The important role of physiotherapists during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Office of the Principal
  • May 7th, 2020

The professor of the Faculty of Physiotherapy, Marta Aguilar, recounts her experience as a professional at the La Fe Hospital during the pandemic and the function of physiotherapists to help the coronavirus patients to recover their functional independence in the best possible conditions.

Improve lung function, calm anxiety, reduce the feeling of breathlessness, and prevent the complications of a long bed rest, inactivity, and medication on a COVID-19 patient are some of the functions of physiotherapists in hospitals during this pandemic.

According to the professor of the Department of Physiotherapy of the Faculty of PhysiotherapyMarta Aguilar, “our work mainly takes place in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) of the hospitals, on the floors where the patients are admitted either because they refused nursing care or because they left the ICU after a long period of bed rest where, in many cases, intubation was necessary to keep the patient ventilated and alive.”

Physiotherapists play an important role in multidisciplinary teams of professionals who struggle with the disease and work, in the words of Marta Aguilar, “based on the clinical guides and recommendations of expert associations which are being published and updated in line with the evolution of pandemic.”

“When a patient is at the ICU, we provide postural care, stretch their limbs, measure chest expansion, and teach them abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing to help them fight against weakness and muscle atrophy often generated by intensive care as well as leave the ICU as soon as possible,” outlines Marta Aguilar in her work during the times of crisis at the La Fe Hospital of Valencia.

Aguilar explains that the work of physiotherapists continues when the patients are transferred to the ward “since we continue treating body mobility problems of the patient without making them put much effort into breathing, though. We take care of the parameters related to the pulmonary function so that they stay within the recommended norms. In the meantime, we are interested in recovering the mobility of a patient and their muscle strength without generating further complications.”

If the patients previously has some respiratory problem or COVID-19 caused it, specific techniques of respiratory physiotherapy are applied considering all the necessary precautions and the high risk of infection generate by these diseases.

The final objective is that the patients recover its total independence and start to walk on their own. During this process, physiotherapists still take care of the patients and give indications on how to realise the therapeutic exercises adopted to their needs so that the patients can continue recovering at home.

In this regard, Marta Aguilar is steadfast: “We motivate them to stay active and, thus, prevent all the possible complications. Above all, we insist that ‘moving’ in not a choice but rather a vital need.”

Summarising her experience, Aguilar affirms that “physiotherapy is a profession that requires physical and emotional closeness with the patients. This experience makes us share with them the hope that they are recovering more each day, that they a more capable of doing the tasks like they did before, and that they can pick up their lives with families where they left off. The patients should know that physiotherapists are there to help them overcome the consequences of coronavirus.”


This information was elaborated as a part of institutional communication on behalf of the Office of the Principal of the Universitat de València in collaboration with the Faculty of Physiotherapy.