by Work the World

All Disciplines, All Destinations, Clinical Features, Guides

We take a whole range of healthcare students on our placements. Some have been to the developing world before, while others have only experienced their immediate cultural surroundings. But what most people seem to have in common is a lack of experience working with patients in a healthcare system vastly different to their own.

Despite this difference in environment, your code of ethics should stay exactly the same. We think a successful placement is one that ensures mutual and reciprocal benefits for both the visiting student and the hosting hospitals and clinics we have partnered with. A situation where one partner was exploited for the benefit of the other would clearly be unacceptable. MJA

With this in mind, we’ve collected some of the best advice out there to keep you confident in your behaviour whilst practicing overseas:

Know the universal rights of patient

Western Regional Regional Hospital in Pokhara

We don’t need to tell you that every patient you come into contact with overseas has fundamental human rights. However, what you might not know is what the specifics of these rights are—‘[...] all patients have a right to privacy, to the confidentiality of their medical information, to consent to or to refuse treatment, and to be informed about relevant risk to them of medical procedures.’ (SOURCE). Treating patients with humanity and respect is a key component of your learning experience in the developed world, and thus should go with you overseas.

The Medical Journal of Australia has this to say on the matter:   

‘The developing world provides doctors with a unique opportunity to learn new and innovative ways of understanding health and illness, practising medicine, and performing procedures. But this does not mean you should use your host community as ‘guinea pigs’ on which to hone your skills. If you wouldn’t do it back home, don’t do it abroad.’(MJA)  

Know your limits

Social Media - Brett Robertson - Nursing - Arequipa

However much you may feel like a professional; unless you’re qualified, you’re not one. The hospital staff you’ll be working with on a Work the World placement will be perfectly clear of your status as a student, and the level of responsibility you should be sticking to. Not only is sticking to the level of practise you would in Australia the sensible option, but it’s the ethical one, too.  

Know your goals


Our operations teams work with you in the months before your elective to craft an experience best suited to your goals and skill set. This might mean you spend all your time in one department, or rotate through a selection that interest you. Either way, knowing your goals will give you a clearly-defined role to fulfil. This will enable you (and our team!) to keep fully up to date on your placement, progress, and expectations throughout. A clear structure to your placement also removes the burden on the hospital you’ll work in. Firm plans will be set in place in regards to your time and duties. In short, it’s to everyone’s advantage that you focus on your strengths.

Minimise the burden


The Australian Medical Student’s Association also advises ‘fitting in with existing medical elective programmes [to] reduce any possible negative impact.’ Deciding to take your elective placement with Work the World ensures a mutually beneficial placement for both yourself and your host community.

However, there are things you can do to help, too. Learning a few key phrases of the local language is a good start in avoiding putting added strain on an already stretched system. We also offer weekly language lessons at the Work the World house which are specifically oriented to clinical words and phrases.

Some students also bring supplies for the hospital they will be working in. As we have strong relationships with these institutions, we are able to suggest the most appropriate form of donation, maximising benefits for our partner hospitals. If you would like to bring supplies, our team can guide you as to what is most needed by our hospitals.

If you’re interested in taking a healthcare placement overseas, start your journey by filling out the short enquiry form. A member of our expert team will be in touch shortly afterwards. 


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