Updates from the Field: MUSC student Elizabeth Slaughter, Uganda


Today we saw a lot of patients with back pain. As occupational therapy (OT) students, we learned a lot in our anatomy and musculoconditions course about the back muscles and how to ergonomically handle daily task management; however, we did not cover many interventions for back pain.

Working with the physical therapy (PT) students on patients with back pain was a great learning experience because we watched them do procedures we’ve never seen before. Throughout the day we started to co-treat. We were able to give our patients suggestions of how to reduce and prevent future pain.

At the end of the day we saw many patients. We observed the physical therapy students perform procedures while we assisted in conducting interventions of our own. One of our last patients was an elderly man who seemed to have osteoarthritis in his hands. He was a digger and needed his hands to make a living. We had to think of ideas to prevent further deformity of his fingers and to reduce pain. We made a resting hand splint for the patient to wear at night—finger splints were needed, too.

The physical therapy students helped us make the hand splints, which is something out of their scope of practice. They helped us stabilize the gentlemen’s hand and taught him how to wear it.

As I sit here and reflect on the day, I realized it was a rewarding opportunity to have occupational and physical therapy students work in tandem to provide assistance to patients. After being involved in an inter-professional team, I feel like I have learned a lot from the different disciplines involved. I got to watch an evaluation, and we co-treated several back pain patients. All week we will be working in teams comprised of PT and OT students—I look forward to learning more from the group.

Elizabeth Slaughter is a second year occupational therapy student and 2014 recipient of the MUSC Global Health trainee travel grant.