A/Prof Bernie Bissett

A/Prof Bernie Bissett

Associate Professor, Discipline Lead, Physiotherapy, University of Queensland
Visiting Academic Physiotherapist, Canberra Hospital and Health Services

What is the problem you are trying to address 
We’ve found that more than a third of intensive care patients develop significant breathing muscle weakness while they are breathing on ventilators. This respiratory muscle weakness can trap patients on ventilators, and they can struggle for weeks or months to breathe independently. With intensive care beds costing more than $5000 per day, this ventilator-dependence is a problem for both patients and the health system.

What is your research doing to solve this problem?
My research has shown that daily strengthening of the diaphragm with a handheld device, supervised by physiotherapists, leads to not just stronger breathing muscles, but also reduced breathlessness and improved quality of life for intensive care patients. We’ve recently taken this cutting-edge approach to people battling breathlessness with long COVID in the community, and we’re seeing improvements in exercise tolerance and quality of life in these patients too.

Public outreach or science communication outputs
● Coach for research communication at University of Canberra (e.g. 3 Minute Thesis)
● Presented on ABC Ratio National Ockhams’ Razor program (2018)
● Twitter @BernieBissett (1000+ followers)
● Delivered research communication training workshops at Canberra Health Services (2018 – 2022) and face of ‘Canberra Health Annual Research Meeting’ promotional campaign
● ABC Radio interviews (2017, 2021, 2022) about intensive care physiotherapy

Completed PhD
2016, University of Queensland