The Lived Experiences of People on a Rural Northern Canadian Outpatient Physiotherapy Waiting List

Chrissy Woodcock

Purpose: To determine how patients experience their wait for physiotherapy services in a rural northern Canadian setting.

Methods: A qualitative phenomenological semi-structured interview, followed by a survey. Five participants (4 females, 1 male) were interviewed about their experiences of waiting for services. Sixteen participants (13 female, 3 male), completed an online survey on waiting list management strategies, developed using the interview data. Survey data were analyzed to determine the most commonly preferred strategies for managing a wait from the patient’s perspective. Qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Findings: Participants described negative waiting experiences as those with an unknown process. Their waiting experiences were frustrating as they were unaware of the process of referral, waiting times, and pain management. Participants accepted the wait for services in the North, but could better tolerate the wait by understanding the process and providing some kind of timeline for the waiting. Survey participants identified length of time spent waiting (71/80), knowledge of waiting time (70/80), and receiving communication by telephone (70/80) as most important to them while waiting for PT services.

Conclusion: Northern Canadian rural outpatient PT departments must be aware of patient perceptions of waiting and incorporate patient needs into improvement strategies to create positive waiting experiences.