New ‘Cards for Humanity’ Resource Highlights the Human Dimension of Illness

No matter where you are in the world Physiotherapists/Physical Therapists all have one thing in common, we want to help people live a rich and fulfilling life!  Whether that is pain management, learning how to live with a chronic condition, recovering from a broken limb or learning new skills and movement patterns after a stroke or accident.

We often search through the available literature for the best evidence and rely on a range of modalities and techniques to improve our treatment outcomes.  However, there are also benefits of looking internally to rethink the assumptions and blindspots we might hold as an individual or a profession to ensure that we are working towards enhancing the human dimensions of illness and disability.  Rather than look at a person from just one perspective (the ‘issues’ they present with) it is important to also consider aspects such as emotional, phenomenological, social, existential and moral dimensions of a person and their illness experience.

So, how can you improve your client’s rehabilitation experience?  Well, we have an answer for you!  Physiopedia has recently collaborated with Jenny Setchell, a Senior Research Fellow (NHMRC) at the University of Queensland and Barbara Gibson, Professor at the University of Toronto, to share their Cards for Humanity project.  This project was developed from a larger study conducted at the Bloorview Research Institute, and was primarily designed as a tool for working with children who have long-term conditions, but they can be used for all age groups and in many different settings.

The cards address many issues that arise when working with individuals and some of the suggestions may take time and effort to incorporate into our everyday working practice.  For example, one skill that we all have in common and that forms a large part of our daily interactions is communication.  This may not be something that features high on your list of priorities, we communicate every day, so therefore we must be experts, right?  But think back to the times when you needed to broach a sensitive subject but didn’t know how to, or those times when you felt a distance between you and your client and didn’t know how to reduce it.  This may be particularly relevant when working with children who may not feel listened to in the context of healthcare appointment – but of course this can apply to adults too.  The cards are not designed to provide all the answers (as these are likely to differ in each individual circumstance), but prompt physiotherapists/physical therapists to think about these issues more deeply – and to put time and energy towards enhancing the human aspects of living with disability/illness.

The cards can be used: to facilitate mentoring sessions, prompt discussion at team meetings, hang on your lanyard as a reminder, keep visible on your desk/at your office etc.

For more information about this project and to download the cards visit our new Physiopedia page Human dimensions of illness experience