Clinical specialist physio in stroke and neurorehabilitation Mark McGlinchey, who took up a teaching post in Vietnam.
What led trip to the Vietnam trip?
I was approached by the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit based in Ho Chi Minh City to assist in developing the rehabilitation care for patients with central nervous system infections at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.
This was part of a larger research project to improve care and support for neurologically-impaired patients and their carers once they are discharged from hospital, as community physiotherapy is extremely limited in Vietnam. I was in Ho Chi Minh City for 10 days in January, when the weather is typically hot and humid.
What did you teach?
I travelled to Vietnam with a colleague, Nicole Walmsley, who is a clinical specialist occupational therapist at St Thomas’. Together, we delivered lectures and practical sessions on the principles of rehabilitation care, including positioning and handling, early mobilisation and seating, cognition and continence, and managing complications such as contractures and pressure sores. These sessions were filmed to facilitate teaching of hospital staff.
We also participated in developing carers’ information sheets and videos designed to improve the skill and knowledge of carers in continuing rehabilitation once patients have been discharged from hospital. We also encouraged the staff to develop links with other local hospitals, in order to share knowledge and good clinical practice.
What did you bring back to the UK?
As the lectures and practical sessions were simultaneously translated into Vietnamese, I learned the importance of clear and concise communication and using simplified explanations when discussing medical and physiotherapy concepts to people who do not speak English as their primary language. I will definitely be more conscious of my communication style when delivering in-service training sessions and lectures in the UK.
Throughout the visit, I was impressed by the willingness of all staff to learn about physiotherapy and rehabilitation, as most health care delivery in Vietnam is very medically orientated. It made me realise the high regard that physiotherapy has around the world. I was also impressed by the creativity of staff and carers in devising solutions to healthcare problems, particularly when there are limited staffing and equipment resources. One patient’s husband made a pulley system for upper limb exercises out of scrap metal and bicycle parts, which worked surprisingly well.
Did it make you appreciate the NHS?
The visit reinforced how fortunate we are to have the NHS. As a staff member, while we might want the latest piece of technology or equipment to facilitate patient care, the visit highlighted how we don’t always need to spend a lot of money to improve people’s lives. In Vietnam, the patients and carers who were willing to wait several hours just to ask us some questions and were extremely grateful for our advice. As a service user of the NHS, it made me appreciate how much high-quality support and treatment we can access through the NHS. From now on, I won’t complain if my GP is running 10 minutes late!
Do you have a wanderlust?
Absolutely! Like other Australians, I love travelling and I am very fortunate that the UK provides an accessible base to travel and explore the world – although the trip to Australia is so long! My next holiday will be in sunny Brazil, just before the Olympic Games.
Should others take chances to travel?
I would recommend other CSP members to work abroad. It makes you realise just how valuable your knowledge and skills are and enables you to make a positive contribution. I will visit Hanoi, Vietnam, later this year to assist in developing stroke unit services in two regional hospitals.
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