• WHAT WE DO
    WHAT WE DO

    Trinh Foundation Australia works to assist the Vietnamese people to establish Speech Therapy as a profession in their country. We collaborate with our Vietnamese partners to create ...

  • VOLUNTEER
    VOLUNTEER

    You can volunteer for Trinh Foundation in a number of ways – and you don’t have to leave the country, if you don’t want to. We are always looking for volunteers, to travel to Vietnam ...

  • CURRENT WORK
    CURRENT WORK

    TFA works in partnership with a number of educational and clinical institutions throughout Vietnam to deliver on our mission of bringing speech therapy to Vietnam ...

Rose Beeching Reports on her Volunteering Experiences in Vietnam

I am a Speech Therapist from the UK with a background in working with adults with neurological conditions. Having previously volunteered in Bangladesh in 2014 at the Bangladesh Health Professionals Institute I wanted to find further opportunities to volunteer in Asia. The following is my story of volunteering with Trinh Foundation in Vietnam.

I embarked on my trip to Vietnam on 5 September 2016 and found myself still there, as the Lunar New Year celebrations or ‘Tet’ festival approached at the end of January 2017. I started my volunteering with 3 weeks in Lam Dong Hospital in Bao Loc City, located two hours from Ho Chi Minh. I have since been based in Ha Noi volunteering at Phuc Hoi Chuc Nang (Ha Noi Rehabilitation Hospital) and Lao Khoa Hospital (The National Geriatric Hospital).

A large proportion of time was spent providing clinical supervision, supporting professional development and increasing knowledge relating to assessment and management of acquired communication and swallowing disorders.

Therapists there must be flexible, taking on the role of two or more professions so have often previously trained in nursing or physiotherapy. I think that my colleagues from a rehabilitation background have many transferable skills but have been keen for more specific clinical learning in relation to assessment and therapy approaches for acquired swallowing and communication disorders.

Depending on the knowledge and experience of my colleagues, I introduced or revised clinical theory with them during informal teaching sessions, lectures and workshops and then have used practical sessions with patients to apply this learning and support them to gain experience of different assessments and therapy approaches. Some of my colleagues have had very little or no training in clinical management of clients with communication and swallowing disorders and have had not had access to core theoretical learning such as phonetics, linguistics and models of language processing. I have had to consider what depth and range of theory will be most useful for my colleagues and which will form a foundation that they can build upon as their experience increases.

The caseloads have been a mixture of inpatient, longer-term rehabilitation and community patients with acquired neurological conditions.  The majority have been stroke patients but we have also seen patients with brain injury following road traffic accidents, progressive neurological conditions and non-neurological conditions such as gastroesophageal tumours.

I think the most daunting challenge for me was delivering a weeklong dysphagia-training course in my first week volunteering in Ha Noi.  I had not realized that people would be attending from hospitals as far away as Ho Chi Minh! I hope that the attendees could take away some practical learning that they could apply to their clinical practice. With hindsight, I think I overestimated the clinical knowledge of the attendees and therefore some of the theoretical sections may have been too detailed however, I did try to incorporate plenty of practical sessions and more visual and interactive learning via role-play and case studies.

The last two days of the workshop included the practical sessions at the Geriatric Hospital. I was slightly surprised to find myself assessing a patient in front of about 50 health professionals. I was reassured that the patients are used to being observed by many people at once and have found that numerous student doctors, eager for learning opportunities, will appear at bedside assessments without warning!

Speech and Language provision for adults is still very much in its infancy in Vietnam so some of the approaches to rehabilitation are quite different to those I’m accustomed to in the UK, for example, therapists still work largely independently of the other therapists and medical team rather than multi-disciplinary team working. My colleagues in the rehabilitation departments are working hard to establish this field of health care and promote the importance of rehabilitation in conjunction with medical management by the doctors and nursing teams.  

I worked with excellent TFA trained and funded interpreters and translators who have been instrumental to the whole process of transferring information between myself and my colleagues and the patients. They have also been able to translate assessments, therapy protocols and hospital signage, increasing the resources available for use with patients and their families. Therefore, a huge thank you to Nhat, Sa and Nhung for their invaluable help. They deserve huge credit for their contributions during this time.

The rewards have been huge, both in a professional and personal sense.  Professionally I have gained experience in clinical mentoring and teaching within a cross-cultural setting.  I am more confident in devising and delivering training sessions which will hopefully enable me to improve upon the training that I can provide in the UK and during future voluntary work. I have been welcomed by all my colleagues and received great hospitality. It has been a pleasure to work with the patients and their families who have been equally welcoming and grateful for any support that we have been able to offer. I have also had the chance to live and work in an amazing country, learn about Vietnamese culture and attempt to learn the language!

I left with wonderful memories from my time in Vietnam and will always remember it as a very enriching and exciting experience. I would highly recommend volunteering with Trinh Foundation to anyone thinking about doing voluntary work, it will be an unforgettable experience!

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