Undertaking an elective in a country so different from mine was a once in a lifetime experience.
I love to travel, it’s a passion of mine. So, combining this visiting and learning about other countries and communities with a nursing elective was perfect.
I chose Sri Lanka as it was somewhere I had never been before. It had beautiful rolling hills and pristene beaches, which drew me in. Whilst still a developing country, Sri Lanka had a free healthcare system similar to the UK, so I wanted to compare the differences between the two.
Work the World were extremely helpful when it came to choosing a destination. They gave me lots of first-hand information about different areas and departments and about what I should expect. They answered all my questions honestly and quickly.
Work the World made the whole process seamless and all their support made me feel at ease.
Once I had booked on to the programme, I was given access to MyTrip, Work the World's online placement planner. It had all the information I could have needed, including what to take with me, things to do before my trip, and information about the house and the other students I'd be living with.
They also asked me to input my clinical interests prior to my placement. This formed the basis for an in-depth phone call with a member of the Work the World team. Thet helped me choose the departments I was going to be placed in!
MyTrip also haD a timeline of events leading up to my trip, so I didn't forget anything!
Arriving at Colombo airport with my friend, one of Work the World's Kandy team was there waiting for us. We took a minibus together to our accommodation.
We stopped at a local restaurant en-route, which gave us the opportunity to get our first taste of Sri Lankan cuisine!
We arrived at the house quite late, but dinner was on the table waiting for us! We then went on a tour of the house. We met our new housemates, and they were all from different disciplines from all over the world.
I since became great friends with these students, as we made lots of memories together.
On our first full day in Kandy, we unpacked and settled into the house before the team took us out to explore the city centre.
We had a full city orientation. The team showed us how to exchange money, took us to the shops we might need during our stay, and pointed out some famous landmarks.
The next day was our first day in the hospital. It was an exciting but nerve-wracking time! Sri Lanka was a developing country, so we expected it to be different. But seeing it with our own eyes was a different matter.
My first week was in OBG. We underwent a full hospital induction and met the Chief Nursing Officer. Walking through the hospital was a surreal experience, seeing patients out in corridors, full waiting rooms, and queues of patients waiting to be seen trailing out of the hospital doors.
Observing how differently wards ran compared to the wards in the UK was staggering. Talking with the nurses and doctors about their day to day roles and patient demands was also remarkable. With such a big patient load, most local staff didn’t know their patients personally.
Theatres in Sri Lanka were a world away from aseptic of our theatre departments.
Spending time in OBG meant observing babies being brought into the world. It was amazing to see the bond between a mother and her newborn.
One staggering difference was that no family members were allowed in delivery or post-delivery in the hospital. Women were often on their own (with other labouring women), which was confusing at first, but I now understand they just didn't have the space to accommodate anyone who wasn't directly involved.
I also spent time in the Emergency Department, Paediatric Surgery, and in the theatres. I instantly noticed the difference in funding between my two placement hospitals. The children’s hospital for example, was modern with comparatively up to date equipment.
I also found out that nurses often have to work 24-hour shifts. I could barely get through a 12-hour shift without getting tired!
There were many cultural differences when compared to the UK. When children came into theatre, they were anaesthetised and had cannulae inserted without their parents with them.
The consultants, doctors, nurses and patients were all friendly and welcoming. They encouraged me to engage in learning opportunities and always took time to explain what was going on.
Weekend trips away gave us the opportunity to relax and enjoy what Sri Lanka had to offer.
Trincomalee was beautiful. The sandy beaches, relaxed vibes, boat trips, snorkelling allow us to unwind and have fun. In Galle and Unawatuna, we went to a turtle hatchery and explored Galle Fort and the Old Town with its cute gift shops.
There were endless choices for weekend breaks, including Arugam Bay, Mirissa, Ella, Nuwara Eliya, the Cultural Triangle, Knuckles Mountains, Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Dambulla…the list goes on. I continued travelling after my elective and visited all of these places. It was epic!
When we had afternoons off, or decided to stay in Kandy for the weekend, there were plenty of day trips and places to visit locally. We went white water rafting (great fun for a big group), to the Millennium Elephant Foundation, which was the highlight of my trip, to the tea plantations, the botanical gardens, the Temple of the Tooth and the Big Buddha statue to see the sunrise.
The weekly BBQs at the Work the World house were a highlight. All the students in the house got together to eat the catering team's amazing cooking! We had language lessons and cooking lessons some evenings too. Basically, we were never short of activities and entertainment.
The Work the World house staff were always on hand when we had questions or needed advice. They were just so dedicated to helping us have the best possible trip.
This whole experience put my career, and my life, into perspective. It opened my eyes to a different way of life and contributed to enhancing who I was as a person, and as a nurse. This opportunity broadened my horizons and was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will carry with me forever.
If you’re hesitant about booking an overseas elective, keep an open mind and you'll have the best adventure.