My medical work experience in an accident and emergency clinic in Mexico
My name is Emily and I spent 5 weeks volunteering on a medical project in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico. I was working in the Green Cross, an emergency trauma clinic that provides urgent medical care ranging from cuts and scrapes to life threatening illnesses or injuries. The Green Cross clinic was located in a poorer area of the city and was accessible to those without health insurance which meant I got to meet all sorts of different people. I can honestly say my time spent there was probably one of the best experiences of my life.
Whilst working on this project I had the opportunity to learn from and experience so many different situations. I was treated very much like a medical student, the nurses and doctors were so welcoming and so eager for me to learn and practice new skills. On a regular basis I would take blood pressures, insert cannulas to start IV’s, cast broken limbs, inject painkillers and clean, bandage and suture wounds. During my time there I literally saw everything including broken and dislocated bones, open wounds, heart attacks, burns, gunshot wounds, stabbings, epileptic seizures and drug overdoses’. I was amazed at how much I could get involved and how much trust and responsibility was often bestowed upon me. It was definitely a case of learn fast, be confident and embrace any challenges that came your way.
A typical day for me working in Mexico started with the always adventurous bus ride to the Green Cross clinic, definitely the cheapest roller coaster I have ever been on! I would work Monday to Friday starting in the afternoons and leaving in the evening before it got dark. I would spend the day assisting the doctors and nurses treating any patients that came in. Sometimes I asked to stay and do the night shift which was always exciting – lots of alcohol, drugs, assaults and stabbings. I was never short of an opportunity to practice my stitching on a night shift! Some days it would be really quiet and then suddenly get very busy. The great thing is that I would turn up to the start of my shift and have no idea what was going to come through the doors. There was a large team of doctors and nurses in the clinic, another volunteer also joined me half way into my project which was nice. I made so many great friends and although there was a significant language barrier between me and some of the Mexican staff we were still able to enjoy a joke and get on really well. I even managed to befriend some of the paramedics and sweet talk my way onto an ambulance ride along; what an exhilarating experience that was.
Easily the best thing about working at the Green Cross clinic was the opportunity of being able to do and achieve things that I would not be able to do in the UK. There are some moments that I will remember for a long time including a couple of occasions when we had patients that were so ill or injured that they required resuscitating. I did have to perform CPR on two people, unfortunately both attempts failed but I felt honoured to have been able to try and help these people when they needed it the most. These kinds of situations are challenging but they do make you realise how stronger person you can be. It was also amazing to work within a different culture and see how unspoilt and unassuming the people of Mexico are. I will now never take the health care system I have at home for granted.
If anyone is considering doing a medical project in Mexico, I cannot recommend it enough. You will gain invaluable experience, especially if you are considering a career in the medical world. I would suggest you take plenty of scrubs to wear and some good stain remover, mine started off white but got messy very quickly! I would also recommend that you go with some basic Spanish skills, I managed to get by but I do wish I could have communicated better with the staff and especially the patients. Overall this project was exciting, interesting and challenging and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.