WHY GO ON A PHYSIOTHERAPY Placement ABROAD?
A physiotherapy placement abroad is your chance to do a clinical placement in a low-resource hospital in the developing world.
Tell us which destinations you want to travel to and the areas of physiotherapy you’re most interested in. Then, we’ll plan and build your placement to suit you.
A physiotherapy placement abroad lets you to experience a healthcare system totally different from your own. You’ll even learn about practises you’ve never encountered before, like electrotherapy and wax baths.
In the hospital you’ll learn how economic and cultural considerations affect the provision of physiotherapy abroad. For example, a lot of rehabilitation equipment is handmade. Uncommon conditions you can see include clubfoot and spina bifida.
THE CLINICAL EXPERIENCE
Getting clinical experience abroad is all about challenging your knowledge and developing a fresh outlook on physiotherapy. You’ll quickly learn that things we take for granted in the UK — even basic gym equipment in some cases — are considered luxuries in the developing world.
Some things you could observe include:
- Handmade and improvised rehabilitation equipment
- Uncommon conditions like leprosy
- Heavy reliance on manual therapies
- Extremely late presentation and advanced cases
You will also see major differences in the fundamentals of physiotherapy too. For example, in many of our destinations, practises like ECT and TENS machines are widely used, and often a first port of call in treatment.
Hospital placements run Monday to Friday. That means your evenings and weekends are free to explore a country you might never have otherwise visited.
With our service, you get support from beginning to end. This starts from the moment you get in touch, continues through your placement and even when you’re back in the UK.
The service is comprehensive and takes the stress out of planning something as complex as an elective abroad.
With us, you’ll get:
A tailored physiotherapy elective in your choice of departments | Comprehensive pre-trip preparation | 24/7 in-country support team | Private, catered accommodation | Airport pickup
Arrivals are on Sundays (every week of the year). That means you can travel whenever’s convenient to you. Placement durations start from two weeks.
For a more detailed step-by-step guide to how our service works, click here.
As a physiotherapy student, the clinical side of things is absolutely the focus of your trip.
But — whether travelling solo is your style, or you prefer the group atmosphere — weekend trips are a highlight. From trekking through the Himalayan mountains to whitewater rafting down the Zambezi, our destinations offer an abundance of adventure and opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture.
WHERE DO I START?
Talk with us. Our team will answer your questions and offer a clearer picture of what you can expect from a physiotherapy placement abroad.
Get in touch using the short enquiry form.
Mexico - Merida
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On your placement in Merida, you’ll see that the physiotherapy team in our partner hospital help rehabilitate both inpatients and outpatients. Straight away, you’ll see that patients here are some of the region’s most economically disadvantaged. Many of these patients have had disabilities since birth, and many have left severe conditions untreated. You’ll see lots of different cases, and many of them will be post-surgical rehabilitation, post-birth recovery, or patients with long-term immobility. The standard of equipment here isn’t as high as it is in the UK, and you’ll see a lot of manual treatment because of this.
Vietnam - Hue
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15% of Vietnamese people live with a physical disability, so there’ll be no shortage of patients. Disabilities and injuries result from RTAs, stunted growth in childhood, some even from the Vietnam war. Many Vietnamese people strongly believe that exercise and mobility are directly linked to good health. Physiotherapy is a highly-respected profession because of this. Patients are much more likely to follow treatment plans too. Space is restrictive in the department, so local staff rely heavily on machinery as opposed to open movement. You’ll meet other student physiotherapists while you’re on the wards, adding another level to the learning experience.
Zambia - Lusaka
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On placement in Lusaka, you’ll see that there’s a lack of education around health, especially in Zambia’s most economically disadvantaged areas. Patients tend to delay treatment until it’s absolutely necessary. One of the major reasons being that all but the most impoverished patients have to pay for healthcare. So you’ll see some severely advanced conditions. The hospital even makes its own moulds and prosthetics, and you can go and see how this is done. You’ll get some interaction with local students too. This allows you to exchange stories with your Zambian peers, learning the differences between your training programmes. Lusaka offers one of the best physiotherapy placements abroad.
Cambodia - Phnom Penh
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On a physiotherapy elective in Cambodia, you’ll see all sorts of things that you rarely see in the UK. Based in a large public hospital (previously used to treat Buddhist monks) you’ll get insight into how physiotherapists in Cambodia treat high patient numbers with extremely limited resources. You can spend time across a range of departments including the out-patient department which operates with basic gym equipment as the hospital itself does not have a gym. Due to the huge amount of traffic in this large capital city, the majority of cases you’ll see will be RTA related injuries and associated orthopaedic conditions.
Nepal - Pokhara
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In Pokhara, you can do your physiotherapy elective placement in a specialised rehabilitation hospital. The hospital’s motto is “We take you back to an active life”, their aim being to help rehabilitate and educate patients to improve their quality of life. Local physiotherapists use practises you might not be used to, like lots of electrotherapy and wax therapy. There’s a lack of rehabilitation equipment here too, so physios lean more towards manual therapies than we do in the UK. Previous students have used tennis balls, bean bags, velcro, string, water bottles, and even matchsticks to help rehabilitate patients. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Pokhara.
Sri Lanka - Kandy
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If you do your physiotherapy elective in Kandy, you’ll get experience with local staff who actively promote patient interaction. Compared to what you’re used to at home, equipment is outdated in Sri Lanka. You’ll see how local physiotherapists have adapted to this by making and improvising their own equipment. The physiotherapy OPD here is busy, and local therapists often have to deal with three or four patients at a time. Spend time here and you’ll get experience with advanced cases, some you might not have seen before. Despite being understaffed, the system works for patients. This is because local therapists are passionate about helping their patients — just as we are in the UK. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Kandy.
Tanzania - Dar es Salaam
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On a physiotherapy placement abroad In Dar es Salaam, you’ll get the best of your experience in the physio department of our partner orthopaedic institute. In Tanzania, road safety and traffic etiquette are relaxed compared to what you’re used to. This has led to RTAs being Tanzania’s biggest cause of critical injury, so you’ll see plenty of RTA-related cases. You’ll see how long waiting lists can and do lead to severely advanced cases in the outpatient clinic. The hospital is actually a government institute, but it caters to private patients too. That said, you’ll see just how few patients can afford private care.
Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Dar es Salaam.
Nepal - Kathmandu
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Physiotherapy is quickly developing in Nepal, so you’ll find our physiotherapy student placements in Kathmandu eye-opening. The country’s focus on physiotherapy has shifted a lot over the last 10 years. To give you some idea, there were only 30 qualified physiotherapists in 2007. In 2012, there were 500. But even though physiotherapy is progressing, resources are still low. You’ll see improvised apparatus like makeshift wheelchairs and traction devices, but local therapists’ knowledge more than makes up for the shortfall in equipment. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Kathmandu.
Philippines - Iloilo
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On a physiotherapy placement in Iloilo, you’ll see all the contrasts between physiotherapy in the Philippines versus the UK. One example is how widespread the use of electrotherapy is — don’t be surprised if you see the vast majority of patients receiving this treatment. Another difference is that patients can often come for treatment more frequently. In our partner hospital patients can continue receiving treatment as long as they can afford to pay for it. Some stroke patients have been known to attend the clinic for more than two years. On the other hand, many patients don’t follow the prescribed home treatment plans — many simply can’t afford to take time off work. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Iloilo.
Peru - Arequipa
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On your physiotherapy elective in Peru, you’ll see the differences between how you practise versus the holistic approach that local physiotherapists take. The department isn’t split into specialist areas — any physiotherapist can assess and treat any patient. You’ll see a much higher number of patients with birth defects too, and patients with advanced conditions that haven’t been treated at all. Rehabilitation here is focused on manual treatments and exercise prescription — machine-based physiotherapy is almost non-existent here thanks to a lack of resources. This lack of resources has also led local staff to take a biopsychosocial approach to pain management. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Arequipa.
Ghana - Takoradi
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On your physiotherapy elective in Takoradi, you’ll see how a sense of community can help patients on their way to rehabilitation. The department’s gym fosters positivity and this motivates both patients and staff. You’ll spend most, if not all of your time with outpatients, as the majority of patients have to self-refer. A big part of the rehabilitation process here is counselling patients so they can continue with their treatment plans at home. Straight away, you’ll see that the department is under-resourced. The funds aren’t there to replace broken equipment, so staff have to improvise, doing what they can with what they have. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Takoradi.
"I came home realising that despite being overstretched and understaffed, their system works."
Siwan Jones, Cardiff University 2019Read more
"We quickly learnt how to be more resourceful, using a glove filled with water for a pressure cushion – something we’d never see back home!"
Carys Jones & Laura Tasker, Cardiff University 2019Read more
"I was placed in a variety of settings in the hospital including outpatients, critical care, oncology, neurology, amputations, and paediatrics"
Catherine Benson, Cardiff University 2019Read more
"Treatment was heavily based on electrotherapy, manual therapy and exercise prescription."
Veronica Goldring, University of Melbourne 2019Read more
"I was able to experience physiotherapy in a challenging and entirely different environment"
Greg Ireland, Glasgow Caledonian University 2018Read more
What is a physiotherapy placement?
A physiotherapy placement is a clinical rotation that physiotherapy students undertake as part of their degree. Every year, more and more physiotherapy students are doing their physiotherapy placements overseas. To create your own customised physiotherapy placement, get in touch with us today.
How long is a physiotherapy placement?
A physiotherapy placement is as long as you want it to be. Our minimum placement duration is 2 weeks, but students typically travel on their physiotherapy placement for 4 weeks. There is no upper limit to how long you can travel for.
What are the most popular countries for physiotherapy placements?
Our most popular countries for physiotherapy electives are (in no particular order):
8. The Philippines
10. Sri Lanka.
What are the benefits of a physiotherapy placement?
The benefits of a physiotherapy placement include:
- Expanding your clinical knowledge and skill set
- Becoming more confident, independent and resourceful
- Making yourself more attractive to employers
- Doing some proper travelling
- Building your personal and professional network
- Sharpening your language and communication skills
- Renewing your perspective on the NHS
What kinds of cases will I see on an overseas physiotherapy placement?
You will see cases like:
- Paediatric spina bifida
- Post-amputation rehabilitation