January 29, 2024

Transformative Experiences: Volunteering as a Speechie in Vietnam

Transformative Experiences: Volunteering as a Speechie in Vietnam

Meet Jessamy Routley, a dedicated in country volunteer who recently shared her experience working as a TFA clinical educator. Here, Jessamy provides insights into the role and the profound impact of capacity building in Vietnam. 

Jessamy's journey with TFA began after she was inspired by a colleague who had a positive experience volunteering in Vietnam. Her love for travel and interest in merging work with exploration aligned perfectly with TFA's mission. Her decision to contribute to the growth of speech therapy in Vietnam was driven by a desire to share her knowledge and make a meaningful impact. 

During her time in Vietnam, Jessamy was stationed in Hai Duong and Da Nang, engaging with diverse healthcare settings. 

“During the Hai Duong section of my placement, I supported a 3-week clinical placement for 16 students in the hospital setting. The aim of this placement was to provide clinical supervision to the students on their first university placement, while also working with the lecturers to build their own clinical supervision skills. This involved clinical supervision of the students when working directly with patients to complete all aspects of intervention planning, from initial case history and assessment to therapy and home programs.”

In Da Nang Jessamy focused on the ongoing professional development of graduate speech and language therapists (SALTs) in Vietnam. "I supported them by providing mentoring and continuing professional development sessions," she explained, emphasising the importance of nurturing the next generation of professionals. 

Having visited Vietnam as a tourist before, Jessamy already had a love for the country's food and culture. However, her volunteering experience brought a new dimension. "The main thing that stood out to me this visit was how interested and open to learning about speech pathology everyone was – from the patients to the other hospital staff, everyone was so receptive." 

Reflecting on the state of speech pathology in Vietnam, Jessamy stresses the significance of capacity building. "Speech pathology in Vietnam is still so new – although the universities are now consistently graduating students, these early career speech pathologists face difficulties accessing guidance around complex cases. If these people better understand what a speech pathologist does, they will be better equipped to access speech pathology when needed or make appropriate referrals," she said.  

One of Jessamy's favourite aspects of volunteering was witnessing positive changes in the application of clinical reasoning skills by students and new graduates. "I loved seeing them apply a strategy that we had discussed during a session with a patient, or ask a question differently to show that they had taken new learnings on board.”

Addressing potential volunteers, she advises flexibility and creative thinking: "Be prepared to be challenged; it's all part of the experience and learning!"

Jessamy’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of cross-cultural collaborations in speech pathology, contributing to the growth of services in Vietnam. 

If you have ever considered broadening your impact as a SALT through volunteering abroad, we'd love to hear from you! Please contact volunteers-tfa@trinhfoundation.org to learn about upcoming opportunities.