I recently graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University after studying Physiotherapy and decided upon doing an overseas placement before finding a job in the UK. I really liked the idea of being able to keep up my skills whilst being able to travel at the same time.
Whilst I was still studying, Work the World (WTW) came into our university to give a presentation on their placement opportunities for undergraduates and postgraduates. I loved the idea of a placement abroad and WTW were able to organise everything for you which seemed ideal!
WTW offered excellent assistance before my trip including regular phone calls, emails and reassuring me that if I ever had any queries, I was able to contact the Brighton office and talk to my Operations Manager anytime I needed. Apart from organising my own flights, visa and insurance, everything else was organised for me, including airport pick up, orientation, accommodation and placement.
1st day on placement
We were told that Nandika, the Programme Manager, would meet us and take us to the hospital for our first day on placement. I was both excited and nervous for my first day in the physio department as I just did not know what to expect! Nandika took me to meet the Superintendent Physiotherapist Mr Divaratna. He took me into his office which was situated in the middle of the Outpatient Department and we had a quick chat to get to know each other.
The first morning was quite hectic to say the least. Mr Divaratna introduced me to one of his patients who spoke good English and told me to gather a subjective history from him. I wasn’t sure how they documented information so I decided to use the same style that we were taught to use in the UK. After about half an hour Mr Divaratna returned and asked me to relay the information I had gathered. I was told that I had documented too much information and that the physios don’t tend to write anything down during their assessments as they have such little time with each patient. He then sent 4 or 5 patients into the department and told me to assess each of them as quickly as possible! He then disappeared whilst I tried my best to communicate with these individuals - this took a lot of miming of body parts and some attempts at performing a detailed assessment. I found this very difficult and called upon a couple of the other physiotherapists I had been introduced to earlier to assist.
I sat with Mr Divaratna once he had returned and expressed my thoughts and decided that I begin with observing how the department works and how the physios go about treating people. I was then asked to perform a knee assessment on a patient and then discuss my findings and possible treatments with one of the male physios. Most of my time was spent observing and trying out manual techniques on patients. I was able to see a variety of cases, including pediatric cases such as cerebral palsy and sternocleidomastoid tumors. Other adult cases included fractures, burns, Guillian Barre and a lot of different MSK cases.
As I was interested in seeing as many cases as possible, I asked if I was able to visit the wards in the main cardiology building of the hospital with some of the physios. They said that students before me hadn’t asked to move around but they obliged and I was taken to different ICU’s, Neurosurgical units and General Medical wards. This was so beneficial and I saw so much more than I would have done had I stayed in outpatients. It was interesting to interact with the nurses and consultants on the wards and I had the chance to attend ward rounds. I was able to observe procedures such as lumbar punctures and also assess and treat stroke patients on the neuro wards.
On the general medical wards I saw a couple of leprosy patients which was very interesting and something I may not have seen otherwise. I was also asked if I would like to see a burns patient as it is apparently very common in Sri Lanka to get suicide burn cases. This was actually quite distressing to see and the physio explained that there was very little that could be done at such an acute stage as the patient was non compliant and was in immense pain. Don't forget I was asked if I wanted to see these cases - if you do not want to, the physios won’t make you!
I would say to any physio students or professionals going on this placement that it’s good to keep asking questions and showing that you’re interested but also ask to visit other areas of the hospital if you’re interested like I was! I found that I had a much broader experience and even if I wasn’t able to treat the patients, I saw some interesting cases and really got to understand their health system from speaking to different health professionals.
Work the World house
The house is situated in beautiful Kandy town, only a 10-minute walk into the town centre or a short tuk tuk ride. It’s beautifully kept by the lovely House Keeper, Champa, and every weekday meals are prepared by the wonderful Chef, Aloysuis. The WTW programme organisers have an office on the middle floor of the house and their door is always open if you have any concerns, enquiries or if you want some advice as to where to travel at the weekends. Nandika was also able to provide us with bus and train timetables if we preferred a cheaper travelling option to taxis.
My favourite part of the week was definitely the BBQ that is held on Wednesday evening on the roof top terrace of the house. Aloysuis would prepare an amazing array of food including fish, chicken, steak, burgers, jacket potatoes, salads and roasted vegetables. It was a lovely setting being able to take in the view, catch up with all the other housemates and plan our weekends away. Nandika and Mewan would join us for the BBQ which was a nice opportunity for us all to get to know each other! By the end of my 7 weeks at the house it felt like a little family and it was quite upsetting to leave them all. You are made to feel extremely welcome and you soon find it to be a home away from home.
Weekends are a fantastic opportunity to travel around Sri Lanka with the other housemates. My first weekend was packed full of activities in which we went down to the south west coast to the popular beach town Unawatuna where we then travelled to Mirissa to go whale watching. On our return to the beach, we decided to go snorkeling around the coral reef just a few hundred metres away from our beach side hotel.
Other places I travelled to during my 7 weeks were Sigyria, Dambulla, Colombo, Yala national Park, Pinnuala Elephant Orphanage, Millenium elephant foundation, Trincomalee, Habarana, Kandyan dancing show, Adam’s Peak, Royal Botanical gardens.. and many more!
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! We had to set off in our taxi to Adam’s Peak at 20:30 on the Friday evening and started climbing the seemingly never ending steps of Adam’s Peak at 00:30am on Saturday morning. It is a very exhausting climb and we made sure to leave some extra time to allow us to take regular breaks for refreshments and snacks! It is a pilgrimage that many Buddhists take regularly, therefore you have to be sure to be respectful and not make too much noise and dress appropriately.
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! Once we reached the top we managed to take in the view- it’s quite surreal! I have to say that the climb down is the hardest part as your legs have turned to jelly from the 4000 and something steps you have just climbed! However, in the light of day, you are really able to take in the views that were missed during the night climb. It’s definitely a once in a life time experience to climb Adam’s Peak and I would recommend it to anyonen - just take your time and enjoy the view!