How to describe what happens on your first day on the physiotherapy elective in Sri Lanka....let me tell you about mine!
It all started off with a nice cooked breakfast prepared by the amazing chef’s. Then everybody gathered together outside and a stream of tuc tuc’s arrived to collect the others on electives. As this was our first day, we waited anxiously for Nandika to meet us and take us down to the hospital. We didn't have long to wait before we were on our way.
Once we pulled into the main gates we could instantly see how busy it was going to be. It was only 8:30am but the hospital was already in full motion for the day. Nandi took us to the post-graduate centre where we could store our bags if we choose , and the library assistant came to say “hello” and show us the computers and the library.
I was with a group of nurses, but they were then introduced to the Chief Nursing Officer whilst Nandika took me down to the Outpatient Physiotherapy Centre.
When I walked through the corridors the queues were massive - it is standing room only in the corridors of the hospital for all services. As I walked into the department it was difficult to move as people are everywhere!
Every area was being used by people and physio’s, so it was hard to see who was who. I was relieved to meet the Superintendant, who was there to welcome me even in the busy surrounding. He took me to his desk and we sat for 15 minutes and chatted about what I wanted to gain and my level of experience. He was welcoming and very encouraging, which was great as I was panicking as it was so busy.
The Superintendent then introduced me to each physiotherapist and staff assistants. All the staff were comforting and supportive, and everyone spoke English at a good standard. I then was allowed to follow one of the physiotherapists. He took me over to a family with a 1 year old baby that needed treatment, but as it was my first day and I have never been on a paediatric placement, I felt a bit in shock and was not confident to treat them myself. Another physio helped me as I explained the problem I was having, and they were able to show me and help me through. The physio I was shadowing then gave me an intensive question and answer session and challenged me to go away and look up at least 15 different problems to come back to him with (good job I know where the computers and library were).
There is a 2 hour lunch break from 12 till 2pm which they use to go collect children from school and get lunch and also sleep. This is all because all the patients prefer to come in the morning. They travel by public transport and have jobs, so early morning appointments before 11am are most accessible. It can mean each physio will see 20+ patients in 4 hours all at once - no wonder it seemed busy! While they took their break, I ventured in to town to collect my note pad and lunch, then headed back to the library to research all the questions the physio I was shadowing had asked of me. As I hadn’t acclimatised, by 1 pm I was really struggling with the heat. It made it hard to research, but I got the job done and headed back to the department.
This time there were only around 2 -5 patients for all the team, so I was able to sit with them and discuss everything I was asked to research. It was a great introduction to the cases I may come across in Sri Lanka. I then spent the last hour with the physio’s chatting about where I am from and why I am here and what I plan to do.
I got my own tuc tuc back up to the house at around 4pm, where the others joined me. We sat and discussed the day over a cup of tea, followed by an excellent dinner made by our chefs.
My advice for any student physio is to make sure you are up to date with all your pathologies and anatomy before coming. However when you are there be honest and open to all methods. It will take a week or more to get adjusted to everything - the mad rush of the mornings and the unusual techniques used - but always ask to observe and get involved, and you will start finding your stride in the department. The physio’s are amazing and your fellow Work the World students are always there when you need them.
This article was written by Charles Wilton, Physiotherapy student from Manchester Metropolitan University