Reflecting on Pediatric Physical Therapy in the International Community

By Susan Klappa and Vickie Meade.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are a subset of health care providers taking on new roles in global health through international clinical experiences (ICE). During ICE, clinicians and students often work with patients and families. Each party brings with them health beliefs and interaction styles obtained from their families and communities. The revised code of ethics for physical therapists and the standards of practice for physical therapist assistants challenge us to be respectful of all patients we work with and to identify our own biases with regard to those we serve. Strategies used by clinicians have potential to greatly help or harm patients and families depending on the interaction approach used. It is important to be attentive to patients, families, family dynamics, and the expectations of the patient and family if the physical therapy interventions are to be optimally effective. An understanding of one’s own culture and personal values as well as the ability to detach oneself from personal views are essential to providing appropriate family-centered health care that empowers families rather than diminishes their ability to care for their children. This article discusses strategies of moving from not-knowing into knowing as we engage and empower the patients and families we encounter in the ICE setting through a reflective “I CAN DO” model to promote sustainable care. Several case examples are provided which illustrate engaging families and communities in a culturally respectful manner which empowers families long after we leave the ICE setting.

Keywords: International Clinical Experiences, Pediatrics, Culture, Family-centered Care, Not-knowing

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.101-116. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 832.162KB).

Dr. Susan Klappa

Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Public Health Departments, University of the Incarnate Word, Minneapolis, TX, USA

Dr. Klappa is an associate professor at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX. She earned her PhD in education, curriculum and instruction: family, youth, and community from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Klappa also earned her Master of Physical Therapy Degree at the College of St. Catherine. She teaches in the areas of global health and physical therapy. Dr. Klappa has a passion for the role of physical therapy in the international community and has traveled to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela as a physical therapist and educator. Dr. Klappa has also been involved in disaster relief work in Haiti during five tours of service since the 2010 earthquake. Her research interests include studying the influence of international immersion experiences in preparing physical therapist clinicians for their role in civic engagement. She recently wrote a book entitled: Experiences of Physical Therapists Not Knowing During International Service Work: The Essence of Not Knowing.

Dr. Vickie Meade

Physical Therapist Consultant, Kosrae Department of Education, Kosrae, Micronesia (Federated States of)

Dr. Vickie Meade received her doctoral science degree from the University of Health Professions, Provo, Utah, with a focus on screening infants using a two-step process. Dr. Meade is a board certified clinical specialist in pediatric physical therapy, with a Masters of Public Health in maternal and child health. Dr. Meade was active in research on early screening and innovative service delivery models for infants, young children, and their families on the island of Kosrae in Micronesia before relocating to Australia. Dr. Meade has been teaching courses related to early screening and intervention for over 20 years, as an adjunct professor in the Masters of Physical Therapy Program at the College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, Minnesota; Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington; and internationally. Her publications include “Partners in Movement: A Family-centered Approach to Pediatric Kinesiology” and “Handwriting: Anatomy of a Collaborative Assessment/Intervention Model” with Rhoda Erhardt.