I chose Mexico for my placement because I wanted to go somewhere new. A lot of people at my university wanted to go to Asia or Africa, so this motivated me to choose somewhere other people hadn’t considered. I also really wanted to learn Spanish and thought a placement in Mexico would be the perfect motivation to practice.
I really wanted to go with Work the World as some of my friends had been with them and had a great time! I’d heard horror stories from previous students at my university when they went with different companies, so I really wanted to go with an organisation that was reputable.
When I first arrived at the hospital I was surprised at the location! It was just on the side of a main road in the city centre, there was limited signage and no obvious parking anywhere. It was so different from the hospitals in England that I was used to. Outside the hospital gates were stalls with street vendors selling snacks and other produce, displaying it in plastic boxes.
The hospital itself was bright white, as was the path between the buildings and the uniform that staff and students had on. When I was first introduced to my ward I felt slightly overwhelmed as people were speaking to me in very quick Spanish. However, once they realised my Spanish wasn’t amazing they slowed down and were more than happy to type things I didn’t understand into Google translate for me.
I was surprised at the lack of control around drugs on the wards. On the post operative ward, some medication was stored in an unlocked fridge in the middle of the corridor, that both staff and patients could gain access to. The nurses also took their patients’ notes with them to the cafeteria on their breaks, so the regulations around confidentiality between England and Mexico were very different!
The hospital was extremely busy at times as it was the general public hospital for the city. The accident and emergency department, especially on Monday mornings, was something else, as patients had been out partying at the weekend and had injured themselves.
Compared to the strict policies and procedures I have encountered on my placements in England everything seemed much more relaxed. The students I went on my break with took as long as they wanted as there were no set times.
I was fortunate enough to be in the operating theatre during a procedure on a one-month-old baby who had an extremely rare genetic condition
While in Mexico, I was fortunate enough to be in the operating theatre during a procedure on a one-month-old baby who had an extremely rare genetic condition, which I may never encounter again. In the operating room, the surgeon created a stoma for the baby and removed a second pair of ovaries and a second uterus. I was also able to watch a number of gall bladder removals. There was also a patient who had lost a testicle in a bullfight!
I chatted to the patients on my ward and asked them questions about their life in Mexico and I explained to them about my life in England and about my nursing training, which they responded positively to. I was able to get involved by helping to prepare medication because I showed an interest and asked questions to staff and students.
The main differences I saw between healthcare in England and Mexico were the standards of hygiene due to the different regulations and resources available. One of my friends saw a patient’s amputated foot in the yellow disposal bin! Another big difference was confidentiality. The patients and nurses were adding each other on Facebook and texting each other and nurses and doctors often chatted about the patients and their treatments in front of them as though they weren’t there.
I learnt a lot from the staff in the hospital and found that after making an effort with everyone they were really encouraging and supportive. The staff on my ward went above and beyond to explain things to me and give me opportunities to assist with various things. I was also able to chat with other nursing students and ask about their reasons for wanting to become nurses.
The Yucatan region has so many amazing activities. I met an amazing group of people in the Work the World house and we went on weekend trips and did activities together after placement. We visited Chichen Itza (one of the seven modern wonders of the world), swam with whale sharks, visited a pink lake, swam in cenotes (natural underground swimming pools only found in Yucatan), visited Isla Mujeres, went dancing and watched a mariachi band!
I really wanted to participate in this experience as I will never have the chance to experience anything like this again. I found it incredibly amazing and love Mexico because of it. I had an amazing experience and loved it all. It gave me the chance to interact with people from all over the world and I met people who I have kept in touch with. Merida itself is so relaxed and has an amazing vibe, it’s away from the touristy areas so you get a real feel for daily life here and have the chance to integrate with locals. There are so many activities, there was always loads to do!