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This is a guest blog by current student Isobel Butler, studying BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing. She travelled to Sri Lanka on her nursing elective to see the differences between healthcare in the UK and the developing world.

Since coming home from my trip to Sri Lanka, I genuinely can say I feel like a different person in the most positive possible way. I chose to spend some time in ICU and in A&E as a part of my experience in the general medical wards. Work the World (the organisation that planned my placement) arranged this for me. General medicine turned out to be a great choice. It gave me a broad overview of healthcare in Sri Lanka and enabled me to draw comparisons between local care and the care I was accustomed to practising in the UK. I also wanted to choose something completely unique that I didn’t have the chance to experience at home. I chose OBG (Obstetrics and Gynaecology), and in doing so I saw, for the first time, a baby being born.

My experience in OBG opened my eyes to the resilience of local patients, especially given the minimal pain relief they had available. One highlight was observing procedures in theatre. These included C-sections, several of which took place within the same room. The consultant was so passionate about his work and willing to answer any questions I had. I was surprised at how resourceful the nurses were. They sterilised almost everything for reuse, from IV bottles to dressings. It really made me contemplate how comparatively wasteful we are in the UK. The difference in pressure-area care was quite confronting. There are countless different dressings available in the UK, each with an individual purpose. In Sri Lanka, I saw many category four pressure sores covered only with a simple gauze. That said, it was inspiring to witness the sheer effort nurses put into patient care in spite of limited resources.

Communicating with patients was a challenge at times. Many did not speak a word of English. The Sinhalese lessons we received in our accommodation helped a lot — basic phrases like “Hello, what is your name? My name is…”. I couldn’t pronounce the words very well, but patients really did appreciate the effort. I remember one young girl who was incredibly frightened after experiencing a post-partum haemorrhage. Luckily, I had learned some reassuring phrases in Sinhalese, which really helped to calm her. Patients even kissed my hand to show their gratitude, and one sang me a song! It was so uplifting to receive such kindness and appreciation.

I spent the last week of my placement undertaking a placement in an ayurvedic hospital. I highly recommend it. I really felt like I’d been taken back in time — the medicines were all made at the clinic, with some brewed in ancient-looking cauldrons. I got involved in applying some of the treatments. These were a concoction of oils, pastes and tree bark applied topically and covered with a bandage. The clinic only took up a few hours each morning. So in the afternoons we went hiking, visited temples, and took boat rides out on the lake.

My month in Sri Lanka was a whirlwind of exciting new experiences. I was surprised at how easy it was to travel around the country, whether by bike, bus, or tuk-tuk. I met some really positive people with amazing stories to

share, and now have many of my own that I will treasure forever.

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