favourite part of working in acute care? 

Being part of a supportive team. In acute care, we have PT teams that are deployed across the site. We have a variety of staff with diverse backgrounds. If you have a challenging case that you want support with you can consult with your colleges and learn from them through collaboration. We also have the opportunity to collaborate with teams working in the community to enhance care and create continuity for our patients. 

What advice do you have for physical therapists hoping to work in the public sector? 

Come and join us! Look for opportunities to be exposed to different practice areas and don’t think you need to know what your area of special interest might be straight away. The skills you build will help you wherever you end up later in your career. You might find an area that you enjoy and you were not aware of before. Public health has opportunities across the spectrum of care. 

I would give the same advice to PTs wanting to work in private practice. Consider working in public and specifically acute care. Understanding the journey of patients through the health care system is useful wherever you end up. 

What do you enjoy about working in Fraser Health? 

In Fraser Health we have many opportunities for inter-professional collaboration, it is encouraged and supported. One of the partnerships that I really value is that with the ergonomics team in workplace health. As a clinical supervisor, I have been able to help improve staff and patient safety through these collaborations.

There are also opportunities for leadership development for staff within the health authority. I also felt supported by the Fraser Health team when I was new to the country. 

What is a common misconception with your work? 

PTs in acute care just walk patients or get them up. Working in acute care is so much more than that. There is a difference between functional and therapeutic mobility and the two work together to help improve outcomes for patients. Everyone on the team – including the patients and their family should be promoting functional mobility in the hospital. Therapeutic mobility is part of what we do. It is an assessment and intervention focused on meeting the patient’s goals.

As an example when we walk a patient we are assessing their gait, balance and cardiovascular endurance. We then put into place a therapeutic exercise program that our skilled rehabilitation assistants can continue with our patients. Focusing on areas of improvement to facilitate change in function. We then reassess and progress the program as appropriate. Beyond that, our role also includes patient education and assistance with discharge planning. 

What drew you to physical therapy? 

My mother and I were in a car accident when I was 9 years old. My mother sustained multiple injuries which included bilateral lower extremity fractures. I saw the PTs work with my mother from when she was in ICU, to the wards, in the community and through multiple re-admissions over a 2 year period. I often went to her appointments with her and helped her with her exercise program at home.

While there was a whole team that was part of her recovery it was the PTs that were there with her and encouraging her throughout the recovery and beyond. This stayed with me and I knew this was the profession that I wanted to be a part of. I value being able to positively impact people’s recovery. 

What is unique about what you do? 

Working in critical care is an ever-changing field. There are always new developments like a novel coronavirus! The experience of navigating the pandemic has allowed for innovation and collaboration that has been amazing to be a part of. 

What is one thing we might be surprised to learn about you?  

I am originally from South Africa. I qualified in SA and then worked in Dubai before immigrating to Canada. My experience working in private hospitals in both countries drove the decision to come to Canada. I wanted to be part of and contribute to a strong public health system.