In December, students from multiple physical therapy programs in Georgia traveled to Peru to participate in a medical mission trip through Medical Campus Outreach. Two students from the University of North Georgia–Josh Stroud (2nd year) and Drew Jones (1st year)—sat down with the Student Physical Therapy Network to discuss how the trip helped shape their future physical therapy practice and what they learned from the experience.
1. What inspired you to go on the mission trip?
D: I thought it would be a good trip because it would allow me to grow as a PT and allow me to practice the skills I was learning in school but also allow me to care for people and love people well. Part of the reason we went on the trip was to share the gospel with each patient and that was a large portion of the trip. So I saw it as a good way to do a lot of things that my life really revolves around.
J: That pretty much sums up why I went. I went last year and I really enjoyed the trip. You get to sit down and slow down because it forces you to do so because you are going back and forth with a translator. But like Drew said it combines a lot of things that I love, trying to share the gospel with people and also practicing physical therapy.
2. How do you feel the trip helped you to grow as a student and a future PT?
D: For me, I had no idea what to expect walking into the trip. My first day was a jumble; I didn’t feel like I knew anything and I felt useless. But after talking with some other students, you know more than you think and once you get comfortable, and realize that you’re not expected to know everything right now, it isn’t as overwhelming. My big takeaway from the trip was that for clinical and while I’m in school, it’s okay not to know everything and that the first day you’re not going to be perfect. It’s going to take time and you’re going to learn it. We had a PT and then we had 2-3 students work with each PT. I would do a lot of the basic stuff like goniometry and taking a history, then a 2nd or 3rd year would do some special tests and we would all talk together about the kind of treatment we would look into. I think it prepares you well to work with others and it teaches you that you don’t need to know everything, and that you aren’t expected to know everything either.
J: I think it takes a day or two to get used to the vibe of the clinic and trying to see that it’s not about how much you know or how much you don’t know at this point but that you are there for another reason, which is to serve people. So it makes you stop thinking so introspectively and you start thinking more about the patient that is in front of you. It’s comforting to know that you are treating with other students from other universities and they are sharing their clinical experience and their expertise. Every school has their own philosophy and thoughts so it is interesting getting to collaborate, work together trying to come up with a treatment plan to treat these patients that you may most likely only see one time. It’s pretty impactful to see how thankful these people are for what we are trying to do for them
3. Tell us about your favorite patient you were able to work with
J: You are split into teams each day and my day on home therapy was my favorite. You step into this difficult situation and it might be the one treatment that we get to come out and try to help these people. The lady we treated had been in a car wreck. She had a broken clavicle that had not been re-set so the clavicle was lying on top of itself and was fused. She had limited ROM in all planes of shoulder movement and then had a fractured ischium. The only info that she had been given was to lie in bed and try to tough it out. It is the small things that you are giving them like theraband, home exercises, and education. All that hopefully if she adheres to it, it is going to make a huge difference in her quality of life. The cool thing was that we got to identify her needs, maybe a walker or a bedside commode, and we can supply those things at very minimal cost. It was awesome to be entering into someone’s house and really sense that you can make an impact on these people’s lives.
4. What advice would you give to students who might be interested in going on the trip?
D: Just do it. I think you can make a lot of different excuses as to why you wouldn’t go, but at the end of the day those excuses don’t really hold up. I think a lot of it is saying I don’t want to be uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable is good.
J: That’s a really good way to describe it. I think something I gleaned off the first trip was that if we’re not going, no one else is. If you don’t think you can help out while you’re there, you’re sorely mistaken because those people really appreciate the care that you can provide, your insight, your wisdom, the gifts that you’ve been given, the opportunities you’ve been given. That sense of being uncomfortable is really going to grow you as a clinician because you are going to get to see things. It’s hard to get out and see things while you are in school and you’re focused on the academics but you just need to see the patient in front of you, so I would tell you to go and like Drew said just don’t allow yourself to make those excuses that are really easy to make during Christmas break. You’re going to get bored at the house eventually and the experience that you have there is really something you will always think about. Do it.
The mission trip is with the organization Medical Campus Outreach (MCO). The trip is usually in December and those who go include team doctors, PA, OT, and PT students and providers. MCO is currently on PT campuses at Augusta University, Mercer, Georgia State, Brenau, and UNG. The mission of MCO is for current providers to come alongside students to help them see what life in healthcare looks like and how they are able to share and incorporate their faith into that. The website is http://mcoaugusta.org/ if you want more information!