Claudia travelled to Mexico with Daisy, Lara, and Alice from the University of Surrey.
Myself and three friends went to Merida, Mexico for our elective placement. Our experience was unforgettable and we loved every second.
When we first arrived at the hospital we were quite surprised at how small the maternity unit was. We noticed the baby nursery straight away and discovered that mothers and babies were separated after birth, which is almost unheard of in the UK unless either the mother or baby is unwell.
The thing that stuck in our minds the most was the lack of privacy labouring women had. All women laboured on the ward together, where curtains were not used and women were examined with limited privacy measures in place. Although initially surprised, we noticed that women did not seem phased by the lack of privacy as this was all they knew.
Women barely made a single noise during labour despite the lack of pain relief (spinal anaesthetic was only offered during c-sections) and family members were not allowed in the labour rooms. This made us realise how lucky we are to have the NHS with all the pain relief options available to women and the opportunity to have two birth partners.
we had so many opportunities to observe a variety of different procedures
Our placement was observational only and we had so many opportunities to observe a variety of different procedures, including caesarean sections, vaginal births, hysterectomies and even mastectomies on the obstetric unit.
The language barrier made it challenging at times to understand the indications behind certain procedures, however, with support from the obstetric doctors who spoke English, we were able to understand this better. This helped us to not only expand our knowledge on why these procedures were taking place but also compare how they would be dealt with in the UK.
There appeared to be lower levels of supplies in the hospitals in Merida, and it was clear that the staff were very resourceful. It was reassuring to see that although supplies were limited in comparison to the UK, patients still received all the necessary medication and treatments required.
Some of the most memorable cases observed in Mexico were caesarean sections. It was interesting to see how these were performed using a ‘classical method’ where the incision is made vertically on the abdomen, rather than the lower segment incision, which is most commonly used in the UK.
We had the opportunity to see hysteroscopies, which were just being introduced in this particular hospital to improve outcomes and the safety of certain procedures for women in their care.
In addition to this, we saw a huge tumour being removed from a 14-year-old girl’s ovary. The tumour was so large it made her look around 30-weeks pregnant. Due to the size of it, the doctor had to make an incision all the way down her abdomen, which is quite a life-changing scar for most people. We asked how this tumour got so large and the doctor explained that they can grow rapidly and they got the patient to theatre as soon as they could.
The main difference between the healthcare system in Mérida and the UK was the funding available for equipment and resources. Most of the equipment was outdated and used across the whole unit. Typewriters were used to complete documentation, which is obviously very different to back home.
Hospital staff were spread out across the unit meaning there was no 1:1 care like you would find in the UK. Although this was surprising at times, it was refreshing to see the amazing teamwork and how everyone chipped in for each task and moved on to the next together.
We spent our evenings at the house either playing games and chatting with other housemates or going bowling and out to salsa nights.
We also arranged trips to cenotes in Santa Barbara, into downtown Mérida and to the mall. We also visited Progreso Beach a couple of times which was 30 minutes from the house and breathtakingly beautiful.
Although there were a lot of things to do in Mérida, at the weekend we ventured further afield to Cancun and did various activities there. We went to Xel-ha for an incredible snorkelling trip and also visited Coco Bongo, a well known night club.
We went to Isla Mujeres one day, which is a beautiful tiny island off the coast of Cancun. We travelled around the whole island on a golf buggy in just 2 hours! The water was so blue and clear - bluer than you could ever imagine.
The Work the World team were always there to advise on trips. We found everything in Merida to be extremely cheap which allowed us to do more activities than we imagined possible.
Living in the Work the World house was a lot of fun and we made friends for life. We always felt safe and the Work the World team were always on hand. The food at the house was delicious and gave us an insight into traditional Mexican dishes.
We found that the placement opened our eyes to different cultures and practices
We would definitely encourage others to take part in this life-changing and eye-opening experience for their elective. We found that the placement opened our eyes to different cultures and practices, and we developed an understanding of how the maternity department manages to function despite having small budgets and little equipment.
Overall, we couldn’t have imagined having a better time, we all learnt so much and will always appreciate the NHS as a result. We’ve bonded as friends for the rest of our lives - an experience we will never forget.