I chose the Philippines because I knew I wanted to go somewhere further afield, somewhere I hadn’t been before that had a completely different healthcare system. After researching, I was really interested in Iloilo for the cultural aspect as well as their healthcare system. The weather was also a bonus, although some days were very hot to be in the hospital!
My first impression of the hospital was very different to what I had envisaged. Patients were queuing and sitting on the floors just outside the hospital waiting to be seen, there were guards at every entrance to the hospital and there was obviously a shortage of staff.
I felt really sad at the sheer mass of people waiting for treatment and the staff were trying their best to do everything they could. Patients were crying with children as they could not afford treatment and thus could not be seen by the doctors/nurses. All products had to be provided by the patient to be used by the staff which I was taken back at, from rubber gloves to cotton pads to water. When you compare to the UK, I didn’t realise how much we take for granted and how much we waste on a daily basis.
All the staff at the hospital were very supportive and happy to help you with anything. Often, they were shy as they were not sure if their English or pronunciation was correct, no matter how many times you told them it was perfect and not to worry! At home, we often complain about long hours and staff shortages but on many occasions, I saw doctors sleeping on the job doing up to 48 hours at a time.
We got to the hospital at 7am every morning, I was in outpatients to begin with at the rabies clinic. This was a shock as animal bites are just not something you come across so commonly in the UK. The hospital lacked what we would class as basic equipment like MRI scanners and CT scanners, this is something we definitely take for granted back home.
During my time in Iloilo I learnt a lot of skills which are simple yet very effective, such as making a tourniquet out of rubber gloves, working under stressful conditions and I witnessed a variety of infectious diseases.
The cases which have stood out to me the most would be the trauma cases, these were emotionally challenging. We had a number of stabbings and a gun shot victim whilst I was in the trauma emergency department one afternoon. That was an eye opener as it is rarely something you come across in the UK, I was told this was a common occurrence in the Philippines; they got as many as 4 to 5 gun shot victims a week.
I also witnessed a lot of CPR attempts which hit home because I felt as though there was very much a lack of equipment and resources. In turn, the patients outcome was almost always very poor. Often patients were unable to pay for treatment so would only present to the ED when in desperate need, often resulting in it being ‘too late to treat’.
Generally shifts were 8 hours, starting at 7am in the morning. There would be two nurses working and one nursing assistant per 30-40 patients. The workload was split between the two nurses. One to do meds in the morning, midday and afternoon and the other to do all of the patients documentation and writing. At first, I found this absurd, writing 40 patients documentation all day as this would leave you with no patient contact. However, as I continued my time in the hospital, I quickly learned that this was actually a very good way of working, it was efficient and it worked for them.
Each weekend was completely different depending on what you wanted to do. You could stay in Iloilo and visit the hotel pool which we went to many a times in the evenings or days off, however, on weekends we wanted to see a bit more of the Philippines and surrounding islands. In four weeks we went to Boracay, Guimaras island and Antique, fitting in as much as we could in those days.
We all fully immersed ourselves in the culture, the way of living and the absolutely stunning surroundings. We took part in activities such as river tubing, quad biking, fishing, sea diving and hiking. I really enjoyed learning the way of life over there, eating what locals ate on a day to day basis. I quickly learnt that I developed a love for oysters! Each weekend, when travelling we either stayed in a hotel or at a homestay lodging, making use of the beaches and many cheap bars.
I cannot express how amazing my whole Work the World experience was. Mixing with like-minded individuals, of all ages and specialties from all over the world - it was 100% worth every penny spent.
To have the opportunity to go abroad and see so much in such a short space of time that you would never get to see or do in the UK is one you’ll never forget. Not only does it give you experience, it also gives you a sense of independence if you’ve never travelled alone before.
I can hand on heart say this has been a once in a lifetime experience and the Philippines will always have a place in my heart. I hope to visit again, and anyone in the future thinking about going on an elective in the Philippines, don’t even give it a second thought! Go, you’ll absolutely love it.