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Evaluation of a Long-Term, Physical Therapy Service-Learning Partnership in Ecuador

Inclusion of the Community Voice

Hayward, Lorna M. EdD, MPH, PT; Schneider, Jennifer BA; Gandhi, Sonu BS, DPT; Per, Samara BS, DPT; Donat, Marcella BS, DPT; Hayward, Julia K.

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: September 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 3 - p 215–223
doi: 10.1097/JTE.0000000000000090

Background and Purpose. International service learning (ISL) is an instructional method used by physical therapist educators to increase the global perspective of students. Research exploring student experiences with ISL is plentiful, but evaluation of service outcomes from the community partner perspective is lacking. The purposes of this work were to evaluate the impact of a long-term community partnership through: (1) identification of benefits, drawbacks, and suggestions for sustaining the partnership and (2) gathering feedback on the immediate and short-term perspective of training provided to orphanage staff.

Method/Model Description and Evaluation. The model consisted of a curriculum-based ISL experience involving a US-based physical therapy program and a service site at an Ecuadorian orphanage. For the current work, an evaluation component was added to the model. Three complementary approaches: the SOFAR Model, Exchange theory, and the partnership qualities of closeness, equity, and integrity informed the evaluation. Data consisted of 6 interviews conducted and 17 surveys administered to Ecuadorian community partner staff/administration. Data were analyzed using qualitative thematic content analysis, descriptive statistics, and paired t tests.

Outcomes. Partnership benefits included: iterative pre-trip communication, a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship, capacity building through education, and physical therapy that positively affected the children's quality of life. Drawbacks were the potential for host site dependency due to lack of local capacity, negative impact of new technology on staff workload, and poor treatment carryover. Continued training was identified as critical for building capacity within orphanage staff.

Discussion and Conclusion. As more US student teams deliver clinical services abroad, intentional evaluation approaches must include the community partner voice to maximize benefits, minimize burdens, build capacity, and addresses issues of vital importance to the service site.

Lorna M. Hayward is at the Department of Physical Therapy, Movement, and Rehabilitation Sciences, Northeastern University, 301 Robinson Hall-Mail Stop, Boston, 02115 MA ( Please address all correspondence to Lorna M. Hayward.

Jennifer Schneider is the executive director at For His Children-Ecuador.

Sonu Gandhi is a staff physical therapist at Kessler Rehabilitation Center, Clifton, NJ.

Smara Per is a staff physical therapist at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY.

Marcella Donat is a a staff physical therapist at Elite Physical Therapy, Warwick, RI.

Julia K. Hayward is a candidate for a BS in International Affairs at Northeastern University.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

Received March 19, 2018

Accepted November 20, 2018

Copyright 2019 © Academy of Physical Theraphy Education
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