Looking Back

SLP Graduate Reflects on International Student Placement Experience…

During her 2nd year of the S-LP program, Ruth Levin (class of ’11) had the opportunity to complete her final clinical placement in Johannesburg, South Africa. Along with another classmate, Ruth provided assessment and treatment for paediatric and adult patients at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH).

South Africa’s health care system consists of both private and public sectors, which provide services to a range of people of varying socioeconomic status (SES). CMJAH is one of the largest public hospitals, with 1088 beds. Many patients come from low SES backgrounds, and are multilingual, speaking at least one of the 11 official languages.

Ruth and her colleague had vast clinical exposure. They conducted communication, cognitive, and swallowing assessments and implemented therapy sessions with individuals and groups. Patient backgrounds ranged from those with neonatal complications, autism, and cerebral palsy to acquired brain injury, aphasia, motor-speech disorders and HIV/AIDS.

“This truly enlightening experience enabled us to apply theories learned at UofT with a creative and flexible approach in order to cross language and low resource barriers. Moreover, we had the privilege of learning about the people of South Africa. We were inspired by the vibrant culture, and moved by the devotion of so many parents, who travelled countless miles with their babies literally on their backs to receive an hour’s worth of service”.

 Almost 2 years later, Ruth is working in acute care in Toronto and is able to see the ways her international practicum experiences are shaping her current practice. Some of the skills she learned – like working in a fast paced and often unpredictable environment – have proven quite transferable to her current role.

More broadly, Ruth became aware of the importance of a holistic approach. In terms of incorporating best practice with patient and family goals, Ruth is more mindful of ensuring the plan will make sense in the context of their life (ie. given living circumstances, access to resources and care in the community, and feasibility of following recommendations).

“It was incredible to see how theory can be so similar overseas, yet the practice can be quite different in terms of demographics and resources. I have gained an appreciation for the resources and medical system we have in place here in Canada, but also an appreciation for the usefulness of being adaptable and using informal assessment and intervention in certain situations. This experience sparked an interest in more travel and work abroad, to learn more about cultural diversity as it relates to practicing speech-language pathology”.