Know Your Heroes: Marsha Alvares

Name: Marsha Alvares
Title: Physiotherapist Practitioner, Schroeder Arthritis Institute
Number of years working in health care: 14
I was born and raised in: Toronto

I decided to get into health care because I learned at an early age about the role of physiotherapy in health and well-being. As a child, I was a competitive dancer and had my share of bone and joint injuries. In highschool I volunteered in the Rehab Services department at SickKids. Helping children to regain mobility and function to improve the quality of not only their lives but their caregivers, had me hooked.

My role here at UHN is for my fellow Physiotherapist Practitioners and I to work together to ensure that patients with pain due to osteoarthritis have timely access to specialized treatment and care planning. With a strong foundation and understanding of non-surgical management, including education, exercise prescription, bracing and links to resources we are able to help our patients within the hospital and in their home and community.

In my Clinical Manager role, I work with an innovative and passionate team within the Division of Orthopedics to continue to evolve integrated models of care for our patient populations. Wrapping our care around the patient and their families to empower them in their recovery both in and out of hospital, and connecting them with their teams remotely through technology and other supports are just some of our exciting next steps. 

COVID-19 has affected me since Outpatient Services and elective surgeries all came to a standstill in March 2020. We saw delayed referrals to do reduced family doctor access and patients were forced to ensure often debilitating joint pain with no surgical date in sight.

We were able to pivot to virtual care quickly to ensure patients continued to have access to specialized assessment and options for pain management while waiting for surgery. We developed patient and provider resources to assist with the implementation of virtual care.  COVID-19 taught me that we are resilient and that when faced with adversity, if we come together as a team for our patients only good can come of it.

The thing I love the most about my job is that I am proud of the positive rapport I can build with my patients who are in various stages of their care: pre-surgery, inpatient and post-surgery. I can explore the role of exercise, wellness, nutrition and education in helping patients improve their mobility and manage their pain. I have a huge passion for seeing the bigger picture and Physiotherapist Practitioners are only scratching the surface of what we can do.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is how resilient and adaptable our team has been during the pandemic. Our pivot to virtual care, developing resources in record time to support our patients through the virtual care transition and making changes to our existing integrated care pathways to support the changing post-pandemic patient population.

I’m inspired by seeing patients holistically, understanding how their joint pain is affecting their life and how we can assist in improving their pain, function and quality of life. Understanding that the patient experience is fueled not just by a single interaction, but by the support you provide to them throughout their entire health care journey – that is my motivation to always do more. 

One of my personal heroes is Mother Teresa because
as a leader she led by example. Rolling up her sleeves and doing the hard work to motivate others to do the same. I try to live by her words “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”

I’m sometimes worried about how COVID-19 brought about a slew of worries – and it is easy to look at our world now and see things to worry about: hate protests, climate change – but I also see so much good.

Look for the good and you will worry less.

I’ve found joy recently from reconnecting with family and friends after being apart for so long. Sharing food, drinks and laughs.

One of my favourite books is The Authenticity Project because it reminded me that it only takes one interaction with one stranger, even if it is just something you write in a book and someone else finds, and it could change the course of both of your lives forever. It is a BIG world and it is a small world. Small actions can make a big difference and you may not even be aware of it. 

My ideal day off is briskly walking the city of Toronto with a coffee in hand, window shopping, fresh air, smiling at people as they pass… (and maybe an afternoon spa massage!).

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