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Staff Appreciation Post: Lizzie McKay

Staff Appreciation Post: Lizzie McKay

Today we would love to celebrate the work of Lizzie Mckay, one of our brilliant physiotherapists. As you will see, her work extends above and beyond what you may imagine the role of “physiotherapist” entails.

Lizzie has been with the Laura Fergusson Brain Injury Trust since January 2022 and works across many areas in the organisation. Beginning working in our rehab team with Training for Independence clients, she has since also moved into working simultaneously with our assessment team on specialised client equipment. “Equipment” could be a handcycle, a power add-on to a wheelchair, a sit ski, or could even be as simple as walking poles. She also has started working within our wheelchair and seating team and is also studying towards her level one accreditation.

For Lizzie, day-to-day work as a physiotherapist is never the same. There may be work in the office; writing reports and enquiring about equipment with suppliers, and supervising peers in different teams. But the majority of Lizzie’s work is done out and about.

“It could vary from being on Mount Hutt for the day skiing with a client; to getting a client into open water swimming, being at the beach or supporting them into the hydro pool; or getting them into the Port Hills, helping them to do some hiking; or even trials for equipment, at Bottle Lake or the Waimakariri River for hand cycles or; we could be working at the client’s house, on the pavement, or indoors with powered wheels; I could be at Ilam Road doing orthotic gait trials.” “It’s very, very varied!”

Clients of Lizzie out and about!

For the most part, Lizzie is on the road exploring new areas for her clients to expand into Sometimes this can be as far as the West Coast, where she will go for two days and see a group of clients, before making the drive back.

“The services over there are quite limited because of their population size. Our specialist service is integral to the recovery and rehab of the people who live there.”

Lizzie always knew she wanted to work with people in healthcare. Growing up, she spent time with family members who had Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. After attending a physiotherapy seminar, and in watching the care of family, she immediately knew it was something she wanted to do herself.

“Being able to support other families who are going through lots of change is really quite special. I strive to empower them so that they feel a little control during a sometimes-powerless period. I really appreciate that I get to facilitate their journeys and hopefully make it feel less daunting and scary."

The many paths that physiotherapy can take were also a big motivating factor for Lizzie. While living in the UK, Lizzie found herself working with spinal injuries and in critical care, and now in NZ, she has found herself specialising in neuro and adaptive sports. It is a career that is open to exploring something new!

“I feel very fortunate that I found a vocation that keeps me engaged, and is something I am really proud of. I've been able to enable access for others and promote inclusivity in the outdoors and sport. It’s a honour.”

One huge highlight of her work is seeing her clients thrive in a space that they didn’t know they could experience or explore.

“I remember once at Mount Hutt, there was all this commotion behind me, and I turned around and saw one of our clients skiing with his friends. It was so cool to see him in that realm, with people being like, ‘Whoa, like, what's that?’ Other people were talking to him, engaging with him. It's pretty amazing, because we'd spent three months teaching his dad and his friends how to do it with Adpative Snow Sports Canterbury, and then actually to see them putting it all to use was awesome.”

“Helping other people to be able to access this whole realm that they didn't know that they could be in – it is so cool watching more people flourish in it.”

There are a few things that Lizzie enjoys about working at LFBIT. The first is flexibility. There is a wide range of cases to work with, and there is the opportunity to focus on what you are interested in, and to direct your learning. Adaptive sports is one main area where Lizzie has excelled in. Starting by volunteering with ParaFed, Lizzie’s connections in the space have grown, giving her a platform to learn and bring this knowledge back to LFBIT. She now works as a classifier for New Zealand wheelchair rugby. With so many staff bringing new knowledge, Lizzie really appreciates the work of our Interdisciplinary team.

“The team, honestly, it's just a resource of specialty and knowledge. Anything complex and wonderful, there's always somebody that you can chat things through with, and always somebody that's willing to support or learn with you.”

Among all her work across so many spaces, Lizzie has also been a part of the team that developed a new respiratory service.

If someone were to have an accidental related respiratory issue there is no immediate community respiratory team. Lizzie and the team saw a need and developed the Respiratory Service to do just that. As a team they have developed a client database for respiratory needs and created pathways with GPs and ACC, so they can refer clients to our services. They assess those with respiratory needs and provide appropriate equipment to keep them in the community. They have created resources, client packs and respiratory training for clients, carers and whānau.

“This is a great opportunity to reflect on what I get to do every day and to express my gratitude to those that have helped shape my learning and development. Thank you to Mark McIntosh, Kathy Dwyer, Nicole Vercoe and Sophie Heath, appreciate your knowledge and skill endlessly but also thanks to my trusting clients!’.

We’d love to thank Lizzie for her work!