I wasn't that interested in doing an international elective as part of my Children's Nursing BSc degree, but after I heard a presentation from some girls who had gone to Nepal with Work the World, I quickly decided it would be worth it!
I looked at the Work the World website and settled on Sri Lanka. The country appeared to be somewhere that had made medical advances but still had stark differences compared to the UK. As part of my Global Health module, I was encouraged to explore these differences, letting them inform our practice back in the UK.
From my first conversations with the Work the World team I could tell that Anuradhapura was somewhere I could get clinical experience in a diversity of wards. I also wanted to stay outside of a main city as I wanted to see Sri Lanka away from the typical ‘tourist destinations’.
When I arrived at the Work the World house it immediately felt like a home away from home. The rooms were comfy and spacious, the food was the perfect mix of familiar dishes and Sri Lankan food (which I had never had before and it was delicious). The team were so accommodating; they made sure at the beginning of each new rotation we were introduced to the ward staff and well orientated. Our first week was during the Sri Lankan New Year celebration, and we had a big party with great food and played games for hours.
In the hospital, the areas I visited included antenatal, postnatal, the labour room, C-section theatre, PICU and general medical. I loved all of them for different reasons.
Local staff were delighted when I attempted to speak Sinhala and were keen to explain what they were doing, letting me participate when I put myself forward. It was intimidating at times, but worth it when I just went for it!
Helping care for newborn babies and handing them back to their mothers was one of the most amazing experiences I had while I was there.
When it came to travelling at weekends, the Work the World team were great at helping us decide what to so, how to do it, and where to stay. They also helped us learn how to barter with Tuk Tuk drivers, which is essential in Sri Lanka!
On our first weekend we travelled down to Galle in the south. We visited local markets, an old fort, and the Delawella and Unawatuna beaches. The next weekend we went to Ella and Kandy to climb Little Adam's Peak and World's End. We were shattered, but I can’t recommend it enough—the views, scenery and nature were amazing!
We spent our last weekend in Trincomalee, chilling out and visiting temples. We went snorkeling off the coast of Pigeon Island too.
During the week, we took short trips in afternoons after placement. Again the Work the World team were great at suggesting the best places to go. Sri Lanka is an amazing country absolutely packed with activities it is hard to choose what to do and when!
I would strongly advise you do a placement with Work the World. It was an experience I will never forget!
The perspective I gained towards healthcare while in Sri Lanka was amazing. The differences in care aren’t ‘wrong’, in fact they were more successful in many cases. It was all about what was appropriate for the local population.
To save money for my trip I worked as a healthcare assistant. It was difficult at times, but I felt that it was totally worth it when I was doing the sorts of activities I don't think I'd ever have the chance to do again. Sri Lanka was such an incredible country with the nicest people and the most beautiful landscapes.