The importance of hands in health care celebrated

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Fall 11-4-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



Improving the quality of rehabilitation for burn survivors has been the focus for the past 15 years for Royal Perth Hospital’s senior physiotherapist, Dr Dale Edgar.

Dr Edgar was this year’s key note speaker for The University of Notre Dame Australia’s annual Blessing of Hands ceremony held at the Fremantle Campus on Wednesday, April 6.

Hosted this year by the School of Physiotherapy, the ceremony is in the past tradition of when the hands of kings, priests and prophets were anointed with oils to signify those who were set aside as agents of God - a symbol of healing and strength.

Led by Campus Chaplain, Fr John Sebastian, students from the Schools of Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, and Physiotherapy, as well as students from the School of Arts and Sciences’ Behavioural Science and Counselling programs, had their hands anointed, in recognition that interaction and helping people are key elements of each of these professions’ practicums.

During his presentation, Dr Edgar shared the focus of his research which is the provision and improvement of burn survivor rehabilitation, developing models and protocols for burn care.

“The most important thing is to not underestimate the power of the hands and the impact hands can have in the interaction with patients and other staff,” Dr Edgar said.

“Hands are involved in diagnosis and all aspects of our treatment of patients.”

In his research, Dr Edgar has identified the lack of validated clinical assessment tools in burn care. This has markedly hindered burn research and translation of results into universal practice.

To address the issues around research progress and data driven change in practice, his PhD thesis established a validated measurement battery of both acute and long-term post-burn outcomes.

Dr Edgar has also directed his energy into burn prevention and preparedness as well as pre-hospital management of burn patients.

His burn prevention activities involve community education opportunities and the development of international and bi-national burn registries in his past and present roles for the Australian and New Zealand Burns Association.

Dean of the School of Physiotherapy, Professor Peter Hamer, said the ceremony related strongly to the practical and physical nature of physiotherapy where hands formed a central knowledge focus.

“We use our hands across so many areas of practice, from teaching abdominal muscle contraction with the pregnant mother, to helping a child with cystic fibrosis clear their lungs, to manual mobilisation of joints and facilitation of function through guidance, touch and resistance of movement,” Prof Hamer said.

“The Blessing of Hands brings to the foreground the power of our hands in our clinical profession.”

Fourth year Physiotherapy and Exercise Sports Science student, Gemma Nevin, said she felt privileged to have taken part in the ceremony.

“Having worked in aged care, I saw hands as the key personal and emotional symbols of support and guidance for the elderly,” Ms Nevin said.

Media Contact: Leigh Dawson (+61) 8 9433 0569, Mob (+61) 0405 441 093