June 26, 2013
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
The harsh truth is hospitals and healthcare facilities in developing countries are far removed from what you see in your home country. These facilities are often under-funded, under-staffed and deal with far more patients than they are equipped to handle. These hospitals sometimes run with bare minimum resources in terms of equipment, as well as doctors and nurses. Some facilities do not even have things that you would consider basic, never mind state of the art labs or modern equipment.
The kinds of patients that you will treat are also differentiate from what you would be exposed to in a developed country. Health insurance is unheard of in most of these countries so patients have to pay for their medical treatment out of their own pocket. More often than not they cannot afford it and simply rely on home treatment in the hope that it will cure them. They only come to the hospital when they cannot do any more and their disease or injury has reached an advanced stage.
When you do a stint in a developing country, it gives you a completely different perspective of healthcare. The combination of poverty, illiteracy and lack of proper facilities and equipment present an environment that is challenging to work in. Yet, much needed health care continues to be dispensed at these facilities with doctors and other healthcare professionals doing their best with the available resources. An experience like this prepares you to face anything you may come up with later in your medical career and also prepares you to work in any country in the world. It teaches you what to do when you are faced with a medical emergency and you do not have access to sophisticated medical equipment. The challenges you have to face will also help you to determine whether this is definitely the type of career you are cut out for, and really prove your passion for it.
Moreover, in healthcare facilities in these countries, you will encounter patients with rare diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and leprosy that you would rarely ever have to deal with in hospitals at home. While you may never have even heard of it, developing countries are seriously battling these diseases in addition to other communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. While observing doctors who work with these patients, it gives you the opportunity to get a better understanding of how to diagnose, manage and treat these diseases.