Strengthening rehabilitation services in Ukraine through workforce development and professional collaboration

A meeting with Ukrainian rehabilitation stakeholders from Ministries, professional associations and universities held in Poland earlier this month gave the opportunity to make progress towards advancing the rehabilitation professions in Ukraine, in response to the growing need for rehabilitation services in the country. 

As a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine, on top of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for urgent rehabilitation services in the country is rapidly growing – as is the difficulty in accessing these services. Barriers include attacks on healthcare facilities, fewer available healthcare workers due to displacement, reduced public transport, interrupted supply chains and power shortages according to Dr Satish Mishra, Technical Officer for Disability, Rehabilitation, Palliative and Long-term Care at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Despite these challenges, there is national and international effort to find ways to strengthen rehabilitation services in Ukraine – but collaboration between rehabilitation stakeholders can be difficult, with rare opportunities for face-to-face meetings in the country.

As part of the “Strengthening Rehabilitation Services in Health Systems” (SRSHS) project implemented by Momentum Wheels for Humanity, with the support of the American people through USAID, Physiopedia organised the Leadership for Rehabilitation Education and Workforce Development Workshop for Ukraine, which took place in Warsaw, Poland, on 4–6 October 2023. 

This highly collaborative effort involved multiple stakeholders sharing their experience of the rehabilitation workforce in Ukraine and learning together through workshops from local and international experts and facilitated professional conversations. The meeting was hosted by Larisa Hoffman, Yara Peterko and Olha Kovalchuk from Physiopedia, alongside Nataliia Melnychenko, Jon Warren and Marcia Greenberg from Momentum Wheels for Humanity. In attendance were 20 participants from the Ministry of Health of Ukraine; Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine; and Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, along with the Ukrainian rehabilitation professions member organisations for physical therapy, ergotherapy (occupational therapy), speech and language therapy, prosthetics and orthotics, as well as several universities and the War Trauma Rehabilitation Project. 

Image of Larisa Hoffman presenting to delegates at the Leadership for Rehabilitation Workforce Development and Education in Ukraine Warsaw, Poland 4-6 October 2023

The first priority of the workshop was to harness interprofessional collaboration in developing a strategy for regulation of rehabilitation professionals in Ukraine. The Professionalisation and Regulation Reflection Tool (PRRT) of the International Rehabilitation Education and Training Toolkit (IRETT) that is being developed as part of the USAID-funded ReLAB-HS activity was used to guide these discussions. This resulted in collaboration between the professional member organisations in plans to develop an interprofessional position statement and code of ethics as well as individual professional standards.

“Interprofessional communication, advice from international experts, new challenges and strategies for implementing new ideas really inspire further work and improvement of educational programs. I am sincerely grateful to the project organisers, colleagues, and international experts for the opportunity to attend the meeting.” Tetiana Odynets, Head of the Department, Khortytska National Training and Rehabilitation Academy

Second, universities shared their work to date on programme review and development including philosophy, strategic assessment, alignment with international standards and educational approaches. As part of this, the benefits of using translated Physiopedia Plus (Plus) courses to augment teaching in University courses was highlighted, with teachers appreciating being able to focus their class time on educational strategies that emphasise application of the prior online learning via Plus courses. Guided by the Academic Program Reflection Tool (APRT) of the IRETT, the group then used time together to continue work to develop the roadmap for strengthening university educational programmes to international standards.

“This [workshop] gave us the opportunity to hear each other, to hear that you are not alone with your problems. And the most important thing is that after this event, each of us saw the steps to get out of these problems…” Ukrainian Catholic University – Vira Rokoshevska, Head of the Department of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Leadership for Rehabilitation Workforce Development and Education in Ukraine Warsaw, Poland 4-6 October 2023

The meeting exceeded expectations of both the organisers and participants. Engaging discussions of the complex challenges faced by rehabilitation services lead to a rare opportunity for collaboration between government officials, member associations, and educators, which will extend beyond this meeting and into future planning and strategy.

 “It is even surprising that some things that we could not solve for dozens of zoom meetings, here, in live face-to-face communication on neutral territory, we understood and agreed together…” Serhii Ubogov, Head of the Department of Medical Personnel, Education and Science, Ministry of Health

By supporting education and workforce development for rehabilitation professions in Ukraine, this ongoing work is empowering local leaders and contributing to strengthening the rehabilitation services in Ukraine.


This meeting was organised by the Physiopedia team within the frame of the project “Strengthening Rehabilitation Services in Health System” (SRSHS), implemented by Momentum Wheels for Humanity, with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).