My Paramedic Placement in Mexico

Published on Friday 5 February 2016

Ebony Hewett

I stand crammed between people on a creaky bus, grasping onto a pole for dear life, my knuckles white. The driver accelerates with gusto and I look down to see bitumen racing by through a hole in the floor. More than once I have to apologise as I bump into people as the bus sways. A man tries to sell me chocolates in a language I barely comprehend, all eyes are on me; a white, blond Australian in a foreign land.

Welcome to Mexico!

This, my “life-threatening” daily commute (I say it with a hint of sarcasm but one person actually dies daily on the buses here), is to ‘Crusa Verde de Norte’ or the ‘Green Cross of the North’. This is a hospital and ambulance station in Zapopan, Guadalajara. Out of my element, but feeling more at home each day, I have travelled to Mexico to volunteer in the hospital and ambulance service for two weeks, through the Global Medical Projects organization.

The Green Cross Ambulance Service is one of the primary ambulance services here in Mexico. It boasts 5 ambulance stations in the Zapopan region. The Northern station, where I volunteer, is one of the busiest. The Paramedics have a one-year study program, followed by a four hundred hour placement commitment (usually taking approximately 6 months) to become fully qualified. The Ambulances are kitted out with a range of drugs and equipment, some which are similar or identical to SA Ambulance, others which are vastly different:

A typical ambulance you are likely to encounter in MexicoSimilarities – many similar drugs, similar airway kit and trauma kit, oxygen, able to intubate, radio communication, paramedics return to a home station, two paramedics work in partnership
Differences – some differing drugs such as frusemide and paracetamol solution, AED instead of ECG monitor, minimal paramedic specialization, able to suture (albeit uncommon), no pagers (solely rely on radios), less manual handling and safety precautions (gloves are infrequently worn and sharps are re-sheathed)

The biggest difference, however, is the type of work. My experience in Mexico in both the ambulance and in the hospital was that trauma equates to approximately 50% of the workload. When an ambulance is called it’s usually because the family literally can’t take the patient themselves due to the injury or complaint.

In the ambulance service I was always welcomed by the crew with a cultural kiss on the cheek and hug and often generously fed tacos or other delicious Mexican food. Although there was a communication barrier, I worked hard on my Spanish to understand as much as I could but will be forever grateful for universal sign language!

When I worked on the ambulance our shifts were particularly quiet for the region. However, we still attended multiple dislocations and broken bones, strokes, assaults and falls to name a few cases. To give you more of an idea of the work, one of the patients we picked up had fallen down two flights of stairs, resulting in a crushed vertebrae and two broken legs. The roads are so bad over here that three of us had to help hold her still in the back of the ambulance on the commute because she was bumping up and down so drastically. I’m not sure who was grimacing more – her, or me feeling so sorry for her! We also got called to a shooting, however on arrival we quickly established that a man was threatened with a pistol and punched in the face but fortunately not shot. Multiple paramedics informed me that shootings and stabbings are regular jobs, occurring weekly… it’s another world over here!

The operating Theatre in MexicoI really enjoyed working in the hospital as I got to see multiple orthopaedic, paediatric and general surgeries; I got taught to suture; I was able to regularly cannulate and aid the doctors in a plethora of tasks. Again, we had many broken bones, we had deep lacerations to mend, brain lesions, large chemical and thermal burns, over doses, hypoglycaemic patients, asthmatics, anaphylactic patients, a newborn and even a lacerated eyeball as some examples. The work was very interesting and the trauma treatment very efficient given the ample practice. The most memorable job that I aided with was an elderly gentleman who fell over on concrete, breaking both wrists and receiving a nasty 15cm gash to his head. He had nicked an artery in his scalp causing a spurting flow of blood and an increase in sympathetic response. Having already lost approximately 500ml of blood and losing more by the minute (approximately 1L on completion), a doctor and I worked in unison to control the bleeding. We used countless gauzes and multiple clamps until we finally found the end of the artery and stopped its red stream. After a neat suture and IV saline the patient appeared a different person and was very grateful. It’s practical jobs like these that act as a kind reminder of the difference we can make, and what a priviledge it is to do so.

I will miss the people I worked with and their friendly and generous nature, I will miss the Mexican food which far outweighs the Australian take on it and I will miss being able to assist Mexicans, young and old. If you are interested in doing this project or for more information please visit Paramedic and Emergency Medicine placements in Mexico or feel free to contact me.

Ebony Hewett
Paramedic Intern
South B
Awesome job Ebony.  To follow in Ebony’s footsteps, find out more about our Paramedic and Emergency Medicine placements in Mexico

What to Expect from Medical Volunteering and Work Experience

Published on Wednesday 3 February 2016

Whether you’re a pre-university student looking for work experience, a medical student looking for a worthwhile elective, a medical professional taking a career break or simply just want to volunteer your time and skills, a medical project overseas can be a daunting prospect. When leaving the comforts of home behind to embark on a new adventure, you’ll want to be sure that you know what to expect when taking on a medical volunteering project.

We’ve put together a brief introduction to medical volunteering, from the personal and career benefits to daily life and the working conditions you’ll experience.

Personal Benefits

They say that travel broadens the mind, and by volunteering with us on a medical project overseas you will be able to travel to an amazing country you probably wouldn’t have considered journeying to before.

Volunteering is an extremely rewarding thing to do and you’ll have the opportunity to create some amazing memories and make new friends in an entirely different environment.

It’s important to remember, that whilst rewarding, it will be a demanding experience and one that you should prepare yourself for. Working away from home, surrounded by people you don’t know and in an environment which may be emotionally draining can be challenging, but you’ll be supported by our friendly overseas staff and the comradeship of your fellow volunteers who will all be based in the same area.

Career Benefits

Everyone has different motivations for joining our medical volunteering placement. Whether you’re a pre-university student looking to boost their application to medical school, an elective student or qualified professional, volunteering will look great on your CV / Resume.

Aside from what you learn about medicine overseas on the placement, volunteering abroad will allow you to learn a new language and experience a new culture, both of which are great qualities that universities and employers will be keen to make use of. Helping a local community will show your charitable spirit and can also help to aid your career choice or your next step in life.

Daily Life

At Global Medical Projects we have a variety of volunteering options available for those interested in medical, nursing, physiotherapy, dentistry, paramedic or radiography projects. You could be assisting on maternity wards, providing dental care or shadowing doctors and nurses.  No two days are the same and you will have the opportunity to experience a variety of hospital departments and clinics but rest assured that you will be fully integrated into the team.

Typically you will work office hours, Monday to Friday, leaving weekends free to travel with the other volunteers but be prepared to work occasional evenings and weekends too.

Working Conditions

Volunteering certainly isn’t a luxury holiday and working conditions during your hospital experience will be vastly different to home. You’ll be working in a variety of communities, most of which are under privileged, and see the challenges these communities face on a daily basis.

Volunteering abroad will give you real hands on experience and you’re likely to see different tropical infections and diseases that you may not have encountered previously. You may see a lack of funding during your placement and experience times when patients can’t afford to pay for treatments.

What’s included on a Trip?

Your trip with Global Medical Projects will include;

  • Accommodation
  • UK support
  • Airport pick-up
  • Local induction and orientation
  • Medical placement and donation
  • Local overseas support
  • Food provided by your host family or organisation


You’ll need to take care of the following;


  • Flights
  • Insurance
  • Spending money
  • Visas
  • Inoculations
  • Food at weekends

Volunteering is a life changing experience and one that we hope will stay with you for a long time. We look forward to welcoming you on one of our placements soon!