UK rehabilitation professionals' experiences undertaking short-term responses after sudden-onset disaster

Cole, Mary-Jane, Barrett, Rosalie and Mein, Gillian (2020) UK rehabilitation professionals' experiences undertaking short-term responses after sudden-onset disaster. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 27(6), ISSN (print) 1741-1645


Background: Rehabilitation professionals (RP) can be members of international emergency responding medical teams after a natural disaster or following conflict. There is little research that explores the experiences of RPs who participate in these short-term emergency responses. Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of RPs, specifically those of Occupational therapists and Physiotherapists. Objectives included examining personal and professional development opportunities, and how these experiences might inform future responses and the RP role. Methods: A phenomenological approach was undertaken. Eight semi-structured interviews with RPs who had worked as part of short-term response following conflict or sudden-onset disaster were carried out. Transcriptions were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: Two main themes and subsequent subthemes emerged. Theme 1 ‘Challenges’: An emotional journey, Have I made a difference and Cultural and contextual awareness. Theme 2 ‘Opportunities’: A short-term response, Working together and Developing skills and knowledge. Conclusions: The experiences of UK-based RPs on short-term rotational responses as part of an emergency specialised rehabilitation team were overall positive. Challenges have implications for developing future pre and post-response training and support. Further research is recommended to determine the contribution of these responses and to continue to develop understanding of the RP role in a responding specialised rehabilitation team. Key words: Allied health personnel, Disaster response, Qualitative Rehabilitation, Staff development

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