My name is Grace Stevens and I am a third year Adult Nursing student at the University of Central Lancashire. I am currently on my elective placement in Sri Lanka with Work the World, a company I chose to go with because they take care of all aspects of your stay in Sri Lanka, including placement, accommodation and induction to the area of Kandy.
The assistant program manager, who was very welcoming and gave us an introduction to Sri Lanka, picked us up at the airport. We stopped off for lunch on the way so we could try some Sri Lankan food for the first time.
The next day, we were given an orientation, taken for lunch at a local Sri Lankan restaurant and given a tour of the city. He was very informative and accommodated all our requests.
I chose to split six weeks between cardio-thoracic ICU, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and paediatric ICU. The hospital staff are very accommodating and aim to teach you as much as they can. They are very interested in you as a student and love to ask you questions about your studies, and how you are finding life in Sri Lanka.
On my first day the programme manager, Nandika, took me to the hospital, showed me around and introduced me to the sister I would be working with. This was a big relief as I was very nervous about starting placement in a completely different country and culture.
I have found that if you are a proactive student then every day at the hospital can be different. Within each department I have observed ward rounds, attended theatre, and been accepted as part of the team. The more time you spend in one area, the more familiar you get with the routines of the wards, and staff will gain trust in your abilities whilst understanding your limits, which is similar to a placement at home.
The best part of my placement in Sri Lanka was getting to spend 3 weeks in paediatric ICU, an opportunity not afforded to me in the UK, but an invaluable experience. The entire placement has been an excellent learning experience that, as a student, I will never forget. My favourite day has to be my day in theatre, watching an aortic valve replacement, which, in comparison with a UK procedure, is eye opening. It is important to embrace as a student that the staff at the hospital do the best they can with the resources they have. The lack of resources in some areas of the hospital made me appreciate how lucky I am in the UK to have the National Health Service, but equally inspired by the incredible work of the doctors and nurses here.
I am able to expand my knowledge of non-verbal communication skills with the patients and their families
The most difficult part of the placement for me was the language barrier between the patients and I. An important part of nursing for me is to be able to communicate effectively with your patients verbally and non-verbally. One positive I got out of the difficulty with communication is that I am able to expand my knowledge of non-verbal communication skills with the patients and their families. Regardless of this, the staff at the hospital all speak a good level of English, as the medical notes and ward rounds are routinely conducted in English. Furthermore the staff are always happy to translate for you whenever necessary. Don't be afraid to ask questions and enjoy your curiosity, as the staff will endeavour to answer you as best they can.
The Work the World house has a real family atmosphere, and everyone soon becomes great friends with the staff and other students alike. It is great to meet new people and share your experiences of the hospital, but also your travelling experiences, as Sri Lanka is so culturally and geographically diverse. We have spent our free time travelling around the island, as the bus, trains and tuk tuks (or three wheelers as the locals call them) are very cheap and easy to use. We have been to Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla, the beach at Trincomalee (in the east of the island), Worlds End, Nuwara Eliya, Unawatuna beach, an elephant jeep safari at Habarana, Ceylon tea factory, Ayurvedic spice garden, Millennium Elephant Foundation, and an interesting experience in Colombo trying to get our visa’s extended!
Not only is there so much to do on the island, there is plenty to do in Kandy. We spend our afternoons relaxing at the nearby hotel pool, or visiting the Temple of the Tooth, which you can see from across the famous Kandy Lake. There are also the botanical gardens, which are an ideal destination on a sunny afternoon; Kandy’s Three Temple Loop; and the Giant White Buddha.
I have had an amazing time on placement in Sri Lanka and would recommend a placement here without a doubt. It is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my career. Sri Lanka is a vibrant and welcoming country and I will definitely be coming back to visit in the future!