Community Perspective of Short-Term Physiotherapy Volunteers in St. Lucia, West Indies

Crystal Showers

Purpose: To understand the perspective of hospital staff and patients regarding short-term physiotherapy volunteer placements in St. Lucia, a Caribbean country. There is currently a knowledge gap regarding host community perspectives of international volunteers.

Methods: Rapid ethnographic study using mixed methods including: 5 key informant interviews and 11 written/oral patient surveys. Data was analyzed thematically.

Results: Perceived strengths of volunteers included: exposure to new/different techniques and specialties, short-term mitigation of staff shortages, economic benefits to the site and networking opportunities. Weaknesses included: short duration of placements, which can hinder care continuity and allow limited time for volunteer adjustment to new setting/culture. Recommendations included: improved pre-placement orientation and communication, and placement re-structuring.

Conclusion: Understanding the community perspective of international volunteers is vital for providing valued, effective health services. Study participants suggest a positive overall perception of volunteer physiotherapists with important recommendations for improvement. Results have applicability to international volunteers and health volunteer organizations.