I was a final year medical student from New Zealand when I went to Iloilo, the Philippines for my elective with Work the World.
I stayed for 4 weeks where I did 2 weeks of surgery and 2 weeks of internal medicine. I chose this destination because I had always wanted to go to the Philippines for my elective and Work the World was the most convenient way to organise a placement and accommodation and would allow me to meet a bunch of new people.
Leading up to the trip, I received phone calls from the team, telling me about how to prepare for the trip, asking me which departments I wanted to do during my time there and advising me of what to expect from the hospital and the city itself. I found that it was well organised and there was plenty of information on the website and over the phone. You get your own MyTrip page, where there's a timeline outlining what you need to do leading up to the trip such as submitting documents, organising visas etc. It also has useful information about the accommodation, transport to and from the hospital, packing lists and so on.
I found the conversations over the phone useful in terms of deciding what to do for placement as the staff were able to paint a picture of the benefits and provide information so that my expectations met reality. You also get an airport transfer to and from the Work the World house which is great.
I really wanted to be able to practice my clinical skills and practical skills such as IV cannulation, venepuncture and suturing but there weren't many opportunities for it. A lot of the placement is observational. In saying that, you will be exposed to a huge variety of conditions, many at end-stage, so there are crazy symptoms and signs to elicit from people. I saw a lot of strokes, tuberculosis, end-stage liver and end-stage kidney disease as well as leptospirosis, end-stage malignancies and had to perform CPR twice in the emergency room, under supervision.
I really wanted to do infectious diseases in the Philippines but I wasn't allowed to due to the risk and unavailability of PPE. The healthcare system is different to back home. It's considerably low-resourced and crowded. Patients have to pay for medications and equipment so often the treatment is impossible due to financial constraints. Family are heavily involved in the care. They are usually in charge of bedside cares and ventilation. It can take up to a week to be admitted as beds are scarce. I found it a lot easier to communicate with the doctors and nurses as I could speak Tagalog. Most patients don't speak English or Tagalog - Hiligaynon is the local language. Most of the staff can speak English.
In terms of the city and the weekend trips, I had SO much fun. There are many malls close by. The food is incredible. It's very easy to sort out weekend trips as there are books on books of tips and contact details from previous students. It's also VERY cheap and often accommodation, transport, food and activities can be found in one package. You can get anywhere by bus, taxi, tricycle or jeepney.
I went to Boracay, Antique, Isla de Gigantes and Guimaras while I was there. Gigantes was my favourite. The beaches are incredible. The people are very hospitable and again, the food is amazing as long as you keep an open mind!
A weekend is enough to cover these places. Sometimes we would take a Friday off or leave early on a Friday to get more time to travel. We would usually get back Sunday afternoon. It can be tiring because the travel time is unpredictable due to frequent stoppages by the buses to pick up and drop off passengers but it's so cheap, it's worth it. The weather was beautiful pretty much the whole time I was there.
The accommodation is great!! It's only a quick trip to the hospital via jeepney. The rooms are spacious and air-conditioned. Beds have mosquito nets. You only share a bathroom with your roommates and the rooms and bathrooms are cleaned daily. The common spaces are also spacious and clean. AND THE FOOD IS THE BEST. You're well taken care off and there is usually plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. You have freedom to do what you want. It's safe with 24 hour security guards. I honestly miss it!