Remember how my elective in Kolkata completely bummed out? It was then organised that I do my elective at a public hospital complex in my home town. The hospital I have been at this week is situated in a large township. I won’t lie – I was particularly worried. It is very scary adjusting to a brand new hospital, especially one unaccustomed to undergraduate students. I also chose Paediatrics – a specialty I love, but which is rather intimidating.
This hospital is situated in a much poorer and less politically stable province, and so it has been a massive adjustment. It is built much in the style of army barracks, with each ward opening separately into the open air. The building is also rather dilapidated, although it is allegedly scheduled for a complete rebuild.
Resources are extremely limited. I have learned this week how to convert adult-sized equipment (like urine bags) to kid-size equipment using a 2ml syringe. I have learned to catheterise a child with a neonatal nasogastric tube, because paediatric catheter-sets are not available. There is obviously some bureaucratic stuff underlying as well.
Funnily enough, the most striking difference is that the hospital doesn’t have patient stickers – the kind with all the patient’s details that you stick on notes and specimen tubes. It takes a remarkable length of time to transcribe all those details manually.
But besides the limitations of resources, the most amazing thing has been that the doctors here are so wonderful. I was scared, because they are not used to fourth year students, but I needn’t have been. I felt welcome from the very first moment. Where I come from, students and interns and registrars and consultants form distinct little groups, and only interact with one another during ward rounds or meetings. Here everyone interacts happily, while seeing patients, while having tea, when seeing each others outside the hospital. We have shared so many stories and jokes this week.
So many people claim that a strict hierarchy is essential for running a good ward, but now I’ve seen differently.
At the hospital where I train, interns are basically used as administrative slaves. At this hospital, the various doctors simply do what their hands find to do. The registrar does not consider herself to be above logging a phone call to request a CT scan, for example. And it’s wonderful. Sure, it’s incredibly frustrating dealing with limited resources and children getting sick in a way that they should not be, but somehow this week has been one of my most formative and pleasant hospital experiences yet.