Terry Fedorkiw immigrated from Ireland to B.C in 1973 and rather than settle in Vancouver and take a position at GF Strong she had been offered, Terry chose to move her physiotherapy practice to northern B.C. in search of “the real” Canada. She fell in love with the landscape, lifestyle and people. 45 years later, Terry says “I came up here to get to the soul of Canada, with no intention of staying, let me tell you. The rest is history,” from her private practice clinic in Prince George.
Drawn by the north’s unique opportunities and challenges, Terry balances both with her connection to the community. She has come to see the lasting impact of physical therapy on the people living there, “Our skills are from the cradle to the grave. From the baby born with torticollis to the woman living in hospice. We help people have the best function possible for their entire lives.” Being active is important to her also, “We have access to an active lifestyle, skiing, canoeing, and I also feel very valued and needed by the patients. It’s very rewarding to work here.”
Terry says the biggest challenge facing physiotherapists and those in need of care in rural B.C is the shortage of physios. “We’re really struggling up here to get coverage and for patients to have access to physio, it’s pretty sad,” she says.
A long-time advocate for change in the north, Terry has been working with a goal for the University of Northern BC (UNBC) to have its own physiotherapy program. “I’ve been working at this for 15 years, and if we can situate the program here, then people will embrace the north. The lifestyle and challenge will entice physios. The challenge of providing services to the communities, it makes us stronger and more well-rounded.”
Currently, the Government of British Columbia, UBC and the University of Northern British Columbia run a collaborative initiative called the Northern and Rural Cohort, sending 20 of the 80 MPT student cohort at UBC to complete four out of their six clinical placements in northern and rural communities. Following Level 1 placements, these students complete an academic block at UNBC in Prince George using education technology. Terry thinks that’s not enough, saying “they come here for some rotations, but then they go back to the lower mainland to complete them and we lose them. The only way to address this is to really train people here. People who train in the north stay in the north.”
Newly retired at the beginning of June 2018, Terry wants to remain in northern British Columbia, educating and mentoring young physiotherapists and pushing for positive change in the field of physiotherapy. “Physiotherapists are the catalysts for change in people, that’s what I love. It’s been my life, and it’s been a very satisfying life.”