Introducing a Physiotherapist
Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) physiotherapist Mark Ruggiero is currently working as an advanced practice provider, helping patients across the region with moderate to severe osteoarthritis find the best treatment options.
Advanced practice providers have additional training and qualifications, which allow them to take on advanced roles in their field such as examining and referring patients for surgical consultation or other treatment options such as physiotherapy. Ruggiero is with the Musculoskeletal Central Intake and Assessment Centre, with clinics at HHS Juravinski Hospital (JH), Brantford General Hospital, Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington and Niagara Health. He’s one of six HHS advanced practice providers working at these sites. Patients must be referred by their doctor or nurse practitioner, and appointments are covered by OHIP.
Ruggiero is providing insight into his work to help promote National Physiotherapy Month in May.
Developing a specialty
Ruggiero is a fellow in the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapy, a professional organization of physiotherapists who have completed post-graduate training that meets international standards. A master’s degree in physiotherapy is required to join, and members undergo extensive training in orthopedics and hands-on therapy.
Ruggiero also has years of advanced training through the Canadian Physiotherapy Association’s orthopedic division. This training provided him with advanced manual therapy and clinical reasoning skills, which help him assess and diagnose patients.
A rewarding career at HHS
Before joining HHS, Ruggiero worked as a physiotherapist in the private sector. But that changed with the arrival of the pandemic, which resulted in the temporary closure of physiotherapy clinics province-wide. Ruggiero applied for a job at the HHS Regional Rehabilitation Centre, landing a position in October 2020 as orthopedic/musculoskeletal physiotherapist with the centre’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Specialty Programs. This HHS team conducts advanced assessments and treats workers with complex injuries through a partnership between the hospital and WSIB.
After two years with WSIB Specialty Programs, Ruggiero decided to try something new and successfully applied for the temporary two-year advanced practice provider position with the Musculoskeletal Central Intake and Assessment Centre. He spends three days a week at JH, and one day a week at each of Brantford and Niagara Falls hospitals.
Enjoying his new role
“While I miss the hands-on treatment aspect of clinical care, I’m really enjoying my new position assessing, educating and referring patients,” says Ruggiero, who has been working in this new role since last October. “This is purely an assessment, diagnosis, and triage role. It requires a lot of high-level thinking, and I really enjoy helping patients find the appropriate avenue of care for dealing with their pain.”
Ruggiero’s patients tend to be middle-aged or older. During their assessment, he reviews their medical history, and any x-rays or advanced imaging reports, and asks questions about their health. He conducts tests to see how well the patient can move, and what causes their pain. He then discusses treatment options with the patient and comes up with a plan that can best help them. Avenues could include a referral to an orthopedic surgeon or other specialist, or to a community physiotherapy centre for treatment.
“I really enjoy helping people find the right pathway towards decreased pain and increased function,” says Ruggiero. “It’s extremely rewarding to have this kind of positive impact on people’s lives.”