My life-changing nursing elective in the Philippines

Guest posts

Faculty: Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Nursing and Midwifery
Course: BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing
Category: Nursing and midwifery

14 January 2020

I'm an adult nursing student at ARU and as part of our course, we go on a lot of placements. For my 'elective', I opted to go to the Philippines. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I really wanted to go to the Philippines because I had worked with lots of Filipino nurses in the UK. I thought it would be interesting to go to their home country to see how different their local healthcare system was compared to the NHS.

I spent three weeks in a government hospital, in surgical and medical ICU, the emergency department and the female medical ward. Work the World (the organisation who planned my elective) made sure I could visit areas I was interested in and gave me an outline on what to expect in different areas, which helped narrow my options.

The hospital environment was very different from the UK. They had lower staff-to-patient ratios, with sometimes as few as two nurses per 50 patients. This was demanding at times, but families often stayed with patients to provide personal care, which relieved some of the burden.

One of the things I found most surprising was how much patients’ families helped with care. The nurses even taught families manual intubation, NG feeding, and how to assist with oral medication. Nurses worked so hard and were amazingly resourceful, which made me really appreciate what we have in the UK.

I learnt so much about nursing in a country with low resources, and I went through a lot of personal development that I now apply to everyday life.

Beach in the Philippines
Student nurse Hannah pictured with four colleagues on a hospital ward
Student nurse Hannah outside a hospital in the Philippines

Iloilo, the province where I was staying, really felt like home whilst we were there – so much so that we would all talk about ‘heading home' after our shifts. The food was incredible, and the catering team were amazing. We ate a range of Filipino and Western dishes, and there were always plenty of leftovers for our lunch the next day. The weekly BBQ nights were amazing; there was a different theme each week, and we even did karaoke (a great way to bond with housemates!)

On my first weekend, some of my housemates and I went to Islas de Gigantes, where we island hopped, went jet skiing, banana boating and climbed a mountain. We ate some indigenous Filipino food too.

During the second weekend, we went to a place called Antique, which was an adventure to say the least. We went to the most stunning remote beach I have ever seen (Seco Island – look it up!) The local children's singing group performed for us, we saw amazing waterfalls, and went water tubing.

Weekends were action-packed, which I loved! During our third weekend, we went to Boracay, one of the Philippines’ most popular tourist destinations. This was a very different weekend as we chilled out by the beach and experienced some of the nightlife. The beach was busy, but the atmosphere was incredible.

I also decided to spend a week in an island village in what was called a ‘Village Healthcare Experience’ and it was the highlight of my trip. Going into it I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was the best experience I have ever had.

We went into the local hospital in the morning. The hospital was much smaller than the one in Iloilo City, and still had the same limited resources. I helped administer IM injections, catheterise patients, and record observations. In the afternoons, we undertook activities like island hopping and learning how to weave baskets in the traditional way.

I gained a lot of confidence through the experience. I found that I needed to put myself forward to maximise opportunities. I wasn’t afraid to ask to get involved as the local hospital staff were so obliging and appreciated us showing an interest.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff, my housemates and my new Filipino friends for making this once-in-a-lifetime experience so unforgettable.

By Hannah Wright

Hannah studies Adult Nursing at ARU. Find out more about why nursing is a job for life.


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