I went to the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing. The university offered a few ‘study abroad’ programs — some of them were for just a short amount of time, and there was one to South Africa.
I wanted to do a rotation over the summer, but the university only offered a few semester abroad options during the school year.
I then came across Work the World — they ticked all the right boxes, so I thought I’d try them out. When it came to destinations, I was most interested in Sri Lanka, as some of my family had lived there for a while.
My first impression of the hospital was that it was big and bustling. I was with another girl from America, and the Work the World staff introduced us to their in-hospital coordinator. He was actually a member of the hospital staff, and gave us a short presentation about the hospital and Sri Lanka, which really helped us settle in.
I spent my first week on the labor and delivery ward. The nurses there were helpful in explaining things that were happening and walking us through certain procedures. Towards the end of the week, some of the local nurses took me to their little cafeteria. This was outside the hospital grounds near where lots of the young nurses lived. They bought me some tea and chatted with me for some time. It was really welcoming.
They didn’t use pain meds, so it was particularly eye-opening.
I saw a vaginal delivery of a breech birth while I was in the labor and delivery unit. They didn’t use pain meds, so it was particularly eye-opening. I also remember there were more people involved in the process than there would be in the States.
I don’t think they knew, initially, that it was a breech birth. One of the reasons being that the mom delivered naturally rather than via C-section. I remember her being very young too. Both doctors and residents were involved, so there was education taking place throughout.
It was interesting to see that nurses actually took a step back during the birth itself, letting the doctors do most of it. Afterwards, the nurses were responsible for the care of the woman and her baby.
I had just done a rotation in a labor and delivery ward in the US before coming to Sri Lanka, so I had something to directly compare it to.
The whole birthing process was very quick. A laboring mom-to-be would come in only when she was ready to give birth. The doctors didn’t use fetal monitors, and they would almost always perform an episiotomy. We try not to do this so much in the States anymore. I got the impression that the goal was just to make sure they got the baby out safely and then move the mother on.
I think one of the reasons for their haste was that there were just so many patients there. Compared to where I live in Connecticut, in Sri Lanka there was a much lower ratio of nurses to patients.
Thanks to living in the Work the World house, I met and became close friends with other medical, nursing, and dentistry students from England, Ireland, France, Scotland, Canada, and the U.S. We traveled together at the weekends and explored the city of Kandy on weekday afternoons. Ten of us spent a weekend at the beaches in Trincomalee, snorkeling and swimming in the Bay of Bengal.
I spent another weekend trip traveling to Ella, taking the famous train journey through tea plantations, then hiking Little Adams Peak and Worlds End (located within Horton Plains National Park). We spent another weekend in Colombo — the capital of Sri Lanka — exploring the bustling city.
I saw things differently when I came back.
When I came back to the States I still had another year of university remaining. I saw things differently when I came back. I approached that final year with more of a global perspective of the different aspects of healthcare.
I remember comparing everything and noticing just how many things we have in the States that the Sri Lankan hospitals just didn’t have. But there were also things in Sri Lanka that we don’t have in the States. Going to Sri Lanka totally changed my perspective.
I’ve taken the attitude I learned from my Work the World experience to further my career by making sure I keep challenging myself. I try not to be scared of new things because I know they’ll teach me something.
After university, I worked in a hospital on a telemetry floor. My role was all about ruling out strokes, heart attacks, GI bleeds, alcohol withdrawal, that sort of thing.
I’m leaving to go and work in New York City in a month or so. I want to learn more, so I’m going to work on an ICU.
My grandfather passed away in an ICU, and I remember the nurses were so great. Thanks to that, I’ve wanted to get involved in intensive care for a while. I don’t know if I’ll stay there forever — I’m still not quite sure what I want to do. But I think learning that type of care is an experience that will open my eyes up to another world of nursing.
It was a huge learning experience for me
I was maybe 19 or 20 when I went to Sri Lanka. It was a big deal for me to go on my own for five weeks to somewhere I didn’t know with people I didn’t know. It was a huge learning experience for me — to be that independent and embrace being a little nervous about taking such a big leap of faith in myself.
I overcame language barriers, examined alternative techniques for patient care, and embraced a diverse and culturally rich environment.
I highly recommend Work the World. The staff are always present and available in the house, each day of the week, for any question about your hospital rotations or travelling.