Healthcare Internships In Developing Countries
An African doctors’ perspective of the benefit of healthcare internships in the developing world
It is becoming common practice for medical students from developing countries to seek elective opportunities in first world countries.
For most students, it is their first time to travel outside their home countries. It is thus a good opportunity to get away from home, board a plane and to live life like people in first world countries live. Life in first world countries is fast, and you will notice this immediately you land. It takes some time to get used to this, but eventually you will adapt.
Food and the weather will also be different from what you are accustomed to at home. Half the time you will be offered foods you have never come across. Summer is usually hot, while winter is extremely cold, especially for those who come from warm temperate regions. All the same, it is interesting to watch snow falling. If you are fortunate you might be able to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and ice skating, which are typical sports during winter. Some universities will have ice hockey matches between various faculties and between students and lecturers. Such events are a must attend if they come your way, for it is too much fun to miss.
Most hospitals are high tech. They have facilities that you probably have never seen before. The kind of procedures they do are way beyond what you are used to. For example, most developing countries do open hernia repairs, but in first world countries surgeons will do laparoscopic mesh repair, with very small incisions that enhance the aesthetic outcome. There is no room for ugly scars. Most hospitals have transplant programs that run all year round, and if you are aggressive you might assist the surgeons as they do liver, heart or kidney transplants. Cardiac catheterization is done routinely in most hospitals. These are procedures which most hospitals in developing countries dream of but have not actualized.
Punctuality is one of the most admirable traits of residents of developed countries. Buses are strictly timed, and if you arrive at the bus station a minute later you won’t find the bus, irrespective of how bad the weather is. Procedures are also timed, and in many cases, one is almost guaranteed that the operation will end in time.
While at it, you will have a chance to interact with other students. Most of them are friendly, and will show you around during the first few days as you try to get used to life abroad. The interactions may be academic or otherwise, but you have to make the most out of the opportunity. It is common for students to meet over a cup of coffee. Occasionally, all the international students in a particular university meet and get to know each other better. Parties and going out at night are the order of the day, and if you love having fun you will definitely be pleased with this kind of life.
Many other opportunities will come your way. For example, universities will organize courses that will make you a better doctor with certificates being awarded. Such courses include basic life support, advanced life support, basic and advanced suturing as well as techniques of drawing blood and fixing intravenous lines. Dummies are usually provided for all these courses and the instructors will give you an overall rating.
It goes without saying that the diseases you encounter will be different from those found in your home country. It is a great chance to learn the epidemiology, causes, signs, symptoms, diagnostic criteria, treatment options and the prognosis of these illnesses that you may not have encountered before. It is a perfect chance for you to increase your knowledge as far as these pathologies are concerned.
At the end of it you will have learnt so much that you will be amazed.
This has been a Guukle guest post
Elias is a general practitioner who has worked with several student doctors over the past five years. He has worked in Kenya and Tanzania and in his spare time he writes articles for Work The World, a UK-based organisation that offers tailored electives abroad to student doctors.