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Physical Therapy Internships in Costa Rica

  • Placement location: San Rafael de Heredia
  • Role: To help provide treatment for mentally and physically disabled people
  • Types of placements: School for special needs, day center for the elderly
  • Requirements: Interns must have completed a minimum of one year of physical therapy studies or training and should speak intermediate Spanish
  • Accommodation: Host family
  • Length of placement: From 4 weeks
  • Start dates: Flexible

The physical therapy room at one of the physical therapy placements in Costa Rica

Interning with Projects Abroad on a Physical Therapy internship in Costa Rica is an opportunity for students to gain meaningful experience and learn more about different methods of treatment. As an intern, you will be placed at a school for mentally and physically disabled children and young adults or at a day center for the elderly.

At each placement, you will shadow and support trained physical therapists as they work to improve the quality of life for children, young adults, and the elderly in their community. In addition to making an impact on people’s lives, the experience and skills you gain will be a valuable addition to your resume.

Physical Therapy Placements in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad

The special needs school is the only center of its kind in the province. It provides care, education, and therapy for young adults (up to the ages of 21) and for babies who suffer from a range of cognitive and behavioral disabilities. These children and young adults receive one-on-one attention in the treatment room or in the classroom to help them develop their motor skills and improve their quality of life. Government centers are often under-staffed and under-funded, and so your assistance will be appreciated by the local staff.

Interns also have the option of working at a day center for the elderly, which is run by a local association that offers physical therapy to all its members. The center’s qualified physical therapist regularly treats and monitors up to 35 patients. You will assist in the treatment room and help the patients with their exercises. Although each patient has different needs, the main aim is to improve their motor skills and increase muscle strength to help maintain their independence and quality of life.

If you have a preference regarding which placement you would like to work at, please let us know on your application. There is also the possibility of combining both placements to broaden your experience.

Your Role on a Physical Therapy Internship

An intern working at the day center for the elderly in Costa Rica

At first, your role will be mostly observational, as you shadow and assist the local physical therapists. However, if you demonstrate enthusiasm and responsibility and gain the trust of the local staff, you are likely to be given more hands-on work.

Interns working with vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities and the elderly, will need to have patience and compassion, and should be willing to help out wherever possible. You will find this a challenging, but rewarding experience.

Working hours run from about 7am to 3pm at the special needs school, and from approximately 8am to 1pm at the center for the elderly.

You will need to speak intermediate Spanish and have completed a minimum of one year of physical therapy studies or training to join this program. The special needs school welcomes interns with additional experience in other types of therapy, such as art therapy or occupational therapy, so if you have skills in these areas please let us know.

Please note that the special needs school is closed from mid-December to mid-February for vacation, with a shorter break in the first two weeks of July. They also close for one week over Easter. The center for the elderly also closes during Easter and for approximately three weeks over Christmas.

All volunteers participating on standard projects in Costa Rica have the opportunity to spend one week on a Conservation & Environment project at the end of their main placement. For more information, please visit our Tropical Dry Forest Conservation & Environment Project in Costa Rica page. Our Combinations Page explains how you can combine not only projects, but also destinations.

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