RuthAnn Fanstone, Burns Therapy
RuthAnn Fanstone is an experienced physiotherapist who volunteers her skills with ASTI and the ASF’s as much as her free time permits. In 2009 ASTI called on her to visit the Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan (ASF-P) and the Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda (ASF-U). As part of her visits, she worked closely with staff in the assessment and treatment of acid survivor patients, and shared her skills and experience in training sessions with the local staff as well as other local practitioners who had been invited.
I caught up with her recently to reminisce about her visit to the ASF centre in Islamabad, where she travelled as part of the ASTI Physical Rehabilitation Team earlier this year. The team comprised of herself, burns therapist Fiona Procter, and burns care nurse Marianne Carter. This is what RuthAnn had to say about her experience:
What I picked up in Pakistan was that the survivors had a passion for life despite terrible injuries. They loved caring for their appearance and looking in the mirror and having their photos taken with pride – this is not something insignificant when you consider that they have what the world would call major facial disfigurements. Unless the service to them was extremely special you would not have such a confident survivor who can be proud of how they look. Clearly they all want to improve the scars they have but those I saw were positive and confident. They all seemed proactive – they wanted to do something they did not want to sit around.
I learnt a lot from the way the ASF-P team worked and was run. The main thing was the open attitude all the staff had and the ability they had to be open to learning and suggestions of improving practice. Constructive criticism was embraced rather than taken personally because the clear aim of the team was to help the patient as much as possible rather than advance as individuals. As yet I have not found this open attitude and willingness to embrace change to such a degree anywhere else. The team were totally enthusiastic, open, amazingly keen and quick to learn. With such a culture and such a good team it would be a real missed opportunity to not follow up their learning and teach more. There is so much potential in the ASF – primarily because of the people who are part of the team. Also very impressive was the flat structure. There was a real working together and not clear hierarchy which for that culture is again something quite outstanding – all staff whatever grade mixed well together.
- What would further visits to ASF-Pakistan mean for the organisation, the survivors, and the community as a whole?
I think we need to check what learning has be incorporated into practice and knowledge, we need to assess what changes have occurred to the service and care as a result of learning and we need to progress the learning of knowledge and skills to the next level. I think the work the staff is doing is worthy of international attention so the fact that visitors are coming – and not just once but showing a commitment will be an encouragement and reinforce the value of their work. generally working with burn patients is not popular and is seen as unglamorous and dirty but the ASF had real pride in what they were doing and seemed to realise the significance of what they were doing – I would really like to encourage this and I think with more input real excellence can be achieved. management wise and human resources wise there is a lot of wealth in the organisation – clinical knowledge and skills is what lacks most – and it is far easier to address this then to address lack of motivation etc – so with little input big results are possible in this set up. The better the care – the better outcome for the survivors. because of the nature and effect of the injury the survivors need excellent outcomes to have any chance of normal life – or a life comparable to what life they had before they were burned, or if they had not been burned.