When I was told that it was time for me to start organising my elective placement, I knew instantly that I wanted to go abroad. I had always wanted to travel to Asia and so it was an easy decision for me to choose to do my nursing elective in Sri Lanka.
When I arrived in Colombo airport, Nili (the assistant programme manager) from WTW was there waiting to meet me, and made sure that I got to the WTW house in Kandy safely. The house is nestled in the hills overlooking Kandy and is fully staffed with a house keeper (Champa), chef (Prasanga) and caretaker (Uncle) to tend to every need. The house was always clean and tidy with plenty of delicious Sri Lankan food. Kavinda (the programme manager) always made sure that everyone was safe and happy and helped us to organise weekend trips.
These people are not just WTW staff; they really do care and became my friends who I spent time socialising and having lots of fun with.
My placement was incredible. I spent 3 weeks in general medicine, including 4 days on medical ICU. My mentor was the Sister on the general medicine ward. She spoke good English and was enthusiastic about teaching me, and was also interested in learning about nursing practice in the UK. All of the nurses on general medicine were very kind and willing to teach, but it did take a while to get used to the language barrier. Communication was difficult as the nurses spoke little English and most of the patients spoke no English. However medicine is taught in English so all of the medical notes and ward rounds are in English; and the Doctors were all very approachable if I had a question to ask.
The hospital environment took a little bit of getting used to. The infection control was poor, aseptic technique was a concept obviously misunderstood and isolation rooms were scarce. The issues surrounding confidentiality and consent were nonexistent.
Medical ICU was an excellent experience; with only five beds on the ward and one nurse to each patient it was an ideal learning environment. Infection control was present on this ward and although it was not to UK standards, it was clear that the nurses were trying their best with the limited resources that they had available.
My placement allowed me to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of unusual diseases such as Dengue Fever, Leptospirosis and Tuberculosis. I was active in nursing care such as sponge baths, nasogastric feeding, taking blood specimens, drug administration and observations. I also spent an afternoon in the labour room on Obs and Gynae where I observed four births which involved episiotomies. In addition I spent some time with the Sri Lankan nursing students and was welcomed on a tour of the Kandy School of Nursing.
Kandy is situated at the heart of Sri Lanka and it's hill country. There were many things to do within Kandy itself and nearby, which I fitted into my free evenings or afternoons. I visited The Temple of the Tooth, had an Ayurvedic treatment, went to a salsa class, watched a rugby match and saw Kandyan dancing and drumming. I got to ride, wash and feed elephants at The Millennium Elephant Foundation in Pinnawala (40km from Kandy) which was great fun. I also visited the beautiful Peradeniya Botanical Gardens which are a short bus journey away from Kandy.
The weekends provided the perfect opportunity to travel around the country. With a house full of students all wanting to travel, I didn't have to worry about travelling alone.
During my time in Sri Lanka we went surfing in Arugam Bay, climbed to the top of Sigiriya rock, visited the ruins of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa and climbed Adam's Peak.
There were lots of us who were keen to climb Adam's Peak (which is traditionally climbed at night), and even though it was 'out of season' we decided to take on the challenge. We started climbing the 7km path of 5500 steps at 2am and reached the top after an exhausting two and a half hours. Here we waited in the cold and wet for the sun to rise. Unfortunately with it being 'out of season' all we could see was cloud! It was still good fun though and we all felt like we had made an achievement in making it to the top (even the people who got attacked by leeches)!
I enjoyed every minute of my time in Sri Lanka, it really was amazing! It was an incredible experience both as an elective placement and as a life experience. I learnt lots in the hospital about medicine, patient care and the importance of communication skills which will remain with me throughout my career as a nurse. In addition it has made me appreciate the vast resources and technology that we take for granted in hospitals in the UK. I also met some fantastic people during my stay in Sri Lanka, which made the whole experience even more memorable!