When our university gave us the opportunity to undertake a placement abroad, I didn’t hesitate to take it up. Aside from the chance to get some unique clinical experience, I chose the Philippines as a way to visit my family.
The team at Work the World did an excellent job. Their planning allowing me to explore my clinical interests, giving me a range of areas that offered various learning opportunities that enhanced my clinical skills and knowledge.
I was familiar with Iloilo and speak Hiligaynon, the local dialect, which was an advantage when communicating with local healthcare staff, patients and their families.
Throughout my placement, I observed several differences in how healthcare is provided in Iloilo when compared with the UK. I was working in a government hospital and it was obvious that resources were lacking in clinical areas. It was quite frustrating to see, as patients could have been treated more effectively if the hospital were well-funded.
There was also a lack of privacy when comparing things to the UK. Most of the clinical areas did not have curtains, and healthcare staff would openly perform clinical procedures such as catheterisation and changing wound dressings.
However, I was amazed at how highly knowledgeable and skilled local nursing staff were. Also, due to the lack of resources, they were incredibly resourceful and innovative when it comes to using what was available to them. One example was inflating a latex glove to use as a stand to hold a ventilator tube in place.
I knew before travelling that the healthcare service in public hospitals in the Philippines would be different to the UK, but while I was there, I felt that every staff member was doing their best to deliver care to patients.
I brought a lot of memories home with me, but one stands out in particular. When I was on duty in the Emergency Department, I held the hands of several patients, reassuring them as they cried due to severe pain or distress. I felt that it was the least that I could offer to show my support.
If I were to give advice to other students, I would say that you should be open-minded and non-judgemental. You may see unusual practises, but it’s important to remember that it’s not your place to try and change them.
It is okay to share the practices that we use in hospitals back home, however it is wrong to try to impose them and judge local staff. Remember that you will be in a different country, so you should be open to local culture and try to explore why things are done the way they are so we can all gain a better understanding.