Name: Lydia Hamstra, Class of 2018
Undergrad: Gonzaga University, WA
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Fun Fact: I am a huge Harry Potter nerd and to help prep for Italy I read Harry Potter in Italian (since I’ve read it so many times in English, I was able to figure out the gist—it gave me ideas for how to say certain phrases that I liked and thought I could use. I also believe reading in any language is the best way to learn new vocab!).
Lydia Hamstra is currently in Umbertide, Italy for her second clinical rotation. She advocated for and helped set up Regis’ first entire clinical rotation in another country.
Ciao, mi chiamo Lydia Hamstra e sono una studentessa di fisioterepia di secondo anno a Regis University. I have a passion for neurological rehab and travel and my goal is to combine those in my future career. One of the reasons I applied to the DPT program at Regis is because of the global immersion and service they do. Traveling off the beaten path has been a value instilled in me by my parents from a young age. Immersing myself in different cultures helps me grow as a person and as a clinician; it also enables a different kind of learning. By being present, helping others, exploring, and embracing what and who you find, you can create durable bridges that connect you to the world. It also illuminates parts of yourself you may not have known about and fosters reflection. We all want to have a positive impact in some way–I find that I grow the most when I’m out of my comfort zone and helping others.
Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to travel is by combining it with education. Why Italy? Honestly, it is difficult to say where I got the idea. I thought the country was romantic and charming, and more approachable than other countries. I actually picked my undergraduate school because they offered an Italian degree and had a second campus in Italy. In 2012, I was fortunate to study and live in Italy with a family from Florence (I’m actually meeting up with them during clinical!). My experience in undergrad made me realize that despite it being a first-world country, there is still a lot of need and hardship. I experienced it from the student perspective and I wanted to give back from the clinician perspective. I also wanted to learn about a different healthcare system and the pros and cons of socialized medicine. The clinical education team at Regis is one of the best in the country, if not the best. They worked diligently to create this opportunity–not just for me ,but for all future DPT students. The DPT program at Regis now has a partnership with Eduglobal and I am doing in-patient neurological rehab at the Instituto Prosperius in rural Italia.
If you’re heading abroad for a clinical experience, here are 5 tips to help you make the most of your time!
1) Find Ways Around the Language Barrier
First off, you don’t need to get OVER the language barrier—you don’t have to speak the language fluently (or even well) in order to communicate with your patients. It is, however, helpful to learn simple commands in Italian; these are great to take back home and use in English if you’re someone like me who tends to be wordy (beware the rest of my post!). Beyond that, focus on teaching by example and using non-verbal cues to get on the same page with your patient.
2) Learn to Go With the Flow
Yes, a global immersion or clinical is going to be different, and like any clinical out there, there will be things that you like and things that you don’t like about the system. Remember that Italian physical therapists, too, will be frustrated by certain parts of practice–be it communication, lack of resources, or decisions by doctors, to name a few. Remind yourself that professional frustrations and problems are universal. And remember that you are there to learn about physical therapy and to embrace the culture as much as you can. Learn to breathe and be patient—both with yourself and with your colleagues.
3) Go Above and Beyond
Just like any class or clinical, the time and effort you put in will transfer to what you get out of it. I believe this is true with regards to patient management, the language, and your rapport with your CI, the other students, and the other Italian physical therapists. One of the biggest differences in Italy is that they do not document every session…or even every day. This has to do with healthcare being a constitutional right for Italians, whereas we practice defensive medicine #CYA. Even though that is the case here, I am documenting certain things because I want to know how my patients are progressing. In general, Italians have an expectation that you hold yourself accountable. They expect you to push yourself; don’t fall into the trap of doing only the minimum.
4) Exchange Ideas with Colleagues
Going to Italy is unique, also, because you are placed with other students from a variety of schools. They are all at different points in their schooling, which provides quite the mix of ideas and understanding. Take advantage of this to exchange ideas and techniques with other students. For example, one SPT from Shenandoah taught us how to do a CT manipulation in prone.
Side bar: It is awesome to have a group to explore Italy with.
5) Take Advantage of the Slow Internet
You may find you have extra time here, especially because the internet is not as fast or reliable as in the US and certain websites *ahem Xfinity ahem* are unavailable. (You can get Netflix and Spotify, though, so I can promise you will survive.)
Gripe about it for a day…and then let it go and be in the moment. Journal, walk around town, engage with the locals, practice Italian, talk to your peers, learn how to make pasta, or study for the comp exam. You’ll feel less dependent on technology and it’s actually been amazing to unplug. It has given me more time to reflect on what I’m learning about myself, our practice, the meaning of life, etc, and always with a glass of wine in hand.