by Joe Jamieson

Where Are They Now?

Chloe was a 3rd-year physiotherapy student at Cardiff University. She spent four weeks in a Vietnamese hospital to see the differences between the delivery of care in Vietnam and the UK. 

We caught up with Chloe recently to reflect on her time in Vietnam

Dooley, Chloe

So, what made you want to study physiotherapy?

I always wanted to go into healthcare; following some work experience I did in my local hospital, I really enjoyed seeing the work that physios were doing to help get patients mobile and work towards their goals. So, I decided to pursue this as a career and it's certainly not a decision I regret. 

Dooley, Chloe

You studied at Cardiff University – what made you choose this establishment? 

I chose Cardiff as the lecturers had stood out as being really passionate during the open days. I liked the variety of placement options we would have access to across Wales, and I loved the friendly atmosphere of the city, again another decision I’m definitely glad I made! 

And can you talk a bit about your experience at Cardiff? What were the highlights?

Dooley, Chloe

It was a big stepping stone for me to move so far away from home but I had an amazing three years of studying. The highlights for me were definitely the people and friends I got to meet, getting to explore new places through my placements and finding something that I was passionate about. 

So how did your overseas placement fit into all of that? 

Cardiff was really proactive in encouraging us to take up the opportunity to undertake an overseas placement. They provided lots of support and information. I went during my final year of study and travelled to Vietnam in November 2019. It was actually one of the last placements I got to do before the pandemic.

Dooley, Chloe

What was it that made you want to go overseas for an experience like this?

I’ve always been really passionate about travel, so the opportunity to combine this with my physiotherapy degree seemed like a no-brainer. I also wanted the chance to see how physiotherapy services were delivered in a different country and culture compared to what I had gotten used to within the NHS.

Dooley, Chloe

Let’s jump right into the hospital placement – which departments did you spend your time in?

I was really lucky in that I had a great supervisor and team who helped me to have a really varied experience during my 4 weeks in Vietnam. I was based in the outpatient department in the mornings and went onto the wards in the afternoon - seeing a mix of stroke, orthopaedic, general medical patients, critical care and paediatrics. I also got to spend some time at a specialist spinal rehab hospital and shadowing other departments such as A&E and Orthotics.

Dooley, Chloe

And what was the day-to-day like in the hospital?

We would start at 7 am through to 11:30 am Monday to Friday, we then would have a three-hour lunch break before returning for the afternoon. Every day was different and the hospital was always very busy with lots of people and even more patients in a small space. It was also a lot hotter compared to the UK, hence having a long break in the middle of the day to escape the heat.

Dooley, Chloe

What were the most challenging or confronting situations you experienced while there?

Patients were often very shy, due to me being from a different culture and more often than not did not speak any English. The translation was always required in relation to completing patient assessments and treatment sessions. I also sometimes found that we used different therapy techniques in the UK compared to Vietnam.

I went travelling for two weeks on my own once my placement had finished and encountered a few challenges, particularly in regards to figuring out train and bus timetables, where to buy food and making friends.

Dooley, Chloe

How do you think experiences like that changed your approach to your career?

It allowed me to develop my non-verbal communication skills which have been helpful when working with patients in my current role who might struggle to understand verbal communication. 

It also allowed me to appreciate the facilities we had access to in the UK as we often moan about a lack of funding or access to resources, but in comparison to what was available in Vietnam, we are very lucky. 

I also think it helped me to develop my confidence and independence in overcoming the challenges of solo travel and placement so far away from home. This experience has 100% benefitted me in knowing I can handle the challenges that life throws at me.

Dooley, Chloe

So, what happened once you graduated? What’s your current role?

I was lucky enough to secure a rotational job working in Cardiff and Vale UHB. I’ve been based in the community for my first 6 months and I’m now moving to work in critical care. 

In what ways has your Work the World experience in Vietnam contributed to what you’ve achieved so far in life and in your career?

I was definitely able to pull on some of the skills and experiences I’d had in Vietnam, in particular during job interviews. Being able to reflect on these was incredibly useful. It has also really boosted my passion for travel. I cannot wait to get back out and explore the world some more.

Dooley, Chloe

What are your ambitions for the future? 

I would love to be able to take my physiotherapy skills overseas again at some point as I think there's so much for us to learn and for us to share - possibly once I’ve got a good few years of experience under my belt. I’m still undecided on a speciality area I might like to go into, but for now, I just hope to enjoy my rotations, and enjoy spending time helping patients to work towards their goals and grow my clinical skills. I’d also love to return to Vietnam in the future as the country really does have a special place in my heart. 

Dooley, Chloe

And lastly, do you have any words of encouragement for students thinking about undertaking an overseas physiotherapy placement?

I would just say 100% go for it! Despite the challenges it threw at me, I developed so many skills and I had experiences I wouldn’t have had if I had stayed in the UK. 

It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will definitely be a good stepping stone for the rest of your career. 

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