Physical therapy students experience China

physical therapy students in china

(From left) Allyson Demetriadis, a Slippery Rock University doctor of physical therapy student from Mars, Barbara Billek-Sawhney, SRU professor in the School of Physical Therapy, Candice Blevins, a doctor of physical therapy student from Mentor, Ohio, and Caroline Schmitt, a doctor of physical therapy student from Parsippany, New Jersey, travelled to China Dec. 2-19 to work and teach physical therapy as part of the University’s study-abroad opportunities.

Jan. 4, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - China. The ancient country is transforming much of the world, including the lives of three Slippery Rock University doctor of physical therapy students who recently completed a two-week teaching and service experience in Beijing.

Allyson Demetriadis of Mars, Caroline Schmitt of Parsippany, New Jersey, and Candice Blevins of Mentor, Ohio, delivered clinical teaching focusing on treatment methods for mature adults and about caring for patients with paralysis of half the body.

Barbara Billek-Sawhney, professor in the School of Physical Therapy, led the teaching-service trip to Intech Rehabilitation Hospital. Intech opened in May 2015 and serves as the host organization for more than 50 therapists a day to attend classes.

"The emphasis for the teaching was based on the health care needs and rehabilitation in China," she said. "Similar to the United States and so many other places, there is a graying of China. That means the population of older adults has grown significantly; it is also reflected in the lifting of the ban on one-child per family."

No clinical guidelines or standards of practice for the physical therapy profession are utilized in Beijing, Billek-Sawheny said. The SRU group's mission was to provide direction and a basic foundation for physical therapy students in hopes of positively impacting the quality of patient care in China.

Students said the experience was an eye opener, professionally and culturally. They co-treated two geriatric patients a day with a variety of neurological and muscular skeletal impairments that included Alzheimer's, strokes, osteoarthritis, dementia, Parkinson's and heart disease.

"It was a great opportunity to help educate future students about the role of a physical therapist," Demetriadis said. "This trip also served as a way to enhance my own skills by teaching someone else."

Schmitt said, "This trip was a great opportunity to push myself outside my comfort zone by immersing myself in a different culture while serving and educating students and practicing professionals in the field of physical therapy."

Blevins said the experience gave the group a chance work on their clinical skills, leadership, cultural competence and professional communication.

"I have a passion for service," she said. "This trip was a perfect opportunity to combine my passion for the physical therapy profession and service to educate professionals in another country. This was also a wonderful opportunity to learn about a new culture."

Students said working and living in China helped them feel more thankful.

"This experience has helped me to realize how grateful I am for my education and the opportunities I have had to learn and grow as a physical therapist in the United States," Demetriadis said. "Besides the classroom experiences, this trip has opened my eyes to the Chinese culture and the history behind some of China's most beautiful landmarks."

Schmitt said the group explored Beijing and historical sights. They visited The Great Wall and Olympic village from the 2008 Summer Olympics, as well as the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Behai Park and the Summer Palace.

"We not only learned about the differences in the profession of physical therapy and healthcare in China versus the United States, but we were able to experience the culture of China first hand," she said.

Blevins said they stayed in an area of Beijing where no one spoke English. The location provided a glimpse of how people live outside the tourist areas of the city.

"We learned some of the language, along with proper etiquette, greetings and social interaction," Blevins said. "We also experienced original Chinese recipes, being adventurous with tasting traditional Chinese cuisine.


MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu