Kari Styles, Physiotherapist and Clinical Educator at CBI Health, shares her views on the importance of both client and clinician education, as well as the power of assessing and treating the whole person, not just the injury.


How long have you been at CBI Health and what is your role?

I have worked as a Physiotherapist for the past 21 years at various CBI Health clinics in southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Throughout my career, I have placed a strong emphasis on continuing education and that manifested into a Clinical Educator role for the last 15 years.


What types of conditions do your clients normally come to you for help with?

I have treated a broad spectrum of clients and conditions, from young athletes with sports-related injuries all the way to fall prevention with seniors. I aim to treat the whole person and not just their injury, with a combination of hands-on treatment, exercise, and education. I believe strongly in developing a therapeutic alliance with my clients through empathetic listening, thorough physical assessment, and collaborative goal setting.

I am also a lead physiotherapist in the early intervention concussion rehabilitation program at our clinic in British Columbia. The goal of early targeting is to avoid prolonged recovery for people who have experienced work-related injuries. It is very rewarding to assess and treat these injuries and symptoms early, through a range of highly tailored interventions.




Can you tell me about a time when you made a significant impact on a client’s life?

A client came in with severe lower back and leg pain. She had a CT scan report indicating the presence of lateral spinal stenosis, a condition where the spaces in your spine begin to narrow and cause pressure on the nerves leading to your spine. When I conducted a full assessment and testing of her symptoms, she did not fit the clinical pattern of spinal stenosis. She did have significant limitations of hip motion on the affected side with reproduction of her pain. I communicated with her physician and specialist that her hip, not her back, appeared to be the source of her symptoms. My client then was referred for hip imaging resulting in a referral for total hip replacement. When she returned to me for post-operative rehabilitation, her pain quickly started to resolve with each treatment, she was able to complete her rehabilitation program successfully, and was very happy to return to her daily walks. For me, this case highlighted the importance of a thorough subjective and objective assessment and using imaging only as part of the clinical picture.


What sort of training and educational opportunities have been offered to you at CBI Health?

I believe that we never stop learning as physiotherapists and our clients should be receiving the best quality in evidence-led, client-centered care. CBI Health has been extremely supportive with any course or training I have sought out through the years. I completed my Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapy (FCAMPT) in 2003, Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)/dry needling training, and the Doctoral of Physical Therapy program through Evidence in Motion (EIM), a post-professional education platform for healthcare providers (competed in 2018). This program is unfortunately not available in Canada anymore, but it was integral in reinforcing the importance of treating with a bio-psycho-social framework, keeping up to date with current literature, and translating that knowledge into clinical practice. CBI Health has many high-quality internal courses to take advantage of and now with the increased use of virtual learning, there is more access to education leaders across the country.

From an educator perspective, I have been involved in providing educational sessions for CBI Health colleagues, physicians and more recently for nurse practitioners as well. For many years, I have been a clinical mentor to physiotherapy students and I have presented topics for the University of British Columbia (UBC) Ortho Club. In 2018, I was very proud to receive a UBC Clinical Mentorship award at the Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia (PABC) Forum. I have recently been accepted onto the UBC clinical faculty and this will help facilitate my continuing involvement with students.


What motivates and drives your work?

I love being a Physiotherapist and after 26 years in this career, I am still excited to go to work every day to do what I do best – improve the health and wellness of my community. I believe my clients feel my passion and sincere desire to improve the quality of their lives and this helps them to become actively involved in their recovery. A quote that I learned on a course that I use a lot with my clients is, “I can give you the recipe, but you have to cook it”. I don’t want to be thought of as someone who is going to “fix” them, but someone that will stand alongside them to guide and coach them into recovery.


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