Worldly wise: one WCPT experience

Stuart Palma gives a personal reflection on attending his first World Confederation for Physical Therapy event.

Last month’s WCPT conference in Singapore attracted more than 3,500 physiotherapists and 2,800 abstracts submissions from around the world. As the largest physiotherapy conference, it offered much more than I expected.
The event offered opportunities to engage with others, share information and develop contacts in abundance. 
Being able to chat and spend time with peers form all over the world was inspiring. It included speaking to Australian colleagues about how to empower physios before they are able to change patients’ behavior, through to hearing from the Philippines how Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 had affected physiotherapy provision. 
Although physio in the UK is still considered cutting edge, it made me realise the importance of thinking beyond UK boundaries, and that there is still so much to learn from others.
I was also impressed by the number of physiotherapists who went from the UK, some of whom I had been meaning to catch up with for months or years – typical that it took 13 hours’ flying time and 6,736 miles to make this happen!  
Session formats included keynotes, symposiums, platforms, ‘rapid fives’, debates, discussions and posters. I submitted and had two abstracts (co-authored) accepted for the conference. It was great to see Sue Hayward-Giles, the CSP’s assistant director of practice development, deliver a presentation on economic modelling so well using the five-minute format. Despite the constraints, Sue engaged the audience and there was a lot of interest around the work. On the final day, I presented a poster on physiotherapists’ understanding of public health. These poster ‘walkway’ sessions were a great way to encourage discussion between delegates.  
A personal learning highlight was the public health panel discussion. I was keen to emphasise the research the CSP had done in this area. Ensuring that we empower the public is essential, but we should not forget that we also need to  empower ourselves in this somewhat misunderstood area. 
Constructively challenging the panel led to a round of applause and a plethora of future opportunities, including an invitation to the WCPT health promotion network session. Setting myself an aim of asking a question at every session I attended proved to be a useful way of creating networking and engagement opportunities. Advocacy and advancing practice were other key conference themes. 
The UK profession is at the cutting edge  – a momentum that we must continue. As incoming WCPT president Emma Stokes, said the profession to be ‘responsive, imaginative and courageous’. 
Writing this column a week after the congress ended, I can’t decide whether I’m still jet-lagged or suffering from post-conference blues. The event was an eye opener, offering more learning, sharing and engagement opportunities than I had expected. 
For me, social media were a driving force, helping me to share learning and spread enthusiasm and energy.
The next chance to be part of it will be European region WCPT event in Liverpool next year. It’s in my diary. 
  • Stuart Palma is a CSP professional adviser Twitter: @SP_Physio email:
Stuart Palma CSP professional adviser

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