Providing an opportunity to learn as well as heal
By Jennifer Browning
“Dousma madame, dousma,..” Sammie Jean Charles tells a patient to go slowly as she moves her leg backwards and starts to feel the resistance from the band.
Sammie, a physical therapy tech in training, is working with Roslyn Gillen, an occupational therapist volunteering this week at Bernard Mevs/Project
The recent move to the community hospital has created also a partnership. Project Medishare volunteers are now working side-by-side with Haitian physicians, surgeons, nurses, and pharmacists in an effort to “train the trainer.” Those coming to volunteer at the trauma and rehabilitation hospital, are not only coming to work, but to also share their knowledge with their Haitian colleagues as part of Project Medishare’s medical educational training program. Currently, there are five students going through training to be a physical therapy tech.
Sammie began working with Project Medishare as an interpreter. Through working with the physical therapists in transfers of spinal cord patient and out-patient rehabilitation, he became interested in the field.
“I wanted to learn about physical therapy, but there isn’t a school in Haiti,” Sammie said, “and now the people here with Project Medishare are helping us get training.”
And if there were a school for physical therapy in Haiti, Sammie said, it would be too expensive for him to attend. He sees the additional benefit.
“Many Haitians have the willingness to learn, but to get an education, to learn a skill many times you need the money to pay for the school, but with Medishare here, they are training me for free,” Sammie said. “They are giving me a great opportunity to learn to be a physical therapy tech.”
Alyson Cavanaugh is one of the two long-term volunteers who are training students like Sammie.
“The overall goal is to teach our PT techs to be able to take over this position so that when someone comes in with an injury, they are able to evaluate them and to provide treatment services,” she said. “Eventually when we are gone we want them to be able to do basic physical therapy. “
So far the physical therapists in training have learned basic physical therapy exercises, lower extremity anatomy, and they are beginning to participate in evaluating patients.
In addition to this, they are receiving a hands-on experience as they work with the volunteer physical therapists in assigning exercises and providing patient education regarding the exercises prescribed for physical therapy.
Roslyn Gillen, an occupational therapist from Victoria, B.C. who is volunteering this week, said Sammie shadows her as part of his training. Roslyn also constantly reviews with Sammie on the information he has already learned.
“Right now we are focusing on testing their knowledge regarding range of motion,” she said. “We are trying to reinforce whatever they are working on this week as well as allowing them to assist us where they can.”
The PT tech students have also attended a three-day training on wheelchair fitting as well as training in wound care.
Alyson said she appreciates how eager the students are about learning all the necessary skills.
“They are super excited to learn and they are eating up every little bit of information,” she said. “There is a lot of memorization involved, so they are practicing each and everyday between each other and reviewing the anatomy. “
The physical therapy tech students are also requesting to gain more responsibilities in dealing with patients. For Alyson, this is a good sign.
“They are asking now to be more involved with transfers, so they are taking the lead in our spinal cord unit to get the patients out of bed,” she said. “They are all independent in transfers working with spinal cord patients.”
Another physical therapy tech student, Aviça Charles said this is not only a great learning experience for him, but a great opportunity for him to help others in the future.
“I am very happy to have this program here, because too many times when someone here in Haiti breaks their leg or arm they may not get the therapy they need to get better,” Aviça said. “With this program, and with the training I receive I will be able to one day help people get healthy.”
Six months after the January earthquake, Project Medishare continues to work in Haiti in an effort not only to treat the people of Haiti, but also to better train the medical staff there in order to empower the Haitian people.
Click here to make an online donation to show your support in continuing Project Medishare’s medical educational training program. Funding is still extremely important to continue these important, long-term life saving efforts.