University of Otago 2018


Zhou, JenniferI did my medical placement in Phnom Penh Cambodia for two weeks and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

When I arrived in Phnom Penh, I was met by a friendly member of the Work the World team. They were immediately helpful with any questions I had.

We went back to the Work the World house and chatted about the local culture all the way back. It turned out that it was the dry season (and also wedding season) during my time there.

The house itself was lovely, and I shared a room with a friend.

The team at the house were all helpful, the housekeeper, catering team, guards and the management team.

I loved the meals the catering team cooked. We had weekly BBQs and cooking classes too.

There were noticeboards in the house with maps and tips about the best ways to tour both the city and the country. I found the boards helpful for figuring out what to do with my free time.

All this information was pulled together by the house team (they’re hired locally so have lots of local knowledge).

One of my favourite activities was our weekly Khmer language class. Our teacher was absolutely lovely, and the hour passed quickly as we laughed at each other’s pronunciation.

On our second day, we went on a city tour. We walked to a nearby supermarket and from there took a tuk-tuk to a number of tourist spots including the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom (a temple) and along the riverbank.

Zhou, JenniferNext, the team took us for lunch at a lovely little restaurant that served local delicacies.

The afternoon was free for us to choose what to do! We had beautiful weather, so I decided to tour the Royal Palace — I definitely recommend it!


The placement

For my clinical placement, I was based in the emergency ward and then the maternity ward of Work the World’s partner hospital.

The hospital I was undertaking my placement in is the largest government hospital in the city.

Someone from the Work the World house staff came with me on the first day on each ward. They took me on short tours and introduced me to the staff.

Most of the cases in the emergency ward were varied — there were traffic accidents (especially in the evenings), ambiguous pains, and unconscious patients.

I witnessed two patients pass away while I was there, both of them had chronic problems. It seemed easier for their families (from an emotional and financial point of view) to let them pass rather than have them hang on.

All the patients who came in were checked for vitals and given IV fluids. Some had blood taken for tests in the neighbouring laboratory.

I got some supervised experience with these tasks after observing how things were done locally.

Shadowing some of the local nurses and medical students was useful too, as they were able to communicate in English more effectively.

Zhou, JenniferI did two night shifts and they were busier than the shifts in the day. I’d recommend taking on a couple of these yourself if you’re thinking of travelling to Phnom Penh.

The techniques used in the ward weren’t always useful to take back home. But it was still fascinating to see what could be done using limited resources to treat patients.

The maternity ward was completely different from emergency.

Throughout the week I witnessed 7 births, one being a breech birth and another a c-section.

The way they treat labouring women in Cambodia is very different from back home. It was amazing to see how much pain they tolerated.

It was harder to communicate with staff in the maternity ward, but it was still clear that there was less emphasis on empathy for the women.

There was ‘baby washing’ in the mornings in this department, which was enjoyable to help with.

I was extremely happy with my choice of departments and the experiences I had there.



I visited most of the famous spots in the city including the Royal Palace, the national museum (this held a Cambodian dance show in the evenings), Wat Phnom and Wat Ounalom, the Central and Russian markets and the Killing Fields.

Taking tuk-tuks was easy. There was a phone app we used to order them, which was super convenient.

Zhou, JenniferI took a night bus to Siem Reap one weekend for a day trip.

I visited the famous Angkor Wat, Bayon temple and Ta Prohm before returning to Phnom Penh by plane.

There are plenty of places in the city to visit, and I recommend planning ahead to fit as much in as you can.

One final note if you’re considering Cambodia for your placement, make use of all the resources available and ask as many questions as you need to.

I hope you enjoy your time there as much as I did!

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