Probono Physiotherapy Clinic: A Student’s Perspective

Student experience: Week 1Probono physiotherapy Clinic sign

Location: SOS Health Foundation Probono Physiotherapy Clinic

Salvation Army, Melbourne Project 614, 69 Burke Street, Melbourne

As a physiotherapy student having recently completed clinical placements in several major hospital institutions, I found that patients would present with comprehensive medical histories, referral letters, or at the very least, a confirmed diagnosis. Hence, it was uncommon, even in an outpatient setting, for a physiotherapist to ever have to make a diagnosis from scratch. In stark contrast, at the probono clinic for the homeless and disadvantaged, I observed for the first time, the physiotherapist acting as a first-contact primary practitioner, looking at the patient holistically to better understand their state of health without solely focusing on the musculoskeletal problems before establishing a diagnosis.

I met a destitute patron who wilfully wanted to tell me his life story about how life took a turn for the worse, forcing him into a life on the margins. It all started with a casual chat in the Hamodava Cafe along with a brief explanation of how physiotherapy can benefit his life. I felt that this communication was empowering to the patrons not only to improve awareness of an available physiotherapy service within Salvation Army, Melbourne Project 614, but also helping clients become a little more health literate so that any future musculoskeletal problems could be addressed sooner by the patron attending the probono physio clinic, rather than waiting till the problem becomes chronic and harder to manage.

One patron arrived directly from the street having heard by word of mouth that the SOS Health probono physiotherapy clinic was operating within the premises. I was struck by the suboptimal health of many patrons. All clients assessed for physiotherapy that day were suffering significant pain attributed to their poor living conditions.

With greater awareness of the probono physiotherapy clinic services, my impression is that all patrons experiencing disadvantage that come to the Salvation Army and other similar institutions could benefit from the physiotherapy service provided by the SOS Health Foundation.

Michael Djukic 
Doctor of  Physiotherapy, Student Placement Program, The University of Melbourne
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