Rebecca Fawcett, a student at the University of Birmingham, travelled to Sri Lanka in 2015 as the winner of our elective overseas placement prize draw. Here she talks about the valuable experience she gained and how she helped to make a difference to people’s lives.
In October 2014, I entered the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy competition to win a placement to a country of my choice with Work the World.
Little did I know, after sending a brief email and attaching my mobile number that my phone would ring with Jamie, the CSP students’ officer, on the other end.
After making a spectacle of myself, I managed to quieten the cheers, lessen the flow of tears and accepted the placement with no hesitation.
Travelling to Sri Lanka
I chose to go to Sri Lanka and when organising the placement, I had fantastic support and enthusiasm from the Work the World team.
When I arrived after a ten-hour flight, I was presented with astounding beauty. There were endless opportunities to visit the beautiful country and despite travelling alone, I was able to enjoy this experience with some of the most fantastic student health care professionals from all over the world.
My physiotherapy placement was based in an outpatient department. Having only just completed my first year of university, I was still building up my practical skills. However, all the physiotherapists in the department were very enthusiastic and keen to get me involved.
The placement gave me vast opportunities to learn through observation whilst also practising my own skills, and throughout the placement I grew strong relationships with both the physiotherapy team and the patients. I felt very empowered and confident as the weeks went on, and was amazed at how far I had come in such a short space of time!
Learning new skills
Alongside my time in outpatients, I also had the opportunity to shadow physiotherapists on the neurosurgical wards, the paediatric intensive care unit (ITU), cardiothoracic ITU and I even watched an open heart surgery!
This not only gave me a greater insight into the scope of physiotherapy practice, but also just how different the approach and way of life in Sri Lanka was. It was at this moment that, although not perfect, I became extremely grateful for how fantastic and advanced our own healthcare system was.
One of my most memorable moments of my placement was treating a patient who had crushed his hand in a road traffic accident. For the four-week duration, I helped this patient regain range of movement and strength and become more independent with his daily activities – one of which included playing with his children.
It was an amazing feeling knowing that I was able to not only physically improve this patient, but to strengthen and restore mental and emotional well-being. It was perhaps small moments like that, that made me realise exactly why I wanted to be in this profession, and has since motivated me on each placement.
I was extremely lucky to have been able to go to Sri Lanka, and I therefore wanted to make sure that I made the absolute most of my experiences. This whole trip gave me confidence in my practice, communication and clinical reasoning skills.
Placements are the perfect opportunity to showcase your skills so my best advice would be to always put in 110 per cent and I guarantee you will see the benefits of the effort you put in, especially if you get as lucky as I did, or decide to organise a placement with Work the World.