Donn Reynaldo is a physiotherapist based in Darwin, Northern Territory, where he is currently working in a supervised practice role while preparing for the Australian Physiotherapy Council exams. Like many overseas-trained physiotherapists, Donn’s journey has had many twists and turns, unexpected meetings, disappointment, tragedy and, eventually, professional fulfillment.
Donn grew up in the Philippines, in the provincial city of Cebu, with his mother and father and younger sister. The son of a bookkeeper and a policeman, Donn dreamed of becoming a neurosurgeon. In the Philippines, the first step to being a doctor is to undertake a pre-medicine degree, which led Donn to physiotherapy.
Donn undertook a graduate bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy at Cebu Doctor’s University in 2018, with the goal of moving into medicine. However, on completion of his physiotherapy degree, Donn was unable to finance a medical degree and, anyway, he’d fallen in love with being a physiotherapist. He passed his local board exams and started looking for a job.
In the Philippines, job availability in the healthcare sector is very competitive. Many people are left unemployed or forced to work in other industries, despite holding university qualifications. Donn found work quickly in a non-clinical role, however what he really wanted was to work clinically with patients.
Donn had family connections in the United States (US) and set about studying for the US National Physical Therapy Examination in 2019. Before he was able to pass the exams, COVID-19 hit with a huge impact in the Philippines. And then tragedy struck. Donn’s father, whom he had looked up to with such high regard, contracted COVID-19 and passed away. It was a dark and depressing time. In grief, and with limited prospects at home, a family member reassured Donn that there was no shame in starting over, and suggested he consider Australia.
Fast-forward 18 months, and Donn is now living and working as a physiotherapist in Darwin. At times an overwhelming process – starting a new life in his late twenties, in a foreign country, with no family or friends, a different culture and very little money was daunting – he has been challenged mentally on more than one occasion. He has been fortunate to have a great network of friends and family that he could rely on when feeling lonely (even if they are thousands of kilometres apart), as well as a desire to travel and explore new places.
Donn is on a student visa, so is continuing with a Masters of Business Administration majoring in Health Service Management while he works as a physiotherapist. In the past 12 months, Donn has lived in Brisbane, Port Lincoln and now Darwin. At various times, he as worked as a dish hand, waiter, bartender, in a fast-food outlet and in an aged care facility to support his studies and pursuit of working as a physiotherapist. In Darwin, Donn has found his ‘Asia in Australia’ – a city with a rich and diverse multicultural society, delicious Asian food, a strong, vibrant Filipino community and weather just like home. He has found an employer that has a strong emphasis on clinical learning, patient-centred outcomes and high-quality, ethical healthcare delivery. These factors will be crucial to Donn as he pursues full registration in Australia.
He continues to live by the motto ‘sic parvis manga’, meaning ‘great things from small beginnings’. He is taking it one step at a time, focusing on small goals and building a future for himself.