Amelia Vitek: Exercise Physiologist
Can you describe a typical day on the job?
Start work at 7am and work till 4pm. Depending on the hour I usually take either one client as a one-on-one, a semi private group (3-4 clients at the one time) or a group class (which runs 1 x per day and the size is usually 5-6 members).
For my clients, I prescribe individualised programs to help them meet their goals. This could entail improving their functional strength, mobility, cardiovascular capacity or balance (or all of the above). I predominately work with the NDIS and have many clients with neurological disorders. My caseload of clients from the NDIS have disabilities ranging from down syndrome to Multiple Sclerosis, to Parkinson’s, to paraplegics, and many more. After consulting with each client I work out what they need to improve on to assist with their daily living and then work on that in the clinic. I also see many DVA clients (Department of Veterans affairs), Workcover clients (clients who got injured at work and their insurance company pays for their rehabilitation) and private clients. Throughout my day I also have time set aside to do my notes, write reports and do any other admin I may need to do.
Why did you choose an exercise physiologist as your career? What or who inspired you to do so?
I have never wanted a job where I sit behind a desk and wanted a career where I would be up on my feet and moving about. I also wanted to be able to help people and share my passion for health and fitness. During my undergraduate degree, I learnt about this career path and was interested about helping those in need to feel empowered through their own strength and function. I also was annoyed with the amount of people with disability who didn’t do exercise because they thought they weren’t able to or thought they didn’t have the access or funding.
I love knowing that my work makes a direct impact on my clients life. I also have a job that I look forward to going to and have fun while I am at work. It is a job where I am constantly learning!
What would you say are three key personality aspects or skills that make for a good exercise physiologist?
- Passionate – I feel you need to care for everyone of your clients and their health outcomes.
- Social – Having good social skills helps to build rapport with your clients and understand them on a deeper level.
- Energetic/outgoing – Being able to lift up your clients mood and have them feed off your energy.
What have you learned about yourself through the work that you do?
I have learnt how much I care about my clients and how passionate I am about their health outcomes. I spend a lot of time on my NDIS reports because I care so deeply about ensuring they get the annual funding I think they deserve. With my WorkCover clients, I celebrate each win with them and am so enthusiastic when I see them return to work.
Seeing any client achieve a goal or perform something they couldn’t do before is so motivating for me.
What’s been your best moment while doing your work?
Have had a lot of positive moments but one of my favourites was one I had recently. I had a lady who has MS and her goal was to be able to go to the local café with her friends. She wasn’t able to because she wasn’t able to walk in, she didn’t have the strength getting in and out of chairs and she was concerned about her balance and didn’t want to have a fall in public. After a couple months of functional strength training, improving walking capacity and balance training, this lady was able to walk in to the café with her friends without a walking cane. She even sent me a selfie of her and her friends at the café.
To see how my work positively influenced this lady was hugely motivating for me.
And a really hard moment?
I had a really hard moment when I was a student on placement doing my hours to become an Exercise Physiologist. I was in the hydrotherapy pool with a non verbal, autistic young girl who also had cerebral palsy and was very low functioning. She got around in an electric wheelchair and required 24hour care. After hoisting her in the pool, I was starting the program and then she started having a grand mal seizure. It was a very stressful moment and I struggled to hold the young girl above the water, even with the floatation brace she was wearing. Thankfully, we ( myself, the carer and my supervisor who was outside the pool) were able to safely get her out of the pool and she was fine. But this moment was really hard for we as I wanted to do the right thing and ensure the safety of the client. I also found it hard as the girl was nonverbal so I couldn’t ask her how she was feeling or talk to her to see when she had come back to consciousness (as her eyes were open during the fits). This was also a big learning curve.
How do you keep going when things get challenging?
I always make sure I have someone at work to run my ideas or problems past. Being a new graduate I am lucky to be surrounded my many other allied health practitioners who can help me out. But overall, I keep going by the fact that my clients need me to keep going in order to best help them. Seeing the difference I can make in their life definitely helps keep me going.
Are there any surprising or odd things that people wouldn’t expect if they picked this career?
The amount of time you spend on your feet ! The amount of face to face time with clients, ensuring you can be able to be social throughout the whole day.
I can see 20 + people a day and am talking all day and must be able to stay chatty and interested with each client.
Also remembering what I was talking about with that client last time to show I was interested and invested in what they were talking about.
Can you share a funny or weird story about something you experienced while working on a project?
One of my clients with down syndrome proposed to me while practising his lunges. He thought it was hilarious because he was down on one knee.
What advice would you give to young people considering pursuing a career in this industry?
Make sure you are passionate about health and fitness. You must 100% believe in the power of strength training and the benefits that it can have. Be someone who genuinely cares about the health of others (no matter their background or who they are).
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