National Profile of Physical Therapists in Critical Care Units of Sri Lanka: Lower Middle-Income Country
Sigera PC., Tunpattu TMUS., Jayashantha TP., De Silva AP., Athapattu PL., Dondorp A., Haniffa R.
Abstract Background The availability and role of physical therapists in critical care is variable in resource-poor settings, including lower middle-income countries. Objective The aim of this study was to determine: (1) the availability of critical care physical therapist services, (2) the equipment and techniques used and needed, and (3) the training and continuous professional development of physical therapists. Methods All physical therapists working in critical care units (CCUs) of state hospitals in Sri Lanka were contacted. The study tool used was an interviewer-administered telephone questionnaire. Results The response rate was 100% (N=213). Sixty-one percent of the physical therapists were men. Ninety-four percent of the respondents were at least diploma holders in physical therapy, and 6% had non–physical therapy degrees. Most (n=145, 68%) had engaged in some continuous professional development in the past year. The majority (n=119, 56%) attended to patients after referral from medical staff. Seventy-seven percent, 98%, and 96% worked at nights, on weekends, and on public holidays, respectively. Physical therapists commonly perform manual hyperinflation, breathing exercises, manual airway clearance techniques, limb exercises, mobilization, positioning, and postural drainage in the CCUs. Lack of specialist training, lack of adequate physical therapy staff numbers, a heavy workload, and perceived lack of infection control in CCUs were the main difficulties they identified. Limitations Details on the proportions of time spent by the physical therapists in the CCUs, wards, or medical departments were not collected. Conclusions The availability of physical therapist services in CCUs in Sri Lanka, a lower middle-income country, was comparable to that in high-income countries, as per available literature, in terms of service availability and staffing, although the density of physical therapists remained very low, critical care training was limited, and resource limitations to physical therapy practices were evident.