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Physiotherapy Placements in Developing Countries
When undertaking their elective placements in developing countries, physiotherapy students find themselves involved with treatment and patient care very quickly as many hospitals are short staffed and often have a high patient loads. In addition to this, underprivileged wards come along with the need to return to the basics of training. This means that during the placement, students might have to diagnose and treat patients without familiar physiotherapy equipment.
We’ve interviewed some of the physio students who have undertaken their electives overseas with Work The World to learn more about their experience in Nepal, Tanzania and Sri Lanka. Meet Emily, Amy, Leah, Fiona, Aileen, Louise, Jennifer and Kaitlin:
Why would you recommend physio students to do their elective overseas?
– “With just two physiotherapists in the whole teaching hospital, shadowing them I was able to see and experience the physiotherapy role in all aspects of inpatient healthcare; a rare treat that would take multiple placements to achieve in the UK.” ~ Emily Downs, University of the West of England, Elective in Nepal
Photo 1 – Department of Rhumatology & Rehabiltation Medicine in Kandy, Nepal
– “Advice I’d give to students is not to pass on an opportunity to do a placement abroad. What you see and the way things are done are probably going to be different from the way things are done at home, so go with an open mind and try not to get too frustrated about things.” ~ Leah Dawson, Central Lancashire University (UCLAN), Elective in Tanzania
Did you find many differences in terms of physio treatment techniques?
– “The Physio department relies very much on manual skills. There are no electrotherapies and the gym has four plinths and an exercise bike, along with a small collection of fit balls, a cervical traction machine (used frequently) and some walking aids. There is lots of work rehabbing patients post fracture: for the kids, supracondylar fractures and adults, mainly femoral fractures. Time on the
wards tends to be longer than in the UK, as the main treatments are skin or skeletal traction meaning that some patients are around for months. Pain relief is not really used beyond Paracetamol; due to lack of funding in all areas of the hospital.” ~ Fiona Harvie, Manchester Metropolitan University, Elective in Tanzania
Photo 2 – Standard wheelchair provided to patients in Nepal
“It was challenging at times to observe the methods of treatment that was sometimes undertaken. The Physiotherapists always had logical reasoning behind the treatments that were chosen. However, much of the treatments were passive and it was uncommon to prescribe exercises to inpatients to do in their own time. This is in contrast to Physiotherapy in the UK where we tend to encourage the patients to take responsibility for their condition. The Doctors commonly prescribed bed rest (usually weeks), which meant patients were becoming weaker through lack of exercise. Although treatment approaches were different we recognised that in all circumstances the staff had the best intentions for the patients. Overall, I recognised and appreciated how well developed the NHS is, and the experience served to make me desire to help encourage best practice in the future by returning to Nepal or another developing country.” ~ Aileen Selfridge, Queen Margaret University, Elective in Nepal
Photo 3 – Physio Department in Kandy
What was the best thing about your placement abroad?
– “I had the unique opportunity to observe the workings and drivers of a health system without the NHS. I had the chance to see other forms of Physiotherapy in the area including a private practice, a rehabilitation centre and an outreach project set up by a local group of Catholic nuns.” ~ Emily Downs, University of the West of England, Elective in Nepal
– “My favourite experience by far was climbing Adam’s Peak with the group of housemates. There were 6 of us, which is a nice sized group as you spend a long evening and day with them so it’s nice to have lots of people to talk to! It took us 8 hours to reach the top of the Peak but we managed to see the sunrise whilst queuing for the top. It was breathtaking!” ~ Louise Bishop, Professional placement in Sri Lanka
How was your relationship with the locals?
– “As an avid traveller, I usually hate to make generalisations about a population, but I have to say that inall the travelling I’ve done, there is no nicer or more welcoming group of people than Sri Lankans. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with beautiful people and so much to teach any student who is willing to learn.” ~ Kaitlin Freienmuth, Robert Gordon University, Elective in Sri Lanka
– “All patients were very welcoming and happy to have conversations with me. They were all also very thankful. It was nice to know that they appreciated what we were doing and didn’t object to foreigners coming in and treating them.” ~ Leah Dawson, Central Lancashire University
To find out more about Work the World please check out their website