As I love to travel I knew I wanted to do my elective abroad whilst also using my elective as an opportunity to improve my Spanish. When I saw Mexico was a Work the World destination I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me.
For my six-week elective abroad I completed three weeks in oncology and three weeks in obstetrics and gynaecology. My placements in Mexico were in different hospitals; the oncology placement was in a speciality hospital and OBG in a government funded hospital.
I also took part in the one-week intensive Spanish course. I highly recommend this course as it gave me a full week to get comfortable speaking Spanish again before beginning placements.
In the speciality hospital, my role was mostly assisting with examining the patients for the doctor during his clinic and assisting with writing imaging requests. In OBG I was placed alongside the interns (6th-year medical students), assisting with jobs such as inserting catheters, listening to the foetal heart rate, feeling for contractions and taking bloods. I also spent one day in the emergency department where I was able to assist in suturing a wound that would most likely have gone straight to theatre in the UK as it was the result of a major road traffic accident.
The oncology department had some differences to the UK. The oncologist saw all the cancer patients regardless of the type of cancer, whereas in the UK the consultant is usually an oncologist who sees patients with one or two types of cancer, not all.
I saw very advanced tumours that I had not seen in the UK.
Additionally, healthcare is not free in Mexico and patients are required to have health insurance. Despite having health insurance, unless you have certain types of cancer, patients are required to pay for their chemotherapy. If they could not pay, patients would not receive treatment or would be treated with an alternative that was known to be of little to no benefit. This was very sobering to see and made me very grateful for the care I can receive as a patient in the UK and the care I will be able to provide to my patients. My supervisor would often have to offer patients suboptimal treatment that would be of very minimal, if any, benefit to the patient as it was all the patient could afford. Additionally, I saw very advanced tumours that I had not seen in the UK.
After three weeks in the high speciality hospital, where despite differences in policies and the healthcare framework the hospital looked very much like those in the UK, I moved to the government-funded hospital which was worlds away from those in the UK.
There were often twenty members of staff around each bed during a ward round and women were often examined without a curtain. Consent for examinations was often assumed and invasive procedures in the emergency department were often carried out at the bedside. There were no side rooms for infected patients. We had a patient with potential flu who was kept in the same room with all the pregnant women.
The doctors in Mexico, however, were very skilled and able to give patients what they could with very limited resources.
These differences were partly due to a shortage of resources and stresses on the system due to more patients than they had the capacity for. This has made me appreciate the policies in place in the UK and how vigorously we are encouraged to follow these. The doctors in Mexico, however, were very skilled and able to give patients what they could with very limited resources.
I have returned to the UK with a renewed appreciation for the NHS. I am grateful for the care I am able to receive as a patient in the UK and the care I will be able to give to my patients.
Weekends were spent travelling around the beautiful Yucatan region of Mexico.
The first weekend we spent on an island called, Holbox. Although I only spent one night here I would say it was one of my favourite places in Mexico. The beaches were pristine and to get between the beaches we walked through waist deep water. The town was small and cute and filled with beautiful, detailed paintings. I recommend doing a bioluminescence tour if you visit Mexico at the right time of year, as this was so spectacular to see. Who knew wading through the ocean at night as it glistens with the glowing microorganisms could be so fun!
While on placement in Mexico I also recommend visiting Isla Mujeres, this island off the coast of Cancun has some of the clearest turquoise water and most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset from the beach too.
Chichen Itza is a great day trip too to see the spectacular Mayan ruins. I can't describe Mexico without mentioning the cenotes. These freshwater pools of transparent water are so beautiful and unique to the region and amazing for swimming in.
Some other awesome trips included, Rio Lagartos and Las Colaradas, Tulum and Progreso beach which is local.
The Work the World house is situated in a great location with a shopping centre with everything you need close by.
I definitely recommend a placement abroad. You will meet some wonderful people from all walks of life in the Work the World house. You will learn so much about yourself and the experiences you will have in the hospital and whilst travelling will be invaluable.
Mexico itself is incredibly beautiful and the people are some of the friendliest I have ever met. I would definitely visit again.