What is it like to be a volunteer on a medical placement?
Erin (19) is a trainee paramedic from Australia who has been working at Pastrana Rural Health Unit near Tacloban for a couple of weeks. She is getting to put into practice skills gained at home plus learn plenty of new ones with the help of the clinic staff.
A busy start
Getting to Erin’s placement is quite an adventure – jeepney, sidecar and a motorbike ride through some amazing countryside.
We arrive at an already packed clinic and Erin jumps straight in helping process patients for their consultations. She takes their vital details and notes down what their complaint is. This helps the nurses with handling the large flow of patients into the clinic.
I was impressed that Erin had learnt key waray-waray words to communicate with the patients who all seemed to warm to her.
She explains that the main health issues the unit deals with are coughs, colds and skin complaints which are mainly due to the climate and hygiene conditions.
Out and about
The day I visit an immunization round is taking place so after a couple of hours at the clinic we hop back on a motorbike and head further out into the countryside.
We arrive at a primary school which also serves as a pre and post-natal check-up center. Erin and a colleague from the medical unit quickly set up and are ready to start immunizing the children. The mothers all bring their appointment books so that Erin knows which vaccinations they are due.
Erin and her colleague take it in turns to administer the vaccinations. Sometimes team work is needed to help keep the baby still to inject safely!
Sometimes mothers miss appointments due to financial issues but there are financial incentives in place to encourage the mothers to turn up.
The unit aims to lower infant mortality rates in their area and delivers vital education to mothers about looking after themselves and their baby before and after the birth. Mothers are encouraged to give birth at hospital and are helped to create an action plan in case of emergency.
After Erin and the unit staff member have given the final injection their hard work is rewarded with a lunch cooked by local villagers.
Give and take
We hop back on the motorbike and start our journey home. Erin reflects that volunteering with the project has given her the chance to help others using what she has been taught already and in return she is becoming more independent and mature by dealing with new situations and experiences away from home. This will make her stand out once she starts applying for positions after completing her course.
If Erin’s story has inspired you to help others and be enriched in turn find out how to get involved.
Photos and story by Liz Avery – VFV Media Intern