Physiotherapists at the University of Namibia are excited to graduate

Mariselle Stofberg
Staff reporter

The University of Namibia’s physiotherapy programme, introduced in 2018, is one of the youngest programmes following a difficult period of over 10 years with only three physiotherapists in the public health sector. This difficulty motivated Unam to pay attention to the need for locally- trained physiotherapists in order to solve the national deficit. Since then, the programme has enrolled 54 enthusiastic students, who are now equipped to practise.

It is envisioned to make an impactful difference in the health sector, with its first cohort of physiotherapists set to graduate this April. Since the beginning of their studies, the class of 2021 has been focused on learning the science underpinning physiotherapy and medicine. This was supplemented with clinical training, which began in their second year.

The prospective physiotherapists needed to complete 1 000 hours of clinical work as part of the training. A fourth-year student in the programme, Naomie Asino, said the students consulted approximately 40 patients per day since the beginning of their clinical hours at the Katutura State Hospital. “Although this was overwhelming at first, it developed our confidence as physiotherapists,” she added.

Patience Lyakuwa, another student who will graduate this year, highlighted that the most testing time of their training was assisting recovering Covid-19 patients. The students struggled the most with patients who came from the ICU because those patients suffered from lung damage.

Lyakuwa added that such diagnosis demanded the physical and emotional availability for the patients in order to get them back to their previous level of function.

Another student, Anna Kapolo, recalls that in addition to supporting recuperating Covid-19 patients, they also visited community care facilities.

“Our clinical hours have provided us with several opportunities to witness the impact of physiotherapy, and that both our experiences in community care homes and the hospitals have groomed and prepared us competently,” she remarked.

A registered physiotherapist, Martha Kapiya, who has been working at the Katutura State Hospital for the past 20 years, said it has been a relief to have the students join the profession.

“Catering to both outpatients and those in the wards isn’t an easy task,” she observed.

Kapiya added that the hospital not only caters to the physiotherapy needs of patients in the Khomas region, but at times patients from other regions are referred to the Katutura State Hospital for treatment due to the lack of physiotherapists in other regions.

Despite the challenges, Ndapandula Londo, chief physiotherapist at the Windhoek Central Hospital, noted that there is hope with this cohort of students. “I am super-excited to officially welcome this group to the profession because looking back on the history of it in Namibia, physiotherapy is still a scarce profession,” she said.

The Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy curriculum exposes students to many aspects of the profession. Students learn human anatomy, physiology and pathology over the course of four years before diving into physiotherapy management. Clients of various ages, from infants to geriatrics, arrive with cardiorespiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and neurological disorders, among others, for physiotherapy care.

“The future looks bright, and I’m confident of it because they’ve been well trained. The students have been coming for clinical practice since the second year, and they bring a remarkable zeal and understanding to this profession, which convinces me that the future is in excellent hands,” added Londo.