Kim Dunleavy PT, PhD, OCS recently traveled to Rwanda for the final component of the Advancement of Rwandan Rehabilitation Services grant funded by the United States Agency of International Development. The goals of the grant (awarded to Health Volunteers Overseas, a private non-profit volunteer agency, in collaboration with the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Rwandan Physiotherapy Association) included: 1) development and delivery of continuing professional development courses for Rwandan Physical Therapists to upgrade rehabilitation standards and improve services provided to individuals with disabilities and 2) increase awareness of Physical Therapy among the general public and other health care professionals to increase utilization of rehabilitation services and reach under-served populations.
There are insufficient trained rehabilitation providers to address the needs of individuals with disabilities in Rwanda. Despite the introduction of Physical Therapy education after the genocide in 1994, there are limited employment opportunities in hospital systems (particularly at the district and local levels), and limited opportunities for professional development. Continuing education courses were attended by 168 Physical Therapists, 66% of those registered with the Rwandan Council and greater than the number reported to be working in clinical positions. Almost half of the participants traveled from rural areas to Kigali or Butare to attend a series of courses covering Musculoskeletal, Neurological, Pediatric and Respiratory conditions. The course instructors also traveled to the clinical sites to provide clinical mentorship. Rwandan instructors contributed to the delivery of the courses with the goal of being able to offer continuing professional development courses in the future. A final series of seminars was offered for selected leaders who developed pilot proposals for projects intended to promote awareness of services in their settings. Participant opinions of the courses and leadership projects were very positive and improvements in patient care included quicker recovery, improved outcomes and decreased patient costs. Dr. Dunleavy was a member of the Technical Advisory group who wrote the technical proposal, provided consultation during the implementation, and participated in the evaluation of the project.