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Student placement in Indian orthopaedic hospital

29 September 2016

In April, four osteopathy students from RMIT University travelled to India for a month-long student placement in the Sportsmed Mumbai hospital.

Among the group was Areni Altun, the recipient of the 2016 Osteopathy Australia Prize for best student in their penultimate year of osteopathy studies.

Below is Areni's reflection on the experience:

I stepped off the plane into the humid, stifling air that was India, murky with dirt and social inequality.  In our culture of more, I was promptly reminded of how the lives of those in Mumbai, differed to mine, and so began my first insight into what a placement in an Indian orthopaedic hospital would entail.

As I meandered through the slums, cycled amid the crowded streets and taxied through the perpetually congested roads of Mumbai, I was confronted with the daily struggles most Indian men and women had to face.  The toll it had taken on their body was evident and the resultant posture adopted was clear and duplicable on most.  From head to toe, a lifetime of arduous work was apparent on the men and women who stepped into the treating rooms.  I had to quickly learn to be resourceful in the way I conducted my treatments and the way in which I spoke to these individuals. I was a twenty-two year old Australian born female, with a tertiary level education and the luxury to practice abroad, what did I know about hard work? Which brings me to my next point; communication, is it really the key?

This was the biggest hurdle and by far the most rewarding aspect of treating in India. Cultural, educational and personal obstacles are inevitable, especially when language barriers exist. To speak with intent, compassion and in a language understandable by the layman, was imperative.  This taught me how important it was to convey detail concisely and patiently. Not only did I have to ensure I was easily understood but I had to ensure that they felt understood, and this was difficult. It was important to provide a space within the consult for patients to reflect and understand the emotional turmoil that is so often coupled with seemingly musculoskeletal complaints. Conditions possess a tenacious tendency to loiter when underlying factors like such are not address and often go untreated and ignored for years.

RMIT osteopathy student placement

In a country where healthcare is not a priority, chronic pain becomes a part of daily life. Like breakfast, lunch and dinner, pain was just another routine meal to swallow. Comparatively speaking, acute conditions were surprisingly less common mostly owing to the limited availability of a broader scope of health services. Many conditions patients presented with were chronic and persistent due to inadequate management, constant re aggravation and poor preventative education. For most, work is unavoidable and this notion was particularly potent among Indian culture where poverty is strikingly evident. Treatment therefore concentrated on educating patients on preventative strategies, aggravating factors and changes in lifestyle habits to help in the progression and preservation of optimal health.

It is difficult to look back and pin point a certain moment where it felt as though everything finally came together but somewhere along the journey (to my surprise) it did- at least to some degree.  This placement has taught me to be self reliant and has given me the confidence in my skills that up until then I had doubted. I was fortunate enough to travel with the most uplifting and driven group of students who were effortlessly encouraging and capable. Much to my luck, I was also under the tutelage of an incredibly approachable and cultured mentor, who consistently reinstated faith in each one of us.  It was an experience that undoubtedly helped shaped the way in which I approach and treat patients and gave me an insight into the diversity of conditions that may present into any clinic, whether it be in India, or anywhere across the world.



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