Physio Spotlight: Janelle van Heeren
It takes a village to give someone the long-term support they need. The communal nature of caregiving is in the center of Janelle van Heeren’s world. A long-term care physiotherapist working in the rural town of Rocky Mountain House, Janelle is well acquainted with the close-knit community that surrounds her area of expertise.
Taking on long-term care work means “you get to develop a different relationship” from traditional physiotherapy clients, “not just with them, but with their family … every single day, you get to work with amazing nursing staff, dietary staff, speech, and speech pathologists”. Developing a relationship not just with her clients, but their family, within their home allows her to become one of many that come together to become a person’s support system in their daily life. In gradually building familiarity over months at a time in this way, Janelle gets to see the person behind her clients, an aspect of her work she treasures. “There's a different way of truly understanding what somebody's needs are or what they're going through” in seeing them so frequently in an environment they’re most comfortable in.
This is a concept that bleeds into her everyday life, particularly living in such a small community. Where some people might dislike crossing paths with their clients in public, Janelle takes it as a humbling advantage. “There's something about having interaction with the people you serve as a physio, but then you also might get to see them out at your kid's sports game, or you might see them in the co-op.” And just like getting to see her clients in a more casual light at home, her clients have the opportunity to see the person behind their physiotherapist in this context as well. “I think sometimes it's nice for us as therapists to also be seen for who we are. In a rural area, you definitely have that potential because they get to see who you are and your outer work time too.” It’s a nice opportunity for both parties to be seen “as a person” and “for who they are” outside of their physio sessions.
That strong sense of community carries even further over into her work with children. “One thing that we, as a profession, do very well is interacting with other people and making it a team concept, just with a little kiddo in the middle of it.” Her pediatric work means she interacts with parents, teachers, and occupational therapists on a regular basis, all with the same end goal of helping a child. The selflessness and true kindness in working with one another to better the life of a person, be they young or old, is not lost on Janelle. “I wish people understood how truly holistic [physiotherapy] is,” she notes. “It really is about you as a person. It really is about your identity. And for the most part, it’s about joy …There’s so much that focuses on getting you back to who you are and who you’re meant to be, so that you’re actually living your best life.”
Janelle van Heeren has been dedicated to promoting mobility and play in her home community of Rocky Mountain House for over 20 years. As Janelle’s children grew, her passion for pediatric physiotherapy grew as well. Janelle has been adding to her repertoire of techniques, adding acupuncture and other techniques over the years.