Over the course of my nursing school education, I found myself drawn towards lectures on global health. This interest was the driving force behind me researching organizations that could provide students with a global health care trip. I knew something like this would provide me with an unforgettable experience, insight into what I wanted to pursue with global health, make connections, and be a great addition to my resume.
I found Work the World and decided on Sri Lanka because I was interested in going to a country I knew nothing about, and felt there would be so much for me to learn about the country’s culture, religious practices, and healthcare. I read some of the student reviews and was convinced that this place was the best choice for me.
After the long journey I was welcomed with smiling faces and any questions I had, were answered. The very next day we started our placements, mine was in the emergency department and the operating theater. The hospital coordinator gave us a presentation on the hospital, and then we were escorted by the Work the World team to our first units.
My first impression of the hospital was that they were very resourceful. Parts of the hospital were outside, which was very different to hospitals back home in America. There were other points of resourcefulness - nursing staff would use old IV lines as tourniquets and IV bottles to measure output of patients.
I was also able to learn some practical skills in regard to vaccinations and injections. I learned how to check for an allergic reaction to the vaccination, and how and where to give the anti-rabies serum injection. I practiced blood draws and medication administration as well. The nurses in the emergency department were very friendly. From my first day there they included me and would invite me to sit with them during their tea breaks.
Some of my most memorable experiences were in the operating theater during my second week. For me personally, being on this unit was a dream come true. I have wanted to work in the operating room since I was a child, and as a nursing student I don’t get many opportunities to observe operations in America.
While I was there it was eye-opening to see multiple operations happening at the same time, in the same room. Some of the operations I witnessed were; open reduction internal fixations, achilles tendon repair, amputations, laparoscopic sigmoid colectomy, lymphadenectomy, and lumpectomy to name a few. The most memorable operation for me was the amputation, and that is because they don’t use general anesthesia, but local anesthesia. The patient was awake and present for the operation. It was a very emotional and eye-opening experience for me to witness.
The surgeons were very friendly and welcoming of questions. They would explain when and why they were doing certain techniques, which is fascinating for me personally because I want to work in the operating theater one day.
One experience that has stuck with me was our community day where we went to an elementary school and helped with annual checkups, as well as screening parents for kidney failure, which is a common health concern due to dehydration. After the checkups, we spent playing and getting to know the kids.
During the evenings and weekends, I tried to make the most of my time, by exploring the area. I would go and explore the ancient city and temples, and on the weekends I planned larger trips. Traveling independently with a new friend I had made through my Work the World placement was a great way to experience the rich culture of Sri Lanka.
We hired a driver for the entire weekend in Kandy and Ella, which was actually very affordable and beneficial for us. During our travels we would stop at outdoor markets and buy different fruits and vegetables to try based on our driver’s recommendations. On our drive to Ella we explored many temples, including Temple of the Tooth; we also visited the tea plantations, hiked the World’s End and witnessed breathtaking views of the country along the way. On our way back to Kandy we took a train with the most scenic views in the world.
Traveling across the world by myself was a scary and beautiful experience that I am happy I decided to do. I made lifelong friendships with people from all over the world. I learned a different approach to healthcare and witnessed firsthand the luxuries that we take for granted in America. Sri Lankan nurses taught me so much about resourcefulness.
Sri Lanka is the most beautiful country I have ever been to, and it is filled with the nicest and most welcoming citizens. I’m happy I found Work the World and was allowed the experience of traveling to Sri Lanka. To anyone who is considering traveling with Work the World, my only advice to you is to do it. It is an amazing opportunity that you may not get again, and it will help shape you into more well-rounded healthcare professional.