Vietnam was a country high on my travel list after hearing amazing things about the culture, food and friendly people. So when I had the opportunity to do an elective placement, it seemed like a great opportunity to combine two things I was passionate about.
When I arrived at the Work the World house I was really impressed by how beautiful and peaceful it was. There was a swimming pool, a flower garden and plenty of space for relaxing and socialising inside.
I settled in quickly thanks to the support of the amazing team out there. They really do make you feel like you have a second family.
We also had the chance to learn Vietnamese twice a week which was both fun and useful for engaging more when on placement.
We also had cooking classes so we could still eat incredible Vietnamese food when we went home. Thursday night BBQs were everyone’s favourite night, and it was nice to try all the local dishes.
The first week on placement was quite a shock as despite having access to a relatively well-equipped gym and outpatient clinic, the conditions in the main hospital were very different from the NHS.
It was common for two patients to share a bed and rooms were very cramped and hot which made carrying out assessment and rehabilitation much more challenging. However, after observing the physiotherapists I quickly learnt new skills and understood how they managed patients in a variety of areas such as MSK, neuro, paediatrics, spinal cord injury, orthopaedics and ICU.
The Work the World team were super helpful and I was able to visit a traditional medicine centre and learn about the role of physiotherapy for acupuncture, massage and herbal medicine which is highly valued amongst the Vietnamese population.
One experience that stands out was when I went to the acute stroke unit in the hospital.
One experience that stands out was when I went to the acute stroke unit in the hospital. This was the major stroke centre for the whole of central Vietnam and had a capacity of 35 beds. Yet when I visited, they had 47 patients!
There was just one physiotherapist for the whole unit so it meant patients could only receive 15 minutes of therapy a day. Family education was therefore key to ensure they could continue therapy both on the unit and when patients got home as they didn’t have community rehabilitation.
I was really humbled to see how they managed such a demanding caseload and I got the chance to build upon my respiratory and neuro practical skills while I was there.
The physiotherapy team were shy initially, but soon enough they were really friendly and keen to know how we would manage different cases in the UK. The big difference was that there was a much heavier emphasis on physical treatment modalities compared to exercise prescription and many MSK conditions were a result of motorbike and road traffic accidents.
There was plenty to do in Hue during our evenings and weekends. We visited the imperial city, explored along the perfume river and made our way through many different coffee shops. The local coffee in Hue is salt coffee which was surprisingly addictive.
We also travelled to Hoi An, Ba Na Hills, Danang and Bach Ma national park which were all really different experiences and a lot of fun.
I travelled to Hue on my own but left with a lovely new group of friends.
The Work the World team were incredibly helpful in giving us suggestions for weekend travel and it gave me a chance to make really good friends with everyone in the house. I travelled to Hue on my own but left with a lovely new group of friends who I’m already hoping to visit at some point in the future.
After completing my placement, I travelled north to explore the chaos of Hanoi, trek the rice paddies in Sapa travelling by overnight train and visited the iconic Ha Long Bay. This was a really nice way to unwind after a busy four weeks on placement.
I already wish I could go back.
My placement was a challenge at times and quite emotional seeing some of the differences. But, I learnt so much both in my practical skills, care and compassion and ability to problem solve – I already wish I could go back.
I have a greater appreciation of the healthcare system we have in the UK and how valuable physiotherapy is as a profession wherever you are in the world.
If you’re considering a physio placement in Hue then go for it, you won’t regret it!