Kings College London 2018
Work the World’s base in Vietnam was in an area not commonly visited by tourists. It seemed a fantastic chance to experience the country and healthcare system in a more authentic way.
I’d never been to Vietnam, but had always heard wonderful things about it.
At first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the pace of life and the condition of the hospital in Vietnam (not to mention the sheer volume of mopeds). But I settled quickly into local life and absolutely loved my time there.
I learned that local people were often shy to begin with, but once you made the effort to start a conversation, they were friendly, welcoming and warm. The hospital staff loved having students to teach and learn from.
Thanks to Work the World I experienced a number of different clinical areas. This was great as I saw the differences between healthcare in the UK and Vietnam within areas I already had experience in — cardiovascular and orthopaedics for example.
I also gained experience in areas like oncology that were completely new to me.
In comparison to the UK, the healthcare in Vietnam is greatly under-resourced. Some things were difficult to observe.
However, hospital staff cared so deeply about patients and clearly did their best for them in spite of the lack of resources. Their efforts were incredibly heartwarming and inspiring.
Healthcare isn’t free in Vietnam, so private health insurance is required. Needless to say, healthcare wasn’t accessible to many of the country’s most economically disadvantaged.
Doctors still did all they could within these constraints.
Patients’ family members did almost all personal care and brought food to their sick relatives.
There were often multiple patients per bed due to demand and lack of available resources, and services were much more basic than back home.
There was very little regard for patient privacy.
The main difference was the lack of available resources. It was most clear in oncology where a lack of funding meant patients only had access to limited treatments. This resulted in prognoses being far worse than we’re used to in the UK.
In my oncology week, I changed the surgical wound dressing of a seven-year-old boy who’d had cancerous thyroid tissue removed from his neck.
I couldn’t communicate with him directly as neither of us spoke the other’s language.
But with a calm voice and body language, we communicated effectively. The boy was anxious, but he moved his neck as I needed and I dressed the wound for him.
I made him a balloon elephant out of a latex glove (a trick once shown to me by a paramedic) to put him at ease. I’ve never seen a smile as big on any patient I’ve ever treated.
I’ll never forget that moment.
When it came to weekend trips, my friends and I had some fantastic experiences.
We went to Hoi An, which is utterly beautiful. It’s worth a trip there for the lanterns alone.
Whilst there, we also made it to Da Nang and the Ba Na hills. We walked across the famous Golden Hand Bridge and travelled back to Hue via the Hai Van pass, which was breathtaking in itself.
We also went to Phong Nha national park. We explored caves there and went zip lining and swimming through them.
A trip with Work the World puts you in the best place to take trips to new places with new friends. You have to make the most of these opportunities. They’ll help you blow off steam as you see some of the most beautiful places in the world.
I made some incredible friends whilst on my placement, and it is clear they’re going to be lifelong friendships.
I couldn’t be more grateful.