International Service-Learning: Feedback From a Community Served

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Abstract

Introduction.

Mutual benefit to participants and recipients of international service-learning (ISL) is often assumed by academic institutions when bringing medical/health care and education to underserved countries. Research documenting feedback from host communities is needed in all disciplines, including physical therapy. Overall, host communities seem to appreciate collaborations with ISL visiting teams; however, these communities may endure hardships unbeknownst to visiting partners such as reinforcement of negative attitudes, disruption of community relations and dynamics, interactions with culturally insensitive visitors, and poor quality care. The purpose of this study was to collect and document feedback from a host community after a 2-week ISL experience with Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students and faculty.

Methods.

Twelve community leaders who interacted daily with DPT students and faculty were interviewed. Individual interviews were completed and transcribed. The constant comparative method was used to generate themes.

Results.

Overall, the community felt that their the interactions with the ISL team 1) improved local cultural attitudes about disability, 2) improved awareness of the role of physical therapy, 3) fostered strong, respectful relationships between the community and team, and 4) strengthened the desire to sustain the partnership.

Discussion and Conclusion.

The host community was very satisfied with the partnership and wished to strengthen relationships for long-term sustainability. Recommendations for the ISL curriculum in physical therapist education were identified or reinforced from this study.

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