When deciding on where to go for my overseas medical elective, I was pretty set on somewhere in South-East Asia. Visions of balmy evenings and weekend trips to idyllic beaches coupled with the likelihood of some dramatic cases to be seen on placement beckoned. Thus when I came across the Work the World site while trawling the Internet one evening and saw that the Philippines was available, I was keenly interested. Even more so when I realized how organised and well supported the program was.
I am so pleased I made the decision to carry out my elective with Work the World (WTW). From the outset, they were in regular contact, and the MyTrip interface allowed me to keep track of what I needed to do and in what time frame before arriving. They assisted me with getting a good deal on flights to my destination through their affiliate travel agent, and discussed what clinical areas at the hospital would allow me to get the most out of my time in the Philippines. As I was planning to go alone, it was a comfort to have a phone call prior to my departure, as well as a detailed information pack covering everything from packing lists to step-by-step guidelines from arriving at the airport in Manila.
Arriving in Iloilo, Philippines
I was met off the flight in Iloilo by a member of the fantastic WTW team who became like family during my time here. I was settled in and was given a tour of the house, which went beyond my expectations - the photos don’t do it justice! With high ceilings, a mixture of Spanish and local Filipino touches to the interior, with several comfy common areas, it was easy to feel at home there in no time. It’s also really secure, with a friendly doorman/security guard 24 hours a day.
My placement at the large government referral hospital was everything I wanted in an overseas elective. I was expecting a ‘shock factor’ and there certainly was that: patients presenting in the latest stages of disease and often unable to afford treatment, as well as seeing cases that I would never encounter at home (for example, a 3-year-old child with untreated congenital hydrocephalus). Seeing the overwhelming complexity and volume of cases doctors manage on a daily basis was really inspiring. I also got real ‘hands-on’ experience- inserting IVs, NGTs, catheters, venepuncture, and even assisting with a chest tube insertion. There was also some teaching in the hospital, which was conducted in English. Overall the placement has been both confronting and rewarding and has altered my outlook on the way we practice medicine where I come from. I will never take the Australian healthcare system for granted!
Beyond the hours spent in the hospital, there was plenty of time to enjoy what the local area has to offer, as well as weekend trips away (there is quite a bit of flexibility with your hours on placement). I was fortunate to be in town for the Dinagyang Festival at the end of January, which was absolutely spectacular: an inter-tribal dance competition with live music, street parades, and parties all weekend. I also managed to spend a few days in El Nido, Palawan, which fit my visions of idyllic tropical paradise perfectly.
This elective has been more motivating, challenging, and fun than I ever dreamed it could be, and looking back I only wish I had stayed longer. “It’s more fun in the Philippines!!”