Volunteer in an Ecuadorian hospital, gaining invaluable medical experience
This volunteering opportunity is based in a large, busy, modern hospital in central Quito. Although it addresses the needs of poor communities there is nothing ‘third world’ about the hospital.
In addition to treating patients it is used as a teaching centre. Medical treatment is provided free of charge but medication has to be paid for by the patients. There are numerous departments, including cardiology, neurology, paediatrics, emergencies, obstetrics, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and family planning. Volunteers would normally spend two or three weeks in five or six different departments unless you have a particular area of interest.
This is a volunteer project for nursing and medical students wishing to gain experience of working in a hospital. International volunteers provide extra capacity for general nursing duties and are welcomed for the added dimension they bring to the work environment.
Volunteers with professional medical and healthcare qualifications may be able to provide more direct services.
Volunteers staying for three or more months would have the option of moving to another hospital on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, where they would gain further experience of a more rural hospital, dealing with ailments associated with the area.
The Ecuadorian doctors and nurses are well trained but often very busy. Volunteers can offer support by helping with some of the routine duties such as changing of beds, but also keeping records of patients, weighing, measuring, taking blood pressure and temperatures and assisting with general check-ups.
The emphasis of volunteer support is on patient care rather than medical procedures but most volunteers are pleasantly surprised at the level of responsibilities they are engaged in. Your exact role would depend upon your experience and relationship with the senior doctors and medical staff, and your ability to demonstrate that you are reliable and focused.
Depending on your abilities and interests you may also be asked to carry out ‘nursing’ duties, such as removing stitches. The staff will train volunteers with no experience and show you more technical skills, such as how to give injections, insert drips, methods of sterilisation and a range of important skills associated with being a medic.
The hospital necessarily functions without volunteers but like most hospitals serving poorer communities around the world, it has lower staff ratios. The nursing support provided by international volunteers is a genuine benefit to both the staff and patients of the hospital.
Volunteers with specialist professional qualifications may provide additional capacity and expertise in under-resourced areas.
What I’m beginning to accept and even enjoy, which is a huge step for a neurotic like me, is to go with the flow and not worry. Mañana., Career break, Ecuador