As silly as it sounds The Philippines was my ideal overseas placement because normally I would never have travelled to this destination.
But, the chance to complete placements in a university-funded hospital, a state-funded hospital, a rural state-funded hospital and rural clinics also gave me the opportunity to explore such a magnificent country.
Many Filipino nurses work in the same trust as me back home, and they talk about their country with such love and finesse. They talk about the beauty, the culture, the sense of community and how committed they are to deliver holistic care to all those in need, even while under pressure from the lack of resources.
These stories are always delivered with such happiness – evident in their gleaming faces and the power of their words!
For these reasons I was drawn to The Philippines and I was very excited to explore and experience the wonderful culture, commitment, love, beauty and community!
After a long tiresome flight (my first ever long haul flight) a member of the Work the World team, who couldn’t have been more welcoming, greeted me with open arms and a cold bottle of water, which was much needed.
During the drive to the house, the team gave us a mini tour of local sights to remember as points of reference – which in hindsight was a godsend!
Staying in the Work the World house was a home away from home. The team couldn’t have been friendlier. No task was too big for them and no conversation was a burden to them, but most important of all, I felt safe and secure.
Every Thursday was BBQ night followed by karaoke. One week we had Mexican night with tacos, fajitas and nachos and then the following week we had a traditional Filipino BBQ. The variety of food was amazing and always delicious!
Weekday evenings were spent together with old and new friends from the Work the World house. We would go to the local beach resorts and infinity pools, explore the Christmas and food markets, and visit cathedrals. We also went paddle boarding, did Zumba by the river and relaxed on the roof to watch the sunset.
Weekends were spent exploring the island and visiting different places each weekend.
Throughout the six weeks, I managed to visit Antique, Boracay, Manila, Cebu and Guimaras. Each adventure was different.
I saw the mountains on the back of a motorcycle, explored waterfalls, hiked through forests and heard monkey calls, lounged on golden beaches, snorkelled in the clearest of seas, and swam with whale sharks. And throughout it all, the scenery was breathtaking. No words can describe the beauty.
As for the hospital placements, they were amazing!
I did two weeks in the emergency department being rotated through medical, surgical and paediatrics.
Then I did two weeks in obstetrics and gynaecology being rotated around NICU, the delivery room, human milk bank, young mothers’ clinic, outpatients and the ward.
Then I did one week in surgery being rotated around surgical ICU and minor OR.
I spent my final week doing Work the World’s Village Healthcare Experience where I spent time in a rural hospital, being rotated around ER, OR and obstetrics and gynaecology.
I was also lucky to visit two rural clinics which were pre-natal and post-natal check-ups and an immunisation clinic.
These rural clinics were run by a small group of midwives and volunteers, who were always on call for any emergency. Someone would stay at the clinic throughout the night to make sure the clinic was always open.
The midwives and volunteers worked on a rotational basis, running the clinics, making home visits and providing aid for transportation of patients to mainland hospitals.
When I walked into the hospitals, the first thing that hit me was the smell and then it was the corridors full of patients hooked onto IV drips while sleeping on makeshift beds on the floors.
the staff were beacons of light with such a welcoming presence
But through all of this, the staff were beacons of light with such a welcoming presence and their inventiveness in reusing or making equipment.
On numerous occasions I saw the nurses reuse half used IV fluids, ampules of medication were used on two to three patients, oxygen tanks were shared between patients taking it in turns to use, ventilation bags were made from gloves and there were two to three patients sharing the same bed.
But throughout these hurdles, the nurses and doctors maintained cleanliness and aseptic techniques where possible to ensure no cross-contamination.
Every single staff member made me feel welcome and valuable. They allowed me to use the skills I had learnt in the UK such as assisting with CPR, helping to draw up medications and running lines and assisting with wound dressings.
But they also taught me many things too: how to be more resourceful, suturing, cannulation of babies and children, feeding of poorly babies and supporting patients with poor English.
When asking questions about their rationales and practices the nurses and doctors were always open to answering. They would always ask how a certain condition would be treated in the UK - with what equipment, medication and in what time frame.
I found I had a sense of curiosity, but so did the Filipino nurses and doctors. They wanted to know the similarities and differences in practice, the protocols and what the UK had available for diagnosis and treatment.
During my Village Healthcare Week spent in a village in Guimaras, which was located a ferry journey away from Iloilo City, we were lucky to stay with a family who were the original family of the Ati tribe.
This week included placements in a rural hospital and clinics and living as part of the family and their traditions.
We were able to explore their culture, the sense of community, and their trade and income. We were also humbled with the task of gift-giving to the children of the Ati tribe.
This trip allowed me to complete numerous bucket list items, whilst also giving me the chance to conquer many of my fears and I came home feeling proud of myself and my achievements.
the memories I made will stay with me for a lifetime.
The six weeks of constant learning and exploration was an opportunity that I am glad to have taken and the memories I made will stay with me for a lifetime.