Phebe Whitelaw recently graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) from the University of South Australia and she now views the world through an anatomy lens.
“If I’m driving in my car and I see someone walking with a stick, I think, ‘That stick’s on the wrong side,’” she said.
Phebe has always been interested in health, wellness and helping people and her family’s experiences were formative in her career choice.
“So many of my relatives have had health scares, like in all families, and they had a team of medical and allied health professionals,” she said.
“I’m grateful for every positive health outcome and that’s something that sparked my interest.”
Since graduating, Phebe has obtained qualifications in dry needling and is doing physiotherapy for a football club in Adelaide.
“I go out to the footy club, Sacred Heart Old Colts, two or three times a week for rubdowns, injury management and lots of strapping,” she said.
Phebe hopes to further her career in womens’ health ever since she was elected to give a presentation in the fourth year of her degree.
“I noticed that there’s a bit of a gap,” she said, referring to the distance between research and community knowledge.
“I’ve had friends who had womens’ health issues and didn’t know who to go to.”
Phebe learned about the changes to abdominal muscles which are caused by pregnancy.
“When you’re pregnant, it tends to separate,” she said.
“After birth, the six-pack muscles don’t go back to normal.
“There’s a gap in the middle.”
Sometimes, this can lead to a hernia and surgery, according to Phebe.
“A lot of women don’t know that, in some cases, you can do physio to fix it, to train the muscles,” she said.
“It’s not talked about enough.”
Physiotherapy doesn’t just require an extensive knowledge of anatomy. It’s important to build a trusting rapport with patients and make them feel comfortable, according to Phebe.
“I think I got my interpersonal skills from Broken Hill, so I thank Broken Hill for that,” she said.
“It’s the friendliness that automatically sets you apart.
“You learn how to talk to any sort of person, any age group.
“If the patient is a little bit older and you have that friendly banter in the clinic, it helps build relationships.”
Broken Hill has also provided Phebe with “country resilience” and her cornerstone, which is her parents, Dale and Jodie Whitelaw.
“I have the most supportive parents on the planet, who supported me throughout my whole university degree, and I literally couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.
“I’m just very, very grateful for my beautiful parents and relatives.”
Phebe enjoys physiotherapy so much that she doesn’t consider it work and is happy to return the favour.
“Relatives call me all the time for advice, saying, ‘I think I’ve done my ankle,’” she said.
“They said, ‘We will support you with your degree so long as we get free physio for the rest of our lives.’