Physiotherapist: Studies at LSMU opened the entire world to me
Studies at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU) opened the way for Agnė Slapšinskaitė not only to the knowledge about healthy movement, physiotherapy, but also to the entire world. After extensive internships and studies abroad, having received job offers there, Slapšinskaitė returned to Lithuania, where she applies the experience gained while away.
Slapšinskaitė, a lecturer at the LSMU Sports Medicine Department and the head of the Sports Injury Research Laboratory, was not sure what to be while at school. Agnė chose Physiotherapy after a year of studies in Cultural Management. After entering the Faculty of Nursing at LSMU to study Physiotherapy, Slapšinskaitė never regretted her decision. Agnė claims that it was not just a specific study program that she chose, but also a University that is a leader in Health Sciences in Lithuania.
While studying at LSMU, Slapšinskaitė learned not to be intimidated by difficulties. “I learned not to be afraid if it’s too hard, and to be afraid if it’s too easy. Studying at LSMU is not easy. However, young people need to understand: when you complete the studies, you will have well-trained brain, and it will greatly help in future life. While studying at the University, you will learn to create strategies that help make difficult things easy,” according to Agnė Slapšinskaitė, these skills can help representatives of all professions.
Studies at LSMU opened the whole world to Slapšinskaitė. “Initially, I saw a mini world here in Kaunas; I met students who came to study at LSMU from South Korea, Taiwan, Sweden, the USA, and Israel,” said Agnė.
Later, Slapšinskaitė started pursuing scholarships for studies and internships abroad. Every time she came back from those endeavors with a valuable experience or yet broke certain stereotypes. After receiving an Erasmus scholarship, Agnė first went to the University of Bergen in Norway. Like other Physiotherapy students, here she helped train Paralympics participants. Thus, Agnė breaks the stereotype of who a disabled person is. “There I saw a man with amputated legs, skiing down a mountain at a speed that many healthy people would not be able to. His fellow Norwegian physiotherapists, rather athletic men, could not catch up with him. I started asking myself what is a disabled person, and who is called a healthy person?” According to Agnė, this was when she realized the full extent of work that needs to be done in Lithuania to adapt the environment in order to enable the disabled.
From Barcelona to Beijing
After completing the bachelor’s study program, Slapšinskaitė went to Spain to do an internship instead of doing it at one of the Lithuanian hospitals. “I was always an active, very curious person, I asked questions during lectures. This is how I was noticed by Professor Natalia Balagué of the University of Barcelona, who gave lectures at the Faculty of Nursing at LSMU. Professor invited me to do an internship at the University of Barcelona,” shared Slapšinskaitė, who was encouraged by the Professor to do an internship in Spain after receiving a scholarship.
Slapšinskaitė chose to pursue master’s degree after returning to the Faculty of Nursing at LSMU. From here, yet again Agnė began building networks with Spain; this is how the dream of returning to the University of Barcelona was born, to pursue doctoral studies. In order to receive a scholarship for these studies, Agnė competed with Spaniards and became one of the first internationals to win the scholarship. “In my doctoral studies, I studied how fatigue and exhaustion occur and accumulate. It was not only a physiotherapeutic approach that was needed, but also knowledge of neuroscience and psychology. We investigated how one or another exercise can improve a particular function. For example, in one study, we discovered that cycling outdoors results in formation of significantly greater endurance than doing that in a gym,” Slapšinskaitė recalls her doctoral studies.
While still studying in Barcelona, Slapšinskaitė gained experience in Brazil and Germany. After graduating from doctoral studies, Agnė received offers to stay and work abroad; however, she chose to return to Kaunas. “When teaching Spanish youth, I did not feel such an inner responsibility as I feel here in Lithuania. It seems very important to me to pass on knowledge to Lithuanian students; after all, they will treat my loved ones at some point,” declared Agnė.
After returning to work at LSMU after her doctoral studies, soon Agnė leaves again. This time to China, Beijing Sports University, to participate in a post-doctoral study program. There Agnė breaks the stereotype that elder people have limited mobility. “In China, when you see a senior person around the age of 80 raise his leg far above his head, you forget stereotypes. There, dynamic seniors perform coordinating movements in groups, dance in parks,” Slapšinskaitė recollects the images seen in China.
From a professional point of view, an active specialist in this field, Agnė is considering how to contribute to making exercise the same daily routine for Lithuanians as that of brushing teeth.
Preparation of future specialists
While studying, Slapšinskaitė points out that she felt great support from lecturers of the LSMU Faculty of Nursing. She calls the Faculty, which offers undergraduate studies in Nursing, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Obstetrics, exceptional. Students studying here receive thousands of hours of internships; thus, graduates can right away start working in hospital departments. In addition, the LSMU Occupational Therapy study program is the only one in Lithuania that has received a certificate from the World Federation of Occupational Therapy, and the University Bachelor of Obstetrics study program in Lithuania is implemented only at LSMU.
The Faculty of Nursing trains nurses belonging to one of the largest groups of health care professionals, who will be in an even higher demand in aging societies in the future than they are today. “A wide range of health care professionals is trained here, including sports physicians, rehabilitators, geriatricians. One faculty trains people who help to preserve certain general human functions, including movement functions, to regain lost functions, and to reach the top in sports. This is both an opportunity and a challenge;” Slapšinskaitė believes that specialists trained at this faculty will be those who will be able to contribute qualitatively to the formation of healthy living habits after the pandemic.
According to Slapšinskaitė, students of this faculty can be called future specialists. After all, these are the future representatives of specialties that will become even more in demand in the future. “Moreover, the Faculty of Nursing is young, flexible, hearing students, engaging in dialogue, with ambitions to become innovative, to promote entrepreneurship. Fairly versatile specialists are trained here, who would be able to adapt, adjust and rather be creators than ordinary users, recipe followers,” emphasizes Slapšinskaitė.
The construction of the research and study base of the LSMU Faculty of Nursing is currently being completed; it is planned that students will be able to use it in the next academic year. The base will combine competencies and infrastructure: highly qualified specialists in the fields of nursing, rehabilitation and sports medicine will be trained and improve in auditoriums equipped with new specialized equipment. Doctoral students and researchers at the faculty will develop research, strengthen international cooperation and the activities of the faculty as a cooperating center of the World Health Organization.
“I believe the new building will serve to make this place a powerhouse of minds. It will be the environment for creativity, research-based health technologies and innovation. This will provide guidelines for the application of life science theory in practice. Then the development of a creative and socially responsible society can be promoted to a greater extent,” Slapšinskaitė is convinced.
Before the pandemic, Agnė travelled and lectured a great deal around the world and spent only a few months a year in Lithuania. Now she communicates virtually with colleagues around the world and with students in Kaunas. “I am a scientist, a theorist. I write scientific articles, collect material for lectures, prepare for them, deliver them, consult students. And, of course, I never forget to exercise every day. After all, I am a physiotherapist, I can’t be inactive,” smiled Slapšinskaitė.Agnė advises current students to be active. “Don’t expect that you will just sit in a chair, and life will put everything in your hands. I wish everyone to catch their own wave. Maybe you won’t catch the very first one, maybe it’s not for you, but you will catch the fourth or the fifth one and swim very far on it,” Slapšinskaitė is convinced.
2 February 2021 Kauno.diena.lt inf. or Avevita 26 February 2021