University of Southampton 2014

Nursing, The Philippines Iloilo


Hello my name is Emy Van Der Harg. I am a 3rd Year Dual Field Adult and Children’s Nurse from the University of Southampton. I decided to go on a four week trip to Iloilo in the Philippines for my professional development. It was the trip of a lifetime where I gained so much experience, made so many memories and new friends that will stay with me forever.

I originally found Work the World by searching on the internet for experiences abroad, but also heard from experience of another student from my university who went with them to Sri Lanka. I decided to choose Iloilo, in the Philippines, as it was a recently opened programme that WTW provided and would be somewhere different to where people normally go. Once I booked the trip the support that was provided by the WTW team was exceptional, providing an online trip portal where an information guide was provided with everything that is needed to know about the trip. The WTW team in the UK was there right up until I left Heathrow airport.

On arrival to Iloilo Airport I was greeted by one of the Work the World staff. They instantly made me feel relaxed, as I had travelled on my own. When I arrived at the house I was greeted by staff and students who were already there. Food was provided, which was a relief after travelling for so many hours. An orientation was given around the house. The following day myself and other students were taken to the hospital. A tour was then given by the nursing trainer at the hospital. Having the tour was initially quite shocking, as the wards were very busy, although some were busier than others. I knew that it was going to be very different to hospitals in the UK but it puts it into reality. When touring the hospital I found that all the staff are very friendly and very welcoming. Later that morning we were taken on a city tour travelling by Jeepney, on the tour we visited the city hall and museum. Afterwards we got our first sample of Filipino food, which I enjoyed a great deal.

I gained a lot of clinical experience in the department

Before coming to the Philippines I had to choose which areas that I wanted to work in. I decided to work in the Emergency Room, Intensive Care Unit and Paediatrics. My first two weeks was within the Emergency Room and on my first day I was paired with a nurse who showed me many things within the department. I gained a lot of clinical experience in the department, not least doing cannulas, blood taking and baby resuscitation. Among things that I learned within the department it includes seeing patient with diseases that are not commonly seen within the UK including Tuberculosis and Dengue fever. However I was also able to see the common illnesses of Pneumonia, Trauma, Heart attacks and febrile convulsions.  

All the staff within the department are very friendly, speak English better then they think they do and I made many friends in the department. The staff don’t expect you to do things if you feel that you are not ready and I felt able to ask as many questions as I needed to. I suggest being proactive, seek out things to do or observe so that you fully benefit from the experience. My third week was within the Medical Intensive Care Unit; this was a very different placement to the ER as they only have five beds. I found I got to do a lot more including the basics of clinical observations, enteral feeding and ECGs. The team of staff within this department were also very friendly, answering questions I had, as I was trying to see the similarities and differences between care and treatment in the Philippines compared with the UK.


It is not all work and no play. There is plenty of time to do different things on weekends and evenings during the week. Myself and four others decided to go away to Bacolod City and Mambukal resort. To get there we had to go on a boat from Iloilo which took about one hour. Luckily the hotel we chose picked us up from the terminal. The first day we were there we decided to go to the Ruins which was just outside the city, the buildings and surrounding grounds were beautiful. The following day we got up early and got a bus from the city to Mambukal. It took about an hour but the last stop was the resort, so there was no way we were going to get lost! While we were there we walked up the to the waterfalls, which were spectacular. For the rest of the day we decided to experience the pool, butterfly garden and the awesome views. Other things I did during the four weeks included visiting Molo church, taking a trip to Miagao, touring Camina Balay Nga Bato, trips to the spa and shopping in the city markets and malls.

The staff within the Work the World house become like your family. When coming back from placement they will ask how your day has been. Our chef cooks some amazing food - for the whole four weeks I was there I don’t think I had the same thing twice. Once a week is BBQ night where it has a different theme every week. If you wanted to know how to cook something you can just ask him, and he will give you a cooking lesson.

The experiences that you get in the Philippines are amazing and personal to you, no two people will have the same trip. I spent time at the government hospital, but also the private hospital around the corner and it was good to see the difference between people who cannot afford healthcare and those who can.

Advice that I would give to students who are thinking of going, would be go for it! It is the best thing I have ever done and I gained so much from the trip. From the skills that I learnt, to the people that I met, many of whom have become great friends. If you are worried about travelling on your own, don’t be. I travelled on my own and it is a decision I don’t regret. I enjoyed my trip so much I have decided to return to the Philippines next year for a longer period of time.

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