Jessica Hilder - Medicine & Healthcare in Peru
Last spring I made the decision to spend August in Peru doing a Medical project with Projects Abroad, and it has been one of the most difficult and wonderful experiences of my life. Being close to graduation from university, I was looking for an internship that would combine my love for traveling and experiencing new cultures with the experience I needed in order to decide if I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare.
I found the website for Projects Abroad and the project seemed to offer everything I wanted and was very well recommended. I chose the placement in Peru so that I could improve my Spanish language skills.
My journey to Peru
As the time approached for my departure I grew more nervous and less sure of my decision. I remember waiting in the Los Angeles Airport between Canada and Peru and thinking that I should abandon my plans and take the next flight back. True, I would only be away for a month, but I didn’t know what exactly to expect or what kind of person I would be upon my return. The one thing that I was sure of was that the experience ahead of me would be life-altering.
When I arrived in Cusco, my transition to my host family and work placement was actually fairly smooth. My Peruvian family was incredibly kind and helpful in showing me around the neighborhood and including me in recreational events.
My Medical placement
The clinic I worked in was in another district of Cusco, so I became really good at taking the bus, which is important for getting around in the city and much cheaper than using taxis all the time!
The hardest part of my Medical placement was trying to communicate in rusty Spanish, in which almost nobody spoke English. It had been a year since I had last taken a class so I would really recommend that new volunteers get at least a background in Spanish, especially those wanting to work in a hospital or clinic.
At the clinic I was able to volunteer in several different departments depending where I was needed or what I wanted to try out. This was great for getting experience in all kinds of medical fields. I assisted nurses a lot with care of minor injuries and giving stitches. I also worked a couple of days in the lab, testing for blood types, hemoglobin levels and parasites. I was actually able to use some of the skills I learned in the lab in my next semester of university.
The best clinical experience I had in Peru was witnessing the birth of a baby girl. Although the staff didn’t have access to the best equipment and the clinic was crowded, they were all dedicated to looking after the mother and child. It was the first birth I had seen and it was totally surreal (but I didn’t faint). Plus, I was really impressed with the mother who did not scream once during the delivery!
I loved being able to support patients and share in such an important moment in a person’s life. I immediately decided that I definitely wanted to become a doctor in the future.
My experiences in Peru
My time in Peru was rewarding in so many ways and I made a lot of new friends. When I first arrived it seemed like the month in Peru would pass really slowly but it went by before I knew it. It was not without its minor crises but the experiences helped me to grow as a person and to hopefully be a better doctor someday.
My Medical placement gave me a good understanding of what to expect in a future career and I also had time to travel around the city of Cusco and visit places like Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.
I would recommend a trip like this for anyone who is considering what kind of job to choose or who simply wants to change their life with an amazing experience and new stories to tell.