Ethics for Physiotherapists

Burnout – Then and Now

Managing conflicting priorities has been a part of every Physiotherapist’s practice since our first student placements.  The pandemic has taken this daily juggle for many to an entirely new level.

While the toll that the pandemic has taken on Manitoba Physiotherapists is likely quite varied, there would be few, if any, who would have had no effect at all. Through our training and practise we have become adept at caring for others, we may, however, have less honed our ability to evaluate and care for our emotional selves.

As ethical practitioners we are aware that the decisions that we make everyday affect the health and well being of the people that we serve.  How do these decisions affect us? What happens when, in our attempt to care for ourselves, other important values are sacrificed? How does one process having to do as an employer requires when it goes against personal morals or when what is asked of us falls outside of our skillset.  How do we cope when our daily task list continuously exceeds the time that we have to carry them out?  The list goes on.

The CPM Ethics Committee has chosen to explore Burnout and Moral Injury, respectfully recognizing that some members may be dealing with aspects of these challenging phenomena. Our hope is to provide some insight as well as resources to validate and support the membership.

The following short article depicts the lead up and fall out of an allied health professional who made a difficult and decision regarding their own “Self Care”.

Burnt out healthcare worker ‘barely sleeping with guilt’ after faking Covid symptoms for day off – Dublin Live

The susceptibility to “Burnout” for Physiotherapists is not a new concept.   In 2017, Physiotherapy Alberta published a white paper, exploring this issue long before the global pandemic.  Unfortunately, this paper is no longer available on the Physiotherapy Alberta Website

In October 2021, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table published a brief focusing on this issue in Hospital Based Healthcare Workers.  This provides a current and comprehensive analysis of burnout from a Canadian perspective and also includes evidence-based interventions.

Both of these works make reference to the need for effective management and mitigation strategies to include intervention at both the individual and organizational levels, thus recognizing that the individual may not carry the sole responsibility.

Moral Distress “Pain or anguish resulting when you know the right thing to do, but are prevented from doing it” is presented as a primary driver of Burnout. Moral Distress Quick (  The impact of moral distress may result in Moral Injury “the lasting psychological, spiritual, behavioral or social impact that may result from these experiences.

The following link is from U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, National Centre for PTSD.  It has developed an information page, with management strategies, specific to Moral Injury in Health Care Workers.

Many Physiotherapists in Manitoba have been subject to a wide range of redeployment over the course of the pandemic.  Strategies for managing the stresses of redeployment are found in the following infographic from WRHA  Redeployment During Covid – For Employees[5283].pdf

There is a myriad of current and established literature addressing emotional toll on health care providers.  The articles embedded in this article have been reviewed by the CPM Ethics committee members (Manitoba Physiotherapists who work in public and private practice) and have been thought to be informative and provide helpful strategies to assist those of us who may be experiencing increased levels of stress and/or burnout.  These articles will be included on the CPM Website in the Ethics Committee Resource list under the heading RECOGNIZING AND MANAGING MORAL DISTRESS

We invite members to send feedback to this or previous Ethics Committee submissions to: