“I love telling people what I do,” says U of A Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation graduate student, Kelsey Hurley. Kelsey works as an exercise physiologist in the Alberta Health Care’s Primary Care Network (PCN).
PCNs bring physicians together with health professionals such as dietitians, nurses, mental health professionals and exercise physiologists to develop solutions to meet the needs of their patients and their health issues. The philosophy is that at the primary point of contact—a patient with their family physician is where a team-based approach can provide comprehensive and pro-active health care.
Recognizing the value that a qualified exercise physiologist can bring to a team of allied health professionals was not difficult, once physicians realize that they are available, says Kelsey. “It feels great to do what I do. Hopefully I can add voice to the awareness and help shape the future.” In a world where the value of physical activity to health has become more apparent, Kelsey envisions a health system that recognizes and uses exercise physiologists as routinely as dietitians and mental health professionals.
“I have so much variety in my work,” says Kelsey. Some sessions are direct consultations with patients from physician referrals providing assessments, and strategies for exercise that contribute to improving chronic health conditions such as Diabetes, weight management, cardiovascular disease, M.S. and Parkinsons, arthritis, pain management, fibromyalgia—the list goes on. “It’s not a formula, each patient is different, and I work within the team.“
Meeting with patients, assessing and devising strategies that can work for each person is where Kelsey uses her creativity and core knowledge. As a valued member of the PCN team, Kelsey collaborates with other professionals to share knowledge and ideas and to solve problems to come up with meaningful solutions that can contribute to the health of individuals and the community within their network. “I am so proud to work within such a distinguished community,”says Kelsey.
She has come a long way from Grand Prairie Regional College, where she completed her first two years of post-secondary education. “I’ve always wanted to learn about the body,” says Kelsey, who has been interested in everything from massage therapy to physiotherapy. “It has been a lovely evolution.” From Grand Prairie, Kelsey entered the University of Alberta FPER, and in one of her applied courses was lucky enough to do a practicum at the General Hospital Centre for Health in the Pulmonary Breath Easy program. It was there that Kelsey knew her interest lay in working in clinical settings.
Now, Kelsey’s week is divided between patient consultations, teaching introduction to physical activity classes at the PCN, and facilitating small community-based fitness classes. Working with patients from such a wide variety of backgrounds, and different health needs motivated Kelsey to pursue graduate school. She is in the first year of a Masters in Physical Education and Recreation, with a specialization in Exercise Psychology. “I wanted to know more about behavior change as it relates to health behavior.” Kelsey also wants to have more impact in the health field by working at a policy level and helping to create programs that create real and positive change for better health outcomes for everyone.
Written by Zanne Cameron