I travelled to Sri Lanka because I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone.
Experiencing a healthcare setting completely different from the UK really appealed to me.
I spoke with Work the World and they created a placement around my specific clinical interests.
I spent two weeks on a general medicine ward in a teaching hospital, two weeks in paediatric A&E in a paediatric hospital.
Patients at the latter had travelled from all over the country, as there are very few specialised children’s hospitals in Sri Lanka.
There was a huge volume of patients when I first walked into the teaching hospital. Staff seemed relatively calm in spite of this.
There were immense queues for clinics and outpatients, and often two or three patients to a bed.
That said, local staff gave each patient the time and respect they needed. It never felt rushed or chaotic.
There was a language barrier between the staff and patients and I. But I soon found my feet.
Bandages, giving sets and vomit bowls were sterilised and reused.
I used the Sinhala I had learnt and nonverbal communication to build relationships with them.
The most noticeable difference between Sri Lanka and the UK lay, without a doubt, with infection control.
Bandages, giving sets and vomit bowls were sterilised and reused. In the UK these are single-use. Disposable.
Of course, these items were reused not because there was a lack of understanding about infection control, but because the hospital didn’t have the resource.
Nothing was wasted. This made me think about and question how we do things back home.
This picture shows a strike that happened while I was on placement. Nurses were striking for better resources and facilities.
It made me realise how lucky we are the UK to have all the supplies we need to provide good patient care.
My housemates and I spent our evenings taking part in activities around the city.
White water rafting, swimming in rivers, visiting Hindu and Buddhist temples, receiving traditional blessings from monks, and visiting elephant orphanages.
Weekend trips were amazing.
We went snorkelling with turtles and sharks off Pigeon Island (and got sunburnt). We went to beach parties. We went on jeep safaris at Arugam bay. And we released baby turtles into the sea at a turtle sanctuary.
But my favourite weekend was our trip to Ella.
We took the train from Kandy and sat by the open door, admiring the most scenic views we’d ever seen. The train took us through hills, tea plantations, valleys…
The six-hour journey flew by.
We arrived in Ella, and discovered that it was the night of the full moon festival!
We spent the afternoon taking a tuk-tuk tour of Ella, visiting some waterfalls and the famous nine-arch bridge.
We made our way up to the town in the early evening to experience the festival. The traditional music and dancing were fantastic.
It happens only once a year. We couldn’t believe our luck!
The following morning, we set off on a trek up to ‘World’s End’. At the top, we sat looking down at the 4000 ft drop below.
Why I recommend Work the World
To any of you considering doing a placement overseas, book with Work the World.
They give you so much support with every aspect of the trip. They provide guidance on visa applications, language lessons, what to expect, how to prepare… And that’s all before you depart.
On arrival, they pick you up from the airport, take you on a tour of the city on your first day. You learn where to take cash out, where to get sim cards and where the best shops and markets are.
On your (nerve-wracking) first day of placement, the local team travel with you to hospital. They introduce you to departments and local staff, which makes things a lot less daunting.
The Work the World house was amazing. I have made some really good friends there. With 24-hour support (and security), there’s nothing to worry about.
The trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wish I could do it all over again!