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Physical Therapy Majors Gained Cultural and Professional Experience in Italy

Lebanon Valley College physical therapy major Paige Brocato completes her clinical in Italy

Dr. Paige Brocato ’17, D’19 and Dr. Rebekah Ireland ’17, D’19 completed an eight-week clinical experience in Zagarolo, Italy, last spring that focused on rehab, skilled nursing, and outpatient therapy. There, the LVC physical therapy majors gained professional experience at a functioning rehabilitation center, and cultural and professional growth through living and working abroad. 

“We worked alongside Italian therapists and with the patients. We performed evaluations, treatments, and all the regular aspects of therapy to aid in the rehabilitation process of the geriatric residents at Fondazione F. Turati,” said Brocato. 

Brocato and Ireland were wholly immersed in the Italian healthcare system and learned about differences between the American and Italian healthcare systems firsthand. Since they were also responsible for interacting with fellow staff and patients, they conducted an independent study of the Italian language, primarily focusing on essential conversational topics and medical terminology. 

While the experience was challenging, Brocato explained how rewarding her experience was, saying, “The best part of the experience was getting to work with the Italian therapists and learn about different treatment techniques that aren’t commonly practiced in America. I also enjoyed working with people who were patient with my lack of knowledge of the Italian language. They were so open and willing to work with us, even though we knew little to nothing about Italian culture and healthcare before we arrived there.” 

Brocato credits her foundational education at LVC for preparing her to complete a challenging international clinical experience. She states that her classes and prior clinical experiences gave her a solid knowledge base that made her confident to work with diverse patient populations, despite intense language barriers. With this foundation, she knew which treatments to use with her patients to meet their functional needs. 

Moving forward, Brocato believes her Italy experience will shape her outlook as a professional for life. This rings especially true as Brocato wishes to fulfill a lifelong dream to complete medical missions abroad as a physical therapist. She says that her Italian clinical was a significant step in that direction and gave her a sense of how challenging it may be to perform therapy in another country and culture. 

She says, “As a physical therapist, I will be a lifelong learner no matter where I work, and I can apply my experience from Italy to future learning. Serving at a clinic in Italy challenged my cultural competency. It also encouraged me to be more open-minded toward different treatment techniques and ways to approach healthcare.” 


-- Bryn Hanrahan, LVC Marketing & Communications