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The Virtual Hand to Shoulder Fellowship Experience in Zimbabwe

by Biatres Maneswa

Virtual Hand to Shoulder Fellow 2021


My name is Biatres Maneswa and I’m an occupational therapist from Zimbabwe. I graduated in 2006 and at that time I was not too sure in what area of practice I wanted to specialize. However, since 2017 I began seeing an increasing number of patients with hand injuries. As time passed, I began getting frustrated as I would treat and discharge patients, and then they’d soon come back with the same complaints or even worse than before. I knew I was missing something, and I was committed to learn more to be effective in the specialty of hand therapy.

The problem I had was that in my country there were no courses or post graduate programmes being offered, however, I was adamant that I needed to bridge the knowledge gap. So, while on Facebook, I found the Virtual Hand to Shoulder Fellowship. I inquired more about the programme, and I loved its flexibility. I could learn once a week which meant I could continue practicing and my work would not be disturbed. My only setback was that I could not afford the programme, especially with the exchange to US dollars. I was very fortunate, however, because at that time there was a scholarship being offered and after completing the application process, I was one of the awardees.

While the program is offered both synchronously and asynchronously, I chose to do a combination and attend at least two live classes per month. When I attend the live classes, it is 12.30am to 2:30am in Zimbabwe but I enjoy these classes and the sacrifice is worth it. I like to engage in discussions and participate in case studies, and I also like to hear the experiences of other colleagues from different parts of the world. When I don’t attend the live classes, the asynchronous classes are great too as I get to do them at my own time, and I appreciate this flexibility.

The fellowship has opened my eyes literally and helped me with my assessment skills. Before the fellowship I focused my exam only on the area injured or in pain. For example, a patient comes in with wrist pain, I would assess only the wrist and concentrate on that only. The knowledge that the upper limb is part of a kinetic chain made assessing so much more effective and I now routinely consider upper quarter in both exam and treatment. My listening skills have also been sharpened. For example, I have learned to identify patterns that may be consistent with a particular type of injury and to recognize red flags that should be communicated to the referral source.

When I assess a new patient, I’m no longer intimidated because I have knowledge in performing differential diagnosis and I can relate that to the history and my observations.

This has been extremely helpful because in my practice I often have referrals that simply state, “assess and treat”, so the fellowship has really bridged that gap for me.

The fellowship has been my greatest achievement in terms of career advancement. I get more referrals now from doctors and I get to do what I have grown to love with so much knowledge gained in the specialty of hand therapy.



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