I undertook a 7-week medical elective placement with Work the World in Merida, Mexico.
After booking my placement, the Work the World team were extremely helpful in designing a placement suited to my needs, that would also enable me to make the most of my time in Merida.
My first week was spent at the Spanish school, completing Work the World’s Intensive Spanish Course. I practiced speaking medical and conversational Spanish for 8 hours each day. Students were encouraged to only speak Spanish whilst on the course and this helped to ensure you were fully engaged in applying what you had learnt each day. I found these sessions very rewarding and I could quickly see the benefits of learning the language, especially when I was so deeply immersed in the Mexican culture due to the vibrance of Merida.
On top of the twice weekly language lessons which are given at the Work the World house, I spoke to the team about continuing 1-1 sessions at the language school once a week for the remainder of my placement. This was arranged with ease and I continued with hour long lessons for the remaining 6 weeks. I found these sessions extremely useful as I could question any phrases I had come across on my placement that week, and push myself to keep learning further phrases and conjugations that most certainly helped me to form professional relationships in my placement hospitals.
The Spanish school is a fun and vibrant place to learn. The food is amazing and there is even a pool to cool down in between lessons. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and would highly recommend including this in your Work the World experience.
My 6 weeks of placement were surgery focused, as requested in conversations with the Work the World team. I spent 4-weeks in the high specialty hospital where I mainly observed and assisted in paediatric cardiothoracic surgery and 2-weeks in the lower resourced general hospital where I mainly observed and assisted in urology surgery.
The high specialty tertiary hospital is well run and had clean, up-to-date facilities. It is a large teaching hospital, offering specialist surgeries. On the wards, patients have a good degree of privacy. You would typically see patients sharing 2 to a room or in single person rooms. The theatres are also not too dissimilar to what you would expect to see in the UK. The doctors at this hospital were very helpful, engaging and enjoyed teaching. There were many doctors that spoke English, which was very useful as I was still getting to grips with Spanish.
There was a stark contrast in the facilities between this hospital and my second placement at the general hospital. The beds were not in good condition, equipment was often broken or faulty; for example, in theatre there were rusty drip stands being held together by tape. Cubical curtains were often absent or not being used, allowing patients little privacy.
The doctors at this hospital spoke less English and tended to speak to you in Spanish. Having a basic understanding of Spanish is helpful to get the most out of your placement here. In saying this, you don’t need to have been learning Spanish for years – I was new to Spanish and over the months leading up to my medical elective, I used language apps and a tutor to learn. This, in addition to the Intensive Spanish Course, really helped me get to a conversational level.
I really enjoyed being able to contrast my two placements and felt like I got an in-depth look at how economic circumstances can affect the quality of surgery for patients in Mexico.
In addition to the medical placement, there are tons of things to do and see in Mexico. I visited Mayan ruins including Chichen Itza, Tulum ruins and Uxmal. Mexico also has lots of underwater caves called cenotes – my personal favorites were X’tohil and the Gran Cenote. Holbox is a small island you can visit; it’s a peaceful Carribean island where there are no real roads and you can walk from one side to the other in 10 mins. The sea there is beautifully warm and clear. There is also the bioluminesce to see – such a magical experience.
Looking back on my medical elective, I can now say with certainty that it was a once in a lifetime experience. Booking this through Work the World alleviated any potential stress that I would most definitely have encountered had I attempted to organise this experience by myself.
I have made new friends from across the world from my time living in the Work the World house and being able to share my experience with them was also a bonus. I have no hesitation in recommending Work the World to any future students looking to organise their medical placements abroad and I thank the team for an experience I will never forget!