Unlike most bursars, I am neither recently qualified nor new to posture and mobility services. I have been working in various wheelchair services as a locum physiotherapist for many years. Unfortunately, being a locum means it can be difficult to access in-house training and product demonstrations, and attending a conference such as PMG needs to be self-funded, which is not always possible.
I had the privilege of attending a PMG conference several years ago. I remember it being the single most informative, educational and interesting event that I had attended, where I was exposed to a plethora of equipment, research and highly skilled professionals all in one place. So, when I was offered a bursary to attend the 2017 conference, I set out hoping for the same, or maybe even better. I must say that I was not in the least bit disappointed!
There was a great start to the conference proceedings by Chris Rattenbury who captivated the audience with his life story. I have since encouraged some of our young service users to sign up to PMG and view the conference presentations to be inspired by such uplifting stories.
Amongst the other presentations, the experimental approach of one child, one chair by Caroline Desjardins, Susanne Ziegler and their team caught my attention. Many professionals I have worked with over the years have come up with similar concepts, but could never proceed to the experimental stage because of barriers around funding and logistics. So, congratulations to this team for overcoming these barriers. It would be interesting to get updates about their outcomes over a longer period; should their strategy be found to be beneficial in the longer term, it could well have a positive financial impact on health and social care services.
The very informative parallel session Show me the money by David Punt and Show me the stage by Dave Long provided insights into obtaining funding for small scale research, and advice on how to make an impact when presenting your research. Back on the main stage, both Lorna Tasker’s presentation outlining the mobile app technology for pressure ulcer monitoring and prevention used at the Rehabilitation Engineering Unit in Swansea, and the presentation on smart wheelchairs by Chinemelu Ezeh, University College London, highlighted how we are keeping up with technological advances, and how these can realistically benefit our clients.
I think many of my colleagues would agree that one of the greatest challenges faced by clinicians when training clients/carers on the use of cushions, such as Roho and Starlock, is to help them gauge how much air to let out, and when to lock the air valves. It was therefore exciting to see a number of manufacturers promoting digitised transducers, which was nicely backed up by the presentation from trainee clinical scientist, Benjamin Lee (see photograph), on the role of digitised pressure transducers. This also tied in with new findings from the research by Amit Gefen of Tel Aviv University into the physiology of pressure ulcers, in particular the role played by the deformation of tissue, and the use of technology such as doppler and ultrasound to further understand pressure ulcers.
For me, the most striking thing about the industry exhibition was how the manufacturers nowadays go to such lengths to present their products: some of the supplier stalls had the air of high end motor shows! I took every opportunity to get hands-on with the available equipment and the new products.
To sum it all up, the conference and the exhibition was everything I was hoping for and more, and the best way to describe it is that I feel as if I underwent a ‘reboot’! I can't think of a better event for professionals interested in wheelchairs, posture and pressure management to attend. The networking opportunities were endless for me; it was great to speak with so many professionals who have dedicated their entire careers to the field, and I'm certain I could apply most of the knowledge gained from this conference to every day practice. The one exception might be using horse hair in seat covers as introduced to us by Hans Candeborn in his delightful presentation - but only because it could be difficult to get hold of!