International location: St. Elizabeth Parrish, Jamaica
Reason for international trip (Conference, lecturer, Service/volunteer, other):
Volunteer and leader for four Global Health Service Learning Experiences – “Stroke Camp”
Brief description of international experience:
The Jamaica “Stroke Camp” involves providing 7 to 10 days of intensive task-specific rehabilitation services to individuals post stroke in the community who have limited access to services. Dr. Feld has participated in a total of four of these service trips. The experience includes the provision of 1-week of rehabilitation services including assessment, treatment planning, and intervention (clinic, home, and community). Cultural immersion experiences include living in the local community, eating local foods prepared by community members, learning about the farming community, and seeing first hand how some of the common foods and handcrafted merchandise are made (e.g., coffee, cassava bread, coconuts, jewelry, etc.).
What were some challenges you faced during your time overseas? (Language, culture, professional barriers)
There are a number of inherent challenges in adapting to another culture including cultural practices (e.g., eye contact, food, restrictions in use of water, travel, sleeping arrangements, etc.) along with those experienced in providing rehabilitation services (e.g., resources, patient beliefs in healthcare and health condition, family/caregiver involvement, etc.). It is important to be flexible, open minded, and adapt to changes day to day as needed.
How do you feel this experience contributed to your career? Specifically to the physical therapy profession, if applicable.
Dr. Feld discusses that her times spent in Jamaica has enhanced her clinical skills, cultural competency, role of community in managing health conditions, understanding of provision of services in low resource environments, understanding role of physical therapists in global health, and how involvement in global health can directly impact her clinical practice and research in the United States. She also says that the experience furthered her teaching skills by being immersed in a different setting with students from multiple U.S. colleges and universities along with international students.
Would you recommend an international experience for students, and if so, why?
Dr. Feld would absolutely recommend an international experience for students, as she states it has been one of the best experiences of her life that has impacted both her professional and personal life. She believes the student’s choice on whether or not to participate in an international experience, whether mission trip or clinical, should be dependent on the commitment and flexibility the student can provide. For those that are willing to make the commitment, the experience will broaden their understanding of physical therapy in a global setting, improve skills in communication, cultural diversity, PT assessment/plan of care/intervention, problem solving, and much more.