Working the Front Lines: Amanda Innes, Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapist

Amanda Innes, mother of Ben, Grade 3, and William, Grade 5, is working with COVID patients every day in her job as a cardiorespiratory physiotherapist in the intensive care unit at Toronto General Hospital.
Normally, Amanda works part-time, often teaching University of Toronto students on clinical placement. She is also involved in a number of research studies. Her clinical focus is on helping patients wean off ventilators by using various chest physiotherapy techniques, and initiating early rehabilitation by getting patients up and moving as soon as possible.
A lot of that has changed since the COVID outbreak.
“We’re busy planning our COVID response both as an institution and also within the Physiotherapy Department,” said Amanda. “There is a huge push to upskill healthcare workers from other areas of the hospital to be able to work in critical care if needed. They’re pulling people out of retirement to cover the staff shortages, which are feared will come with the COVID pressures. I’m close to full-time now, but once we’re at the peak of COVID, my hours will certainly increase. I’ve been really impressed at the speed at which plans have been made and communicated across the different teams and services.”
Amanda no longer has a student working with her and all research has shopped. Her role is now almost exclusively clinical, with her job focused on helping COVID patients admitted to the ICU.
“Within the context of COVID, we know from countries in Europe such as Italy and Spain that these patients can produce very sticky secretions in their lungs,” said Amanda. “We try to improve their lung function by helping to clear these secretions. We are the only ones likely to ever ask COVID patients to cough! The ultimate goal is to wean them off the ventilators. We also initiate physical rehabilitation to try and get these patients stronger and more mobile.”
Amanda doesn't worry too much about being exposed to COVID patients and is doing her best to stay healthy.
“I feel safe. A lot of us have been through SARS and the H1N1 flu pandemic, so we have some experience. Obviously, this one is more serious, but we’re trying to be as prepared as possible. We’re careful with the use of our personal protective equipment, and we continue to practice social distancing even in the hospital, despite the fact that we are all wearing masks, all the time.  We also wash our hands about 500 times a day! It’s really nice to have the social interaction with my colleagues every day, but I do miss all of their smiles!”
Despite the risk, Amanda is grateful for the opportunity to help people.
“It’s about helping sick people get better, that’s why we do what we do. It’s so rewarding to be a part of that.”
Thank you, Amanda, for all that you do.