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Physiotherapy student takes movement to another level by travelling to Africa

A Physiotherapy degree student on placement in Tanzania with hospital staff

A University of Wolverhampton student has taken movement to another level by travelling to East Africa to make use of his Physiotherapy skills. 

Lewis Houlden, 21 from Bristol, is studying for a Physiotherapy degree in the School of Allied Health and Midwifery at the University’s Walsall Campus. Lewis has just completed a five-week physiotherapy elective work placement with Work the World, as part of the course, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

Lewis was working in the inpatient and outpatient departments at the Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute and had the opportunity to join physiotherapy lectures with Tanzanian students whilst observing orthopaedic surgeries and learning the national language of Swahili.  

Utilising the skills he has learned over his three years of study he identified and implemented service improvement ideas at the hospital such as the development of exercise groups – an innovative approach that was not previously in practice. 

Lewis said: “From a young age I have had a desire to study Physiotherapy. I was engaged ever since going through rehabilitation myself and exploring the routes it has into sports. It offers opportunities in so many different areas of healthcare that I have come to appreciate during my placement blocks. The Foundation Degree course enabled me to study Physiotherapy when I hadn’t taken the specific A-levels required by other universities.   

“Being out in Tanzania exposed me to more severe cases, one being scoliosis and how early intervention is crucial to preserving/improving patients’ lives. The lack of resources in both outpatient and inpatient settings meant we had to look for alternative treatment methods but also taught me how to challenge certain scenarios differently. I have a much bigger appreciation for the structure we have in the UK. Patients in Tanzania are sitting in crowded waiting rooms for hours with no referral before seeing any healthcare professional. It has taken time to adjust to their culture with views around pain and treatment being very different to what I am used to.   

“After working in the local hospital for five weeks I have been able to see the limited resources and equipment the physio team have at their disposal. Through fundraising we were able to buy much needed resources such as masks and medical gloves, spirometers, mobility aids and therabands to help with treatment in the hospital. Without these, patients have to purchase them which is something that most families aren’t able to afford. This massively affects their chances of recovery. 

Jessica Clough, Senior Lecturer and Course Lead for the Physiotherapy degree course at the University, said: “Lewis has not only been working hard during his placement but he’s gone above and beyond by initiating a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for much-needed medical equipment for the local hospital in Tanzania. This initiative reflects Lewis’ dedication to making a positive impact in the community and showcases his commitment to improving the healthcare of the people of Tanzania. 

“Physiotherapy placements play a pivotal role in shaping the education and professional development of students. These hands-on experiences offer students a unique opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to real-life situations, honing their clinical skills and enhancing their problem-solving abilities. Through direct interaction with patients under the guidance of experienced practitioners, students gain a deeper understanding of diverse medical conditions, treatment modalities, and patient management.” 

Find out more about degree courses in the Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing and visit one of our forthcoming Open Days.  


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