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Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped

Despite the vision of The World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) that ‘all the countries of the world will have their own occupational therapy education programmes, which meet the WFOT minimum standards’, there are several countries around the world where this has not been possible to date.


Rehabilitation students celebrate completion of their OT skills training.
Rehabilitation students celebrate completion of their OT skills training.

One of these countries is Vietnam.

In partnership with local NGO, Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH), the Curtin School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work has spent the last 12 months designing and implementing an ‘Introductory to Occupational Therapy Skills’ course for rural doctors and rehabilitation workers in Ho Chi Minh City.

Doctors utilise their knowledge of activity analysis and play to design therapy programs for specific case studies.
Doctors utilise their knowledge of activity analysis and play to design therapy programs for specific case studies.

Initially, 31 doctors from two southern provinces, Bin Phuoc and Tay Ninh, attended an eight-week full time course hosted at the University of Pharmacy and Medicine, which covered introductory concepts of occupational therapy theory, paediatrics, neuroscience, physical rehabilitation and community based rehabilitation. Several staff from the school were involved in preparing and conducting classes and supervising hospital practicums.

Annette demonstrates positioning and play techniques in a workshop for the doctors.
Annette demonstrates positioning and play techniques in a workshop for the doctors.

Following the success of this course in 2016, we were invited to prepare and deliver an additional course for 63 rehabilitation technicians from the same provinces. Whilst similar, this course provided an opportunity for more practical sessions, community as well as hospital based practicums, and occupational therapy in mental health skills. This course was completed in June 2017.

Marina assists rehabilitation students to experience auditory hallucinations whilst trying to complete specific tasks.
Marina assists rehabilitation students to experience auditory hallucinations whilst trying to complete specific tasks.

Whilst there are several plans across the country to bring much needed occupational therapy skills and training to local health workers, including the first three-year undergraduate degree due for completion in 2020, there remains a need for simple skills training for local health workers. These two courses are the first university based occupational therapy skills courses to be undertaken in Vietnam and will form the foundation for a train-the-trainer approach to be undertaken by VNAH to continue occupational based rehabilitation techniques to be utilised.

Rehabilitation students practise positioning skills.
Rehabilitation students practise positioning skills.