by Work the World

We always try to prepare students as much as possible before they head overseas for their placement. Past experience has shown us that the more committed, enthusiastic and pro-active they are, the more likely it is that they will get some fantastic hands-on experience.  This week we have decided to ask the students in each destination “What tips can you give for making the most out of your clinical experience?”

When we asked the students in Mendoza they all agreed on one thing: don’t be afraid to ask questions! “Even if you don’t master the language, leave your shyness at home and ask everything you need to know” also, “make sure that you explain from the very beginning what you are capable of doing, what you want to do and the things that you are interested in seeing” said Kimberly.

Maria told us it is important to brush up on basic medical knowledge of the kind you aim to be learning about and “always say yes if the staff invite you places”. Going out for a barbecue dinner with the hospital staff will help you get to know them all better. Our latest arrival, Lucy recommended “just be smiley and friendly and try to get involved in what’s going on as much as possible”

Delia agreed and added that you should of course attend and try to talk as much as you can to your supervisor and junior staff. She also said that you should “try to stay for longer than 4 weeks”. She is doing a six week placement and, in her opinion, less time is simply not enough. “If you come for shorter periods, as soon as you start making the most out of your placement it’s time for you to go back home!”

David in Sri Lanka says, "Talk to and make friends with Sri Lankan Medical Students. They are very friendly, knowledgeable and always know the goings-on on the ward." Clare added "Don't worry if they laugh at you, it's all very friendly!"

Naomi says, "Ask what you can do – don’t wait to be told. Ask lots of questions so you appear enthusiastic and keen to learn."

Joe our programme manager in Ghana informed us that “Tips to get the most out of the clinical placement is like the strategy of the commander on the frontline – very crucial!  We got our tried and tested tips from generals on the ground – our medical, nursing and midwifery students in the WTW house at the moment.”

Catherine couldn't stress enough how important it is to be open minded. “To get the most out of your placement requires you to file away your expectations to explore the new, rich experience in a different clinical set up.” Rachael explained that though it is sometimes very difficult to adjust to these new practices, it is also worth admitting that “it is the differences that make the experience worth coming for!”

Phoebe advises to “ask questions and try and speak a few Fante words and everyone is cool with you!" Joe finishes with “Even if you know the answers to some questions, still go ahead and ask, also ask your supervisors if you can practise what you’ve learnt whilst in Ghana. And finally...Keep smiling!”

When Sunil in Nepal posed the question to his students they almost responded in unison with "you have to be really pro-active". He goes on to reiterate that you have to be really eager to learn and ask a lot of questions. Making friends with the residents and interns is equally essential as they start seeing you as part of the team rather than a guest, inviting you to come and have a look if anything particularly interesting comes up.

[caption id="attachment_2912" align="alignright" width="150" caption="The staff in Nepal"][/caption]

Sunil also stresses that using the little Nepali you know is a yes! Yes! Yes! Being friendly helps the local staff warm up to you. Last but not the least, confidence and a smile makes so much difference.

Alpha in Dar es Salaam also said that using your Swahili – even just basic greetings – is crucial to making you feel comfortable with the patients and staff at the hospital. “You will make a great impression saying hello in Swahili when you meet them.”

Humza advises to Keep an open mind! Sometimes things will not always go to plan so just be patient. Sometimes you have to put yourself forward to be part of the team so don’t be scared. Everyone is so friendly so if you are having any problems or want more information just ask.”

Jayne tells us that “It is important to introduce yourself to all the staff. Get involved – ask about the diagnosis and treatment. They are happy for you to suggest other treatments too. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctors to speak English – sometimes they forget! I’m in paediatrics so I’ve learnt some phrases like NIPE TANO (high five)! They love it and it gets the kids on side.

Pramamee points out that if you “ask staff if you can help carry out procedures being done and they will be more than happy to give you the opportunity.”

Similarly in Arusha, Arryl says “Introduce yourself to staff.  Arrive with a list of skills or examinations you want to do (ie: insert and intravenous or chest auscultation) and questions- everyone is happy to discuss treatments and conditions. Make use of the hospital library- there are multiple books available that provide information related to tropical diseases rarely seen back home. Research the diseases and conditions you are unfamiliar with. The placement is what you make of it- so be proactive”

Laura tells us that “the clinical experience is very different from the experience at home but there is a lot to learn from the hospitals here. Don’t be judgmental, embrace new experiences and get involved!” Fiona agrees... “Definitely get involved! Put yourself forward for examinations and other practical skills – if you don’t ask you won’t get! Stay the odd afternoon; Go in on Fridays; Take notes of patients you want to see and check on them regularly; Chat to all members of staff- if you’re friendly you never know what you’ll be given to do!” Lindsay adds “Pair up with someone who is in the same program with you and get them to show you around the hospital and give you tips. They are a wealth of knowledge”

Robin thinks that one of the most important things is “turning up on time! Get to know the staff- especially the nurses as they are saviours when the doctors arrive late! Be aware that the first few days can be quite difficult – but talking to people in the house really helps you get through them”

In Mwanza, Roya said that although it is difficult, “don’t be phased by the language barrier, ask your supervisor to explain how to say things in Swahili, this will help build a rapport with the nurses and local staff. Finally just enjoy your time in Tanzania, it goes so quickly!”

Frida recommends trying out different departments and to “really apply yourself” and last but not least, Lesley-Ann thinks that the best thing is to “be open-minded and experience EVERYTHING at least once, and talk to your mentor to discuss what opportunities there are for you on placement. This is your elective, make the most of it!”

So being pro-active is essential. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make friends and get involved. Many of our students mentioned their local peers so this week we have asked “What have you found most interesting about working alongside local students?” See you back here next week with the answers.

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