I was impressed with Work the World from the get-go. After having been recommended the program by my older sister, I was curious to understand what such a placement would entail. I was initially skeptical that I would find any kind of arrangement enticing enough to commit the time and money to.
As soon as I expressed an interest, the Work the World staff arranged a time for us to speak over the phone and I never looked back.
Within five minutes of speaking to them, I was convinced. From then, it was simply a matter of when and where. They took me through the destinations that suited what I was after in a placement, and we arrived at the conclusion that Arequipa, Peru would be ideal for me.
In the lead up to my trip, the staff remained in regular contact with me. They helped me complete whatever tasks there were to do beforehand. It really was a stress-free ride right up to the flight, all thanks to the Work the World team.
Peru... where to start?
When it came time to meet my housemates and to begin my first ever hospital placement, I was as nervous as I was excited. But, just a night or two after arriving, I had already made a number of friends in the house; both students from all over the world and Work the World’s Peru team. I’m sure I will stay in contact with them all for many years to come.
The day after I arrived, a member of staff gave all us newbies a tour around Arequipa, showing us the ins and outs of the city that only a local would know.
I began my stint in the Oncology Ward, and within an hour knew I was set for a good day.
I dove straight into things like ward rounds and collecting scripts from patients then counting, preparing and compiling the chemotherapy medication to be transferred to the 'white (sterile) room'. This is where cytotoxic pharmaceuticals were combined to make the final product. I was involved in each part of the process, from the diagnosis to the mixing, and felt I was making a real contribution to the hospital and its patients.
In hindsight, I was far more apprehensive than I needed to be on my first day of placement. Peruvians are warm and welcoming, and within a few days I was drinking coffee with the head pharmacists and planning social events with the medical residents.
Being a teaching hospital low on staff, materials and equipment, I was much more included than I might have been on a similar placement back home in Australia.
Throughout the week, I made friends with the interns and doctors in the Oncology Ward as well as with the Head of Oncology and Oncological Surgery, who took a keen interest in me (I later found out over coffee with him that this was because I was tall and had curly hair).
I was later allowed to sit in on lectures and medical teachings and over a dozen surgeries including oncological, pediatric and orthopaedic, all eventuating from the relationships I built with local staff.
I was in an approachable environment with some of the most open-minded and patient-devoted clinicians I’ve ever met.
After my stint in oncology, I went to the Internal Medicine Ward. I spent time collecting prescriptions and shadowing the registrars who rotated through wards, getting to see another side of hospital life. While in internal medicine, I was part of a team of pharmacists who compounded mixtures for the entire hospital, including all the dermatological preparations that went out to patients.
I feel foolish now to have ever had doubts about travelling to Peru. Of course, I went hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I ended up getting exactly what I hoped for. I learned skills in the hospital I would never have had the chance to develop on placement anywhere in Australia. I was in an approachable environment with some of the most open-minded, patient-devoted clinicians I’ve ever met.
My university friends back in Australia are already sick of hearing me talk about this trip. I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of what a journey like this could help a person achieve. I feel indebted to the Work the World staff, both at headquarters and in Peru. I cannot recommend the programme enough to you if you’re looking for an experience that will open your eyes to a part of the world you thought you might never see.
Thank you Work the World, and thank you Peru!