Shadowing a Doctor

June 19, 2014

Hospital Work Experience In A Developing Country Can Benefit Your Medical School Application

A student helping medical staff bandage up a patient's leg, Tanzania. If you’ve never been to a hospital outside of the UK, a placement at Iringa Regional Hospital in Tanzania can be a truly eye-opening experience.  

This 365-bed hospital is like nothing you will have seen back home or anywhere else in the developed world. Doctors at Iringa Regional do not have sophisticated technology and high tech equipment at their disposal for treating patients. In fact, even basic medical instruments are often not available to them and medical supplies are very often in short supply. Surgeries are frequently performed with minimum infrastructure and minimum staff. For someone who has never witnessed medical practices in a developing country, it is a marvel to see how overworked doctors still give their patients the best possible care, despite working gruelling schedules with limited equipment and facilities.

So what do you stand to gain from this experience and why would Gap Medics organise a placement to hospitals such as Iringa Regional?

For pre-med students, this is an experience that can enrich you both personally as well as professionally. It gives you a look at how sparsely equipped hospitals manage to dispense care in the absence of sophisticated technology. This is medicine laid bare and you will take away a lot from this experience.  

Take for example, something as routine as pregnancy and childbirth. In most developing countries, women still believe in giving birth at home. The only time a pregnant woman will come to a hospital is if there are any complications with her pregnancy. What this means is, during your placement in Iringa Regional, you will get first-hand experience in dealing with complicated pregnancies and childbirths. For anyone who is thinking about pursuing a career in pediatric, neonatal care or midwifery, the time spent at the hospital will give you a rich experience that you would never get anywhere else.

Moreover, because the hospital is always short-staffed, the doctors there appreciate all the help they can get. This means that they are more than happy for you to accompany them on their ward rounds, conversing with patients and taking their medical histories. This is an experience that is quite difficult to get at any hospital in the UK. It will give you a realistic picture of what being a doctor is really like and help you decide whether you are cut out for this career.

Doing a medical placement in a developing country will undoubtedly give your medical school application a huge boost. The fact that you have spent time in a hospital like Iringa Regional, will demonstrate your passion and commitment to healthcare to any medical school. When faced with two equally qualified candidates, admissions authorities will almost always give preference to the applicant who has spent time in a hospital in a developing country.

With the promise of tremendous benefits on both a personal and professional level, a medical placement in hospitals such as Iringa Regional is highly recommended for all students who are considering a career in medicine.