I had about five weeks left until I was due to depart for my elective, but when it fell through I tried frantically to find another placement.
I spoke to some friends who had used Work the World — an overseas elective organisation — the year before, and thoroughly recommended them.
Looking through their destination list, the city of Merida in Mexico jumped out at me.
I undertook my placement in a public hospital that was both overcrowded and underfunded.
To give you some context, even something as simple as restocking medicines was a battle for local staff.
There were similarities in the treatments as you might expect. But, there were often stark differences.
Recently deceased patients were left in beds next to other patients who were fully aware of what was going on.
Sometimes, when patients were aggressive or severely confused, they were tied to their beds with bandages.
Things appeared chaotic to me, but local staff always seemed to know what was going on.
Patients received treatment and, thanks to a lack of space, some were sent to recover in the hallways. Some even slept in the corridors.
There were significant differences in protocol too. They handled the disposal of sharps differently, and hand washing wasn’t observed as strictly as we’re used to in the UK.
Patients seemed far less empowered than patients in the UK. They often had to put up with pain (pain relief was scarce and expensive), but rarely complained about wait times.
I should be clear that seeing these differences is precisely what made the experience so interesting and educational.
I would also add that the hospital staff were phenomenal and worked tirelessly. The team I spent time with in the hospital were a pleasure to be around.
Despite a slight language barrier, we always had a laugh. They were welcoming and encouraging for the duration of my time there.
I developed confidence whilst on placement partly due to the clinical experiences, but also thanks to how welcomed I felt.
In fact, the people of Mexico were lovely across the board.
At weekends, we had plenty of free time to explore the country. The areas surrounding Merida had a lot to offer.
We took trips to different towns and beaches, saw local ruins, and swam in freshwater cave pools — cenotés — that Mexico is famous for.
We travelled to Cancun for a weekend, and to Isla Mujeres for another. On Isla Mujeres, we drove buggies around the island. As you do.
Mexico is picturesque. It has a fascinating culture and delicious cuisine. To say that it’s worth a visit would be a gross understatement.