Physiotherapy students receive training in cleft care in Fiji - Interplast

Physiotherapy students receive training in cleft care in Fiji

Interplast volunteer speech pathologists and physiotherapists have worked with Fiji National University to incorporate training on cleft care in the physiotherapy curriculum for final year students.

Volunteer speech pathologist, Sarah Florisson, said there is currently no speech therapy department in Fiji, and Interplast allied health volunteers have been working together with local health professionals and educators to fill this gap.

“Our emphasis has been on training physiotherapy and nursing staff at Colonial War Memorial Hospital,” she said.

Each year, dozens of cleft lip and palate repair operations are undertaken by local surgeons in Fiji, with mentoring support from Interplast volunteer surgeons. Children being operated on are very young – intervention at such a young age is integral to better health outcomes because without surgery, babies cannot feed properly and may become malnourished, and children may face speech and communication difficulties as they become older.

Queresha Ali is a Fijian physiotherapist who is eager to leverage her paediatric background to specialise in speech therapy for children. She has been taking part in training workshops facilitated by Sarah and fellow volunteer speech therapists, Hannah van Tuil and Melissa Parkin.

“The program has provided me with a pathway to new learning opportunities and I feel this has given me an insight into what I want my future career to be; helping children with cleft lips and palates,” Queresha said.

Queresha said having a thorough understanding of cleft lips and palates and complications arising from these conditions are the most important skills she has learned from a recent allied health training program in Suva this year.

“I learned how to assemble a pigeon left bottle and how to teach parents how to use it on their babies effectively, how to conduct an oral examination and other therapeutic speech management issues,” she said.

Queresha’s professional development has grown with each of the three Interplast training programs she has participated in.

“It feels wonderful to know that I am making use of my four-year study and experience by giving back to my community and not forgetting that every day is a new day for learning and professional development,” she said.

This program is proudly supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Queresha Ali
Queresha Ali is a Fijian physiotherapy who is passionate about specialising in cleft management, thanks to her experience with Interplast speech pathology volunteers.
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