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Physiotherapy student crosses the world to do work experience

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Second-year student Nandu Pillai says his time in Tanzania was invaluable

by Lee Pinkerton

When deciding where to do work experience, University of East London (UEL) student Nandu Pillai wanted something different.

So the Physiotherapy student and Essex resident spent his summer in Tanzania in East Africa.

Nandu, who is 22 and currently in the second year of his degree, knew that a period of work placement would enhance his learning and make him more employable after graduation.
He liked the idea of going overseas, so he got in touch with Work the World – an organisation that organises placements for students and healthcare professionals around the world. 

Nandu explained, “As a keen traveller, nothing appealed more than doing a placement in a country that I have never visited and is very different from home.  As I’ve never been to Africa before, I chose Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which has one of Work the World’s longest-running programmes.”

During his placement, Nandu (second from right, above) spent time in orthopaedic outpatient physiotherapy and paediatrics units. He also made regular visits to the intensive care unit, the private wards, operating theatres and a cerebral palsy clinic. He also had the chance to visit both the neurological paediatric and orthopaedic paediatric wards. The difference in equipment and resources compared to the UK was clear, he said. 

Nandu said, “TENS electrodes and towels were used multiple times, ITU uniform was somewhat makeshift, and gloves were used sparingly. But the staff were still able to do an amazing job despite the challenges.

“A pleasant surprise was how few appointments were missed per month in the department. Despite huge amounts of people waiting to be seen and patients having to travel very long distances, patients made the most of the healthcare available. They never complained and were very compliant with the staff and treatment.”

Nandu, who grew up in Loughton in Essex, feels that the opportunity to interact with students of different disciplines and nationalities was also very valuable. 

He said, “At home, I naturally spend a lot of time with other physiotherapy students, so my trip to Dar meant I could have more time with medics, nurses and dentists. I was able to learn about their studies at home as well as what they were experiencing alongside me in Tanzania. 

At the house (where the group stayed) we felt like family, and were able to share stories and experiences from the day. We were also able to travel parts of Tanzania together, and still remain friends now after we’ve all returned home.”

Since his return to the UK, Nandu has gained a greater appreciation for the structure and resources of the National Health Service. 

Nandu said, “The best piece of advice I could give someone considering a placement with Work the World is to throw yourself in. It’s been one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences of my life. I feel that I will be a better physio in the future because of these experiences.” 

Once he graduates Nandu plans to gain a few more years of work experience, and then possibly return to academia to study for a master’s degree. 

To find out more about the placements available at Work the World, go to their website.