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Physiotherapy: What We Do

Physiotherapists work within an Allied Health team consisting of Dietetics and Nutrition, Psychology,  Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Clinical Measurements, Pharmacy and Medical Imaging. This team works closely with medical officers, nursing and other support staff to optimise patient recovery and well-being.

Physiotherapists play a major role in the following areas:

  • strengthening and physical conditioning
  • assessment and treatment of cardio-respiratory conditions
  • facilitation of correct movement patterns
  • restoring balance and mobility
  • pain relief
  • education of patients and carers
  • injury/health prevention
  • prescription of mobility aids
  • rehabilitation post injury

Physiotherapists at Cairns Hospital (CH) provide care for both inpatients and outpatients across the areas of: 


Physiotherapists work with patients post trauma, surgery and elective surgery to regain function, enhance mobility and provide exercises to strengthen and increase range of motion to maximise recovery.

Medical Wards

Physiotherapists work with respiratory conditions, and assist a wide variety of people to improve their mobility and function post-illness.

Intensive Care (ICU) and High Dependency (HDU)   

Physiotherapists provide respiratory care for critically ill ventilated and non-ventilated patients and patients requiring high dependency monitoring. Physiotherapists maintain and increase strength and joint movement through passive and active exercises; assist with regaining mobility; treat musculoskeletal conditions and commence rehabilitation once patients are well enough to participate in therapy.

Physiotherapy Department CH

Coronary Care

Physiotherapists treat a variety of respiratory and other illnesses, and assist in commencing Phase 1 Cardiac Rehabilitation in hospital.

Surgical Ward

Physiotherapists provide care for patients undergoing a variety of surgical procedures:

  • Abdominal surgery
  • Vascular surgery
  • Amputations
  • Head and neck surgery
  • Minor thoracic and cardiac procedures
  • Burns

Physiotherapists work with patients both pre- and post-operatively to maintain function and mobility and manage respiratory conditions.


Inpatient and Outpatient management and treatment of childhood respiratory diseases (such as Cystic Fibrosis and Pneumonia); neurodevelopmental assessments and treatments for conditions such as Cerebral Palsy; and orthopaedic conditions.

Physiotherapy Department CH

Women’s Health

Physiotherapists assist women of many ages with ante-natal and post-natal issues, and with recovery post illness and injury.

Musculoskeletal and Orthopaedic Outpatients

Physiotherapists provide individual assessment, treatment and management of a variety of client groups:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions including soft tissue injuries
  • Vestibular and Balance problems
  • Post orthopaedic surgical conditions
  • Outpatient ante-natal management
  • Low back pain management

Hand Clinic

Working closely with the Occupational Therapy Department, physiotherapists provide assessment, treatment and rehabilitation for patients following trauma/surgery to the hand and upper limb

Neurological Rehabilitation

Physiotherapists work within a multidisciplinary team and under direction of a rehabilitation physician and geriatrician to provide rehabilitation to patients with conditions such as:

  • Acute and post-acute stroke
  • Head Injury
  • Spinal Injury
  • Mobility and balance disorders
  • Other neurological conditions

The rehabilitation unit also caters for orthopaedic patients, aged and de-conditioned clients who require physiotherapy in order to maintain and gain mobility, strength, endurance, balance and independence.

Amputee Rehabilitation

  • Amputees are provided with physiotherapy from pre-surgery, throughout their inpatient stay and as an outpatient to achieve functional independence and mobility.
  • CH has a specialised senior physiotherapist with a keen interest in amputees. CH works closely with visiting prosthetic and surgical footwear clinics, and a visiting orthotist to ensure patients receive high quality care.

Heart Failure

A physiotherapist works specifically with these patients to assist to increase exercise and activity, and make healthy lifestyle choices. 

Geriatric Evaluation and Management Service (GEMS)/ Older Persons Evaluation, Rehabilitation and Assessment (OPERA)

A Physiotherapist works as part of this multidisciplinary team to provide sub-acute rehabilitation to the geriatric population to assist them in optimising their function for a safe discharge.

Physiotherapy Department CH

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stroke Team

This team aims to provide high quality, evidenced based and culturally appropriate care for stroke survivors of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent. The multidisciplinary team follows stroke survivors throughout their recovery, from admission to hospital, through their rehabilitation process and provides ongoing follow-up and support after discharge.

Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Screening Clinic and Multidisciplinary Service     (OPSC & MDS)

Physiotherapists work with the Orthopaedics Department to identify patients awaiting orthopaedic / surgical opinion, who may benefit from non-surgical management of their orthopaedic (musculoskeletal) condition. The OPSC & MDS helps to reduce the waiting time for patients who do require surgery.

Emergency Department

An advanced Primary Contact Physiotherapist works with Nurse Practitioners and Medical staff within the large and busy Emergency Department and contributes to the care of patients with musculoskeletal injuries, minor fractures and dislocations, vestibular, cardiorespiratory and mobility and balance issues.

Cancer Care Services

Physiotherapists have many roles in assisting people to manage cancer or the effects of cancer treatments from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Cancer care Physiotherapists can offer support to inpatients and outpatients:

  • Managing the physical changes after cancer or cancer treatment
  • Musculoskeletal therapy – joint movement, posture, strength and flexibility
  • Mobility and walking aids advice
  • Cancer related fatigue
  • Lymphoedema
  • Respiratory care
  • Carer advice education and safe manual handling

Projects and Research

Cairns Hospital Physiotherapy Department is actively leading or participating in the following research projects in association with various funding partners:

  • Extended Scope of Practice for Physiotherapy in Emergency Department (funded through Health Workforce Australia)
  • Acute Stroke Team - has taken part in the National Stroke Foundation Acute Stroke Audit and have implemented AuSCR (Australian Stroke Care Registry) as part of our research/QI for stroke. (Partially funded through the Acute Stroke Incentive Payments Scheme, provided by the Statewide Stroke Clinical Network.)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stroke Care (funded through Closing the Gap Program)
  • Use of a shared competency and delegated practice Framework to maximise the efficiency of Allied Health Workforce in a regional Radiation Oncology Service (funded through the Better Access to Radiation Oncology Program)
  • OPSC – Optimising clinical and economic efficiency in selecting patients who will benefit from non surgical management of common musculoskeletal conditions in secondary health (Funding through multisite RBWH foundation research grant).

Physiotherapy Department CBH


CH Physiotherapy Department has strong links with external agencies to ensure a smooth care pathway from inpatient to community management through referrals when necessary and education for patients and/or carers via programs such as: 

  • Cairns Community Rehab Team
  • Family and Child Health Services
  • Child Development Service
  • Transition Care Program
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation (CAPERS)
  • Falls Prevention Programmes
  • Hydrotherapy

CH Physiotherapy is also linked to the physiotherapists who work in regional hospitals at Innisfail, Tully, Babinda, Atherton, Mareeba and Mossman.  CH provides a district reliever physiotherapist to help manage recreation leave in regional and Cairns Community facilities which enhances the relationships.

Last updated: 9 September 2013