I chose to do my elective placement in Cambodia to see how the maternity services differed in a developing country.
Travelling alone to a country I had never been to before was a scary prospect. However, I’m so happy about the experiences I encountered and glad that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
I undertook a two-week placement in the maternity department in Phnom Penh. The staff were very welcoming and always willing to answer the many questions I had.
In the antenatal clinic, the midwives were keen for me to practice my clinical skills. I assisted with taking blood pressures, abdominal palpation, measuring fundal height and listening in to the baby’s heart rate.
It was interesting to learn that if women paid for their antenatal care they could be selective with their appointments, whereas women who couldn’t afford such care would be given food vouchers at appointments as an incentive to turn up.
The labour ward had three labour rooms with two beds in each room separated by curtains. There was no separation between low-risk and high-risk care. All women were cared for in the same area which was one difference I noted between the UK and Cambodia.
I witnessed three caesarean sections and five vaginal births during my placement. The basic clinical skills were similar to the UK, however it was surprising to see how many staff members would be present at the births.
Although this was very different to what I was used to, it was clear that each person knew what their role was and the team worked well together to care for the women with the limited resources they had.
It was a lovely tradition to be involved with and the family were always very appreciative.
A highlight of my placement was having the chance to get involved with the traditional baby washing each morning. Every day parents or grandparents would bring their baby to be weighed and washed by the staff. It was a lovely tradition to be involved with and the family were always very appreciative.
One thing I learnt from my experience was that even with a language barrier you can still show compassion and kindness with a smile or by holding a woman’s hand whilst she’s in labour.
This placement helped me to develop my non-verbal communication skills, which is something I will embrace in my career as a midwife.
During the evenings, myself and the other students in the Work the World house would explore the local area.
Every Thursday the Work the World team put on a BBQ for the students and staff. We would then go out to experience the nightlife in Phnom Penh. Visiting some of the many sky bars was a favourite of ours!
One weekend, to relax after a busy week on placement, a group of us made the trip to the beautiful island, Koh Rong.
I would encourage anyone thinking about an elective placement abroad to just go for it as it was an unforgettable experience!