I went to The Philippines for my radiography elective placement and it absolutely lived up to my expectations.
When the World team first took me into my placement hospital for an introduction, it was immediately clear that there was a lack of funding in the healthcare system. There were limited resources, and what we — in the UK — would consider issues around patient safety.
One example of this was a plug hanging off the wall that could have easily posed an electric shock risk. Needless to say, this wouldn’t happen in the UK. There were power cuts too, which made it difficult for both staff and patients. It was noted that patients had died in the past due to these cuts.
But the staff did their best and were lovely. They had a slightly different way of doing things compared to what I was used to, but I learned a lot from them. I learned some new clinical skills. And, based on some of their practices, I was reminded how rigorous the protocols are in the UK. There were instances where I saw staff expose patients in the room with no lead aprons — this is absolutely against procedure in the UK, due to the potential of cancer and cell mutation.
The biggest difference between the healthcare system in the UK and The Philippines was found in the lack of strict sterilisation procedures in The Philippines. Even ‘disposable’ equipment was sometimes reused from patient to patient. These differences helped me realise how much we take the NHS for granted.
I learned a lot about cultural differences too. Schedules were much more relaxed in The Philippines, keeping time and being prompt — as we’re expected to do in the UK — was less important over there. I learned different ways to fix mobile X-ray machines too, none of which I had learned back at home.
Some of the practices were very different from what I was used to, but staff often said that is the way a particular doctor or consultant wanted the image to be taken. I also noticed that radiographers would not collimate to the patient’s board, which would have increased the patient’s dose of radiation. Another thing I noted was that the hospital had older computed radiography equipment rather than digital radiography equipment.
During the weekends, my housemates and I travelled as a group to different places around The Philippines. We visited islands like Gigantes, Cebu, Antique, Boracay and Guimaraes.
We managed to fit in a lot while we were there — island hopping, canyoning, helicopter rides, riding motorbikes, boat rides, swimming with whale sharks, sunbathing, clubbing and canyoning.
I would absolutely recommend you do an overseas elective. It will boost your communication and clinical skills as well as give you a new outlook on life.
I would have stayed for eight weeks instead of four if I did it again.