I chose to travel abroad for my elective placement because I wanted to experience physiotherapy practices in a different environment to what I was accustomed to.
I recently undertook a four-week elective placement in Iloilo, The Philippines, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
The learning experience was great. My time on placement was divided between the university hospital and the local government hospital.
Not only was I able to experience a range of practices and conditions in one of the largest government hospitals in the Visayas region, but I was also able to learn alongside Filipino students and learn about the physiotherapy education system.
The Practice Educators I was placed with were some of the loveliest people I’ve met, and it was great sharing and learning about various interventions with the interns.
I attended weekly clinics for children with club foot, experienced lumbar traction for lower back pain, and assisted with functional electrical stimulation for Bell’s palsy.
I also observed a handful of orthopaedic surgeries during my day in theatre and even observed an open-reduction-internal-fixation surgery. The experience of seeing a patient’s tibia being drilled into will stay with me forever – and it’s a good thing I was wearing a surgery mask because the surgeons would have been laughing at the look on my face, a mix of shock and excitement.
I had never seen facial muscles targeted so specifically with manual therapy.
There were numerous opportunities to learn about unique practices and pick up new skills. One of my most memorable physiotherapy cases was when I assisted with treating a patient with Bell’s palsy and helped perform a facial massage, followed by proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), to treat the facial drop. I had never seen facial muscles targeted so specifically with manual therapy. The immediate treatment results were impressive.
One of the major differences between physiotherapy practices in The Philippines compared to the UK is the level of autonomy physiotherapists have as practitioners. In the UK, we are independent workers that manage our own caseloads. We assess, diagnose, treat/manage, and discharge. In The Philippines, physiotherapists work under doctors’ assessments, diagnoses, and treatment plans. For progression of treatments, the doctor must re-assess each patient and advise the physiotherapist which treatments to perform. This is not the most streamlined process for patient care, but it is the traditional norm in The Philippines.
I believe that experiencing this type of system has allowed me to broaden my knowledge on approaches to healthcare to which I would otherwise have been oblivious. It has allowed me to appreciate that countries can provide healthcare very differently. I feel that this is an important perspective to have in a world that is becoming increasingly smaller.
Beyond the physiotherapy learning experience, I also had a great time socially. Being situated in the heart of the Visayas, Iloilo allows great access to some world-renowned beaches and island-hopping adventures.
I spent time on Boracay Island, lounging on white sandy beaches and swimming with sardines and turtles. On Guimaras Island, I tasted the sweetest mangos on the planet. And during a long weekend, a group of us flew to Cebu and spent time on the beaches of Moalboal. A few people went swimming with whale sharks.
We had weekly BBQ and karaoke nights at the Work the World House. Never before have I sung ‘I Want it That Way’ so many times in the space of a month. This was usually followed by going out to experience the nightlife in Iloilo – which I thought was fantastic!
The city has a massive range of bars and restaurants, and you’re never too far from another karaoke bar. The Work the World house is also situated next to the Iloilo Esplanade, which is a short river walkway. This was great for morning runs.
My advice for anyone planning an overseas placement is that you will get out what you put in. Showing enthusiasm, eagerness, and an openness to learn allowed me to develop strong relationships with my seniors and colleagues during my placement. In doing so, I was given more opportunity to assist with treatments for patients, and to assist in more complex cases.
The same can be said for the social aspect – if you approach the experience with an openness to learn, meet, and engage with new and interesting people, the memories you make will be unforgettable. Work the World make the whole process incredibly easy, and are there to support you from the very beginning.
Both the learning and social experiences in Iloilo were amazing. Overall, I feel that it was the Filipino people that made the trip such an experience. The local physiotherapists, physiotherapy interns, and Work the World staff are friends I will be visiting again soon.