Margaret Johnstone, FCSP, Scottish physiotherapist, is no stranger to most therapists working in the field of neurological rehabilitation. Her contributions to the world of stroke rehabilitation are very much appreciated by a lot of us.
From early days she appreciated the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork including relatives, nurses and helpers alike.
In June 1990, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists rewarded her efforts with a Fellowship for the development and writings of a therapy approach in neurological rehabilitation with special attention for active participation of nurses, relatives and helpers.
Her first job was with young head injured war victims (World War II) under the inspiring direction of Prof Norman Dott.
Later on, she worked for 17 years in orthopaedics. Both experiences have very much influenced her later work.
Although she is more or less of the same generation as Dr and Mrs Bobath, and some therapists try to find similarities in their respective work, MJ admits that she only started reading up about their work in the late seventies. By then she had already published herself.
As from 1965, Margaret Johnstone put a lot of her energy into the rehabilitation of long term stroke patients. She downgraded herself to a basic grade job, in order to have an opportunity to work on a long stay ward with very disabled stroke patients. Her aim was to prove that with adequate rehabilitation, those persons could get back to living in the community or at least have a life of better quality.
Invited to share her expertise, she started travelling all over the world, often with her sister Ann Thorp.
In her busy retired life, she not only took time to teach and write, but also concentrated her skills in the domiciliary physiotherapy of young head injury patients.
Margaret Johnstone published five books. Restoration of Normal Movement after Stroke (1995), is a summary and update of the previous ones. In 1996, a third edition of Home Care for the Stroke Patient was put on the market. It also became the base for a CD-ROM with home exercises to give therapists adequate support when the patient can be stimulated to do autonomous training.
All along her career, Margaret Johnstone has been wonderfully assisted and supported by her sister Ann Thorp, herself a physiotherapist. Her own merits go towards developing ideas to control limb spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis.
Together with physios having an interest in children rehabilitation, she promoted some of Margaret's rehabilitation ideas within the world of paediatrics.
They appointed Gail Cox Steck, physiotherapist at Bürgerspital in Solothurn, Switzerland, to take on the lead as senior Instructor. Together with accredited teachers all over Europe, the original rehabilitation ideas are updated within the context of modern scientific knowledge. This process often accentuates how amazingly visionary the intuitions, creativity and the quality of MJ's clinical work were.
The Johnstone Approach is now evoluated to PRO-Active appraoch to Nerorehabilitation integrating air splints and other therapy tools (PANat)
The aim for the XXIst century and this new generation of therapists, is to find academic partnership in order to illustrate with research, what clinical experience has thought us for a long time.
Margaret Johnstone died on April 13, 2006. Click here for an obituary.