Undertaking an internship abroad whether in the healthcare field or any field is a truly a big step towards becoming a better person. Interning abroad comes with its value in terms of exposure to a new environment as well as the new culture of practice. Given the new environment and possibly a new country one may experience a few challenges, while being prepared to face them is key it is the resilience that is notable. Below are a few of the challenges that one should be prepared to see and how to overcome them.
- Cost and Budget
One of the main question for students seeking to travel abroad for the elective is the cost. This is a collection of cost items in accommodation, meals, air ticket and transport among others. The cost has to match with the value of what is being offered, not only the experience at the hospital but all items broken down summing up the experience. To overcome this challenge, we recommend that students start early in advance planning for the electives and internships, as well as list the costs that they will incur while on ground to avoid instances of unplanned for costs.
- Orientation and Settling down in the Program
Just like being in a new atmosphere whether in school or on holiday off your hometown, being abroad requires one to understand the locality as a prerequisite to settling down in the program. Settling down in a new system is not very easy and may present a huge challenge to students traveling abroad. It is highly advised that you spend time getting to know the places that will affect your stay the most, the facilities you will interact with the most and the people you will be with mostly. This ensures that you know where to go in case you need to shop, where you can go should you need to draw cash or exchange your currency and who you can always speak to if things are not going well. Mastery of this three is key to settling down and the quicker you are able to settle the more you are likely to get out of your program.
- Hospital rotations and a settling down in the departments
In the event that you are working in a hospital or interning in a community health facility, the biggest challenge would be settling in the hospital you are interning. Just like in understanding the local area, understanding the placement site involves knowing your clinical site in a thorough way and what the departments are all about. It also involves knowing the staff that you will be working with at the hospital. To overcome this challenge, you may need to spend more time in the hospital to get a proper set-off information from a basis of interaction with the people that you will be working with. Get to learn the do’s and don’ts of the facility and this way you will not only play by the rules but be set to take off with your experience. You should also be psychologically prepared for orientation in the first 3 days of the programs.
- Usage of Free time – Afternoon and weekends
Most of the programs and especially healthcare internships abroad have schedules running for only a part of the day and this leaves you with some free time. The afternoons and weekend are great moments to get more beyond the main aim of travel. They present time which can be used for adventure, cultural immersions, and volunteer. To rise above a lot of free time but with no activity, it is recommended that you always reach out to your organizers and people that you are interning with on how you can enrich your trip. This could be done prior to or during your placement.
- Being asked for more than you can provide
I recall a case when 3 interns in our programs in a coffee outlet were approached by a citing mother with a sick daughter and who was pleading with them to help because they were on Scrubs. The students were pre-medicals not within the hospital and of course without a way to clinically support the kid. What would you do in such a case? What is the right thing to do in such a case? The students explained and directed the mother to the hospital but this is but a pointer of the many time in and off the hospital when you may be called upon to do what you may not have competence in. Much as this is what you are asked to do, it’s good to overcome this challenge by taking refuge in the medical ethics and especially on the principle of doing no harm. You should only help when you have the ability to do so and when the action is more beneficial than the inaction.
The challenges of traveling abroad similar to undertaking any project abroad are numerous but so are the solutions. Best of all is for one to be well prepared in advance and to plan prior to the elements of their travel. This way you are prepared to face the challenges head-on.