Biokinetics students expand their horizons

February 7, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Matt Johnson and Jenna Barkey put their skills to use at Kenyatta Hospital

Culture | Maria Johnson and Courtney Sperry for The Clarion

As part of their experience in Kenya, students were given the opportunity to job shadow professionals in their field. The majority of students shadowed journalists at Nation Media but two students, Matt Johnson and Jenna Barkey, had the opportunity to shadow at Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi.

Kenyatta National Hospital is the oldest and largest hospital in Kenya. According to Johnson, the hospital contains “anything and everything you need,” but these two biokinetics majors spent their time specifically in the physiotherapy department.

Barkey plans to do occupational therapy, working with kids with special needs, while Johnson is focusing on the pre-physical therapy route and is hoping to work with athletes in the future.

We sat down with them to find out more about their unique experience.

What did you do during your time there?

Jenna: We each were partnered with one of the physiotherapists, and we shadowed them all day. So we went in with their patients and just watched what they did and were able to ask them a lot of questions. I had mainly a lot of back pain patients. They don’t have chiropractic services, so they all come to physical therapy.

Matt: The first half of my day was similar to Jenna’s - I worked with back pain patients and massaged their backs; 70 percent of their patients are back pain patients. Then for the second part of my day, I worked in the gym. I worked with patients dealing with severe traumas of sorts, like car accidents. I worked on stretches and strength training stuff.

What were some of the biggest differences you noticed between Kenyatta Hospital and a typical American hospital?

Jenna: The cleanliness. They didn’t change towels. Exam rooms had one exam table and they didn’t change the sheets between patients. The way the building looked was different too. When we walked in, there were stairs going up to the rehabilitation area, and there were no elevators near it.

Matt: One of the things I noticed was they never ever washed their hands and there was no hand sanitizer anywhere. The man I shadowed never once washed his hands.

What types of cultural differences were there in the way the doctors interacted with the patients?

Matt: One thing I noticed was that Americans are much more personable. They are nice people, and they ask questions about your day. Here it was just like they wanted you to come in, get the job done, and then leave, which seemed very opposite of [what we’ve observed of] Kenyan culture.

Jenna: The girl I worked with would talk more to the doctors than the patients. And they are just way more laid back here. We had two 20 minute tea breaks and a two and a half hour lunch break, even though there was a patient waiting for 20 minutes.

Matt: The guy I was shadowing basically left me on my own after an hour, which would never fly in the U.S. I was doing stuff I wasn’t really comfortable with, but he just made me do it.

What role do you think technology played in this hospital setting?

Matt: A very small role. I was wondering how they do their charting and paperwork. They just left paperwork all over the place. In America, everything is computerized. It is a lot more efficient. Also, I don’t know what patient care rights there are in Kenya, but in America it would never fly to just leave paperwork lying around.

Jenna: There’s basically no HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) here. My lady had one exam room she would just leave her papers in. So if one patient went in there, they could just read about everyone else. There was also only one [set of machines] for twelve exam rooms.

Are there things you think could be implemented to make it more effective?

Matt: I think just working with the patients to make sure they can do things outside of the therapy. A lot of therapy in the U.S. involves patients doing stuff on their own outside of meeting with the therapists.

Jenna: The only thing I heard was she told someone to get insoles for their shoes. That was it. I think that might be why they have so many patients. They just keep coming back because they don’t know what to do on their own.

What kind of experiences have you had in this field in America?

Matt: I work at a physical therapy rehab facility. I’ve done a lot of ADLs (activities of daily living)—just stuff patients can do on their own. I’ve worked with therapists for three years.

Jenna: I’ve had less experience with physical therapy, but I am a PCA (personal care assistant). I go with the boy I watch once a week to occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy and they give me the ADLs to do with him. At Bethel, we have to shadow in the EMPC (exercise medicine prevention center). Even the things we learn there give us experience.

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