Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Respiratory Therapy Field School Course

Submitted by Alicja Dworzak, RRT and Shalu Singh, RRT

In May 2019 we, Alicja Dworzak RRT and Shalu Singh RRT, had the pleasure of volunteering as preceptors for the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Respiratory Therapy Field School course in Peru. Over the course of two weeks our group was able to travel within Peru to assist and help educate medical staff on respiratory practices. We visited different universities, private, semi-private, and public hospitals. Our group consisted of 2 TRU faculty members, 4 preceptors and 21 students (combination of grad, third year and second year).

This amazing opportunity came to us by attending the 2018 CSRT conference in British Columbia where TRU presented on a previous trip. We contacted Les Matthews, the main coordinator of the course, to volunteer our preceptor services and were lucky enough to be chosen.

At TRU, both diploma and degree Respiratory Therapy students are able to enroll in the Peru Field School course as an elective. This course focuses on teaching the students how to share their knowledge and become leaders in respiratory care. At the beginning of the semester students were divided into groups and chose an area of respiratory care to research and develop into a workshop and learning package to teach to the Peruvian audience. The workshops included: Oxygen Therapy, MDI education and proper technique, Bedside Spirometry, CPAP/BiPAP, mask fittings, and NRP. Preceptors were assigned to each group of students to provide support or guidance as needed.

Our visit began in Cusco, where we spent three full days teaching and presenting at The University of Cusco (Universidad Andina del Cusco). Our audience consisted of medical students, physicians, nurses and physiotherapists – who manage ventilation. As preceptors, we created presentations on a variety of respiratory subjects, some of which included Asthma/COPD, non-invasive ventilation, NRP, ABG interpretation, difficult airway management, and tracheostomy care. Our mornings consisted of presenting our presentations; in the afternoons our students had the opportunity to run their workshops, while we supervised. Our audience rotated between workshops in order to learn about each topic and have hands on experience at every station.

While in Cusco we were fortunate to tour one of the public hospitals. We observed their ability to serve their patients with limited equipment and medical supplies. Our next stop was in Puno, a small town six hours south of Cusco, where we spent two days at the university, Universidad Andina De Juliaca- Carrera Professional de Medicina Humana, presenting and teaching their medical students, physicians, nurses and physiotherapists. While in Puno, we toured a private hospital, which was very different from the public hospital we had visited in Cusco. The private hospital had more resources and better supplies, but in some cases didn’t understand how to use their additional equipment.

Volunteering was a very rewarding experience; it also came with some difficulties and challenges. Our first major hurdle was that there was only one Spanish-speaking preceptor in our group. This made it difficult when we had four workshops running at the same time while still requiring translation for our audience. Thankfully a few Peruvian physicians, who spoke a bit of English, were willing to help, and our resourceful students made great use of the Google Translate app. The next challenge was equipment discrepancies. We were demonstrating how to use equipment that might never be available to our audience. We also found it difficult to understand the hospitals allocation in the resources it did have available. For example, in public hospitals there isn’t piped oxygen or suction, only patients that were deemed healthy enough to recover received resources. Finally, there was a lack of ventilation education and staff were hesitant in accepting and applying our knowledge.

The experience in Peru was life changing, and we’re very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this program. Witnessing the vast differences in healthcare around the world has made us more appreciative of the resources at home. We made some amazing new friends and colleagues, and visited a beautiful country with the most humble and appreciative people. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful TRU staff and students who made the trip possible. We hope that one day this course expands to other countries and continues to help broaden respiratory knowledge around the world.

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