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Profile: Rural physiotherapists


Left to right: Bernice Lee, rehabilitation assistant and Cole Balaski, physiotherapist operate the rehabilitation department at the hospital in Bella Coola.

​May is National Physiotherapy Month. To celebrate, the 400 Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) physiotherapists and rehabilitation assistants would like to share what they do every day. From highly specialized acute care settings in Vancouver to small rural community settings, VCH physiotherapists and rehabilitation assistants treat a wide range of people and conditions. This week,​ we are highlighting one of our rural physiotherapists!

Cole Balaski works in Bella Coola as the sole charge physiotherapist and along with Bernice Lee, rehabilitation assistant, they operate the rehabilitation department at the hospital. 

The Bella Coola General Hospital is a 15-bed acute care facility providing basic acute care, long-term care, and medical services. Approximately 50% of the population of Bella Coola belongs to the Nuxalk First Nation. The rehabilitation department treats everything from musculoskeletal injuries in outpatient care to inpatient acute care for those hospitalized with illness, as well as care for long term residents with various orthopaedic and neurological conditions. 

Working rurally requires resourceful and creating thinking

Working rurally requires resourceful and creative thinking in order to solve complex patient problems which challenges Cole's skill set on a daily basis. Typical treatment sessions involve patient education, exercise prescription and occasionally dry needling.​​ ​Without access to specialist care, Cole collaborates with many VCH teams on a regular basis and develops new skills.

“I love working in Bella Coola for many reasons," says Cole. "Firstly, I really love the opportunity here. Both to participate in community events and volunteer organizations as well as to advance my clinical skills as a physiotherapist." 

The physiotherapy team is also involved in providing a range of health, social stimulation and therapeutic recreational programs in a group setting to older adults, designed to prolong senior's independence in the community. In addition, they run an equipment loan program for the community that is similar to the Red Cross. ​

Bella Coola - a magical place 

Moreover, Cole is passionate about rural living and contributes to the local community through volunteering at the local fire department and search and rescue. 

“Bella Coola is a magical place with endless opportunity for adventure," he says. "I have a passion for the outdoors and love that I can access a mountain or river within minutes from anywhere in the valley.”

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