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"Nice to share our experiences"

Published: 21 April 2015

Daily powernap, mildewed clothes and a great need for occupational therapists met Sara Maria Olsson and Marielle Ohlsson's when they conducted their clinical education. They study on the occupational therapy program semester six and went to Hanoi, Vietnam, to gather material for their thesis.

What was a typical day for you on Teaching Practice: n?

– We took the bus to the hospital every morning around eight o'clock. The bus cost 7000 dong which is about two Swedish kronor. Once at the hospital, we went to the washroom, put our work clothes on and went to the rehab department. In the morning, we often met patients we had hand training with. We also met children with cerebral palsy where we got the chance to use game as an intervention. At noon we went to the dining room and ate lunch with the staff. The food always consisted of rice, vegetables, meat, chicken or fish and soup instead of a drink. After lunch, we always went to bed and slept on the bunks in the treatment room in 30 minutes. This was something that we thought was very funny in the beginning, because it's not something we were used to. But now we think that everyone should take a powernap at work to gather new energy. At one o´clock it was always staff meeting where everyone drank tea, and the staff took the opportunity to practice their English with us. After the meeting, we usually stayed for a while in the staff room and studied. Then we went to physiotherapists and observed their work with patients. At five o'clock it was time to switch back to our own clothes and go back to the apartment.

How were you welcomed?

– We were very well welcomed. Even if everyone could not speak good enlish they tried to talk to us, which was appreciated. After the first day of the clinical education we were invited by the staff for dinner and karaoke. One of physiotherapists could speak very good English and he thought it was very fun that international students came to the hospital. He became like a tutor for us.

How do occupational therapists work in Vietnam?

– There are no occupational therapists in Hanoi, however, the physiotherapists had learn a little about occupational therapy in their education, but also by occupational therapists from other countries. They could  provide advice on various devices and perform certain hand rehabilitation, and use the game as an intervention for children.

What surprised you most in the hospital, based on your professional role?

– They had a nice room for occupational therapists at the rehab department, but there were no occupational therapists who worked at the hospital.

What are their needs for occupational therapists?

– The hospital staff stated several times that they lacked occupational therapists in the team. They wanted  occupational therapists to come and work there in the future. Something we observed during the weeks in the hospital was that there was a great need to train daily activities with patients, so they could become more independent and involved.

How was it to do the clinical education together with a fellow student?

– It meant an awful lot, since there were not so many who knew English. It was also nice to be able to share our experiences with someone, especially when there is a great cultural contrast between Sweden and Vietnam.

How was it to gather material for your essay on "rehabilitative interventions for children with disabilities from an occupational therapy perspective"?

– Before we went off to Vietnam, we decided to taper our topic and write about rehabilitative interventions for children with cerebral palsy. Everyone we wanted to interview and observe lined up and had a positive attitude to our work, as well as a good knowledge of cerebral palsy.

How has the journey and experiences influenced you in your profession?

– We have realized how important occupational therapy is for people to be as independent and involved as possible in the society they live in. Our experiences from the trip has given us the knowledge of different cultures which we believe is useful in the meeting with future clients our professionally.

What did you do in your spare time?

– Since we had the thesis and the course that we studyed at a distance it became lots of study time. But we also took the opportunity to visit various attractions, such as temples and museums. We also did two tours when we left the big city life and went to Sapa and Halong Bay.

Give an example of an important experience you had during the visit?

– That we will use the dry function on the AC you future when we visit a country with high humidity to avoid moldy clothes and broken computers.

Tips for students who are thinking about doing their clinical education abroad?

– Find out as much as possible before hand what you will write about, so you do not have to spend lots of time to change your plans. For example, we googled various hospitals in Hanoi to find out as much information as possible.

– Be open to the new culture, try new foods, meet new people and experience all the fun that the country has to offer.

– If you should not stay with a family, we would recommend looking at apartments to rent instead of staying in a hotel. We rented an apartment where we had a respective bedrooms and  bathrooms. It was absolutely perfect and it is usually no more expensive than hotels. We did not book the apartment from Sweden, because it is very difficult to determine how they look in real life through pictures. And then, it is often easier to discuss the price once in the country. You can also check that there is good internet connection by testing with you mobile in the apartment before renting.

– Learn a few words or phrases in the local language, xin chao (hello), we have said often. Especially if you are traveling to a country where they can not speak English so well.