My placement is at a local clinic in Villa el Salvador, which is a not-so-great area on the outskirts of Peru. It’s basically on a sand dune; seriously the road is not only not paved, but also is sand…not even gravel. It’s a Catholic church funded clinic (which made an awkward situation when I said I wasn’t Catholic and that my belief in god was complicated) and focuses mainly on local residents. They usually see respiratory illnesses due to Lima’s, and especially in Villa el Salvador, bacterial infections, and other general practice issues. They also have a laboratory, which I haven’t exactly figured out what tests they can do except for LDL, cholesterol, and glucose levels in the blood along with some microscopic examinations. No one speaks english so most of the conversations are extremely short.
I’ve been assigned to anyone in the clinic who needs my help. I was especially excited for this because they explained to me explicitly that I can do things that in the US I would never be allowed even near, however the language barrier is a bit of an issue. A lot of things like blood draws, vaccinations, slide preparation, ect. can be easily taught with visuals, but I really like to know why I am doing something. I want to know why a child is receiving a shot (as well as how to do it) and why I’m supposed to do/add something. But, I am getting more and more comfortable with using the little spanish I have and telling the nurses/doctors when I don’t understand something.
The first day I was given a tour of the clinic and introduced to everyone. I got to shadow the doctor in the main clinic area, which was frustrating because she would just talk at me instead of trying to see if I understood what she was saying (which I didn’t) except select words such as infection, bacterial, and intramuscular. I then spent some time in the lab where the lab tech used a nurse as a patient to show me how to do a blood draw, which I felt really bad about because he actually took her blood – she did not look happy. He then had me go through the motions of it with another nurse, but not actually use the needle. In the US I’m used to the system where the needle doesn’t release blood unless a collection tube is hooked up to it whereas here it’s just a regular needle for a syringe and you hold a collection to at the end of it. It’s interesting to see the differences between the US and a basically third world clinic, however that being said it’s a really nice clinic and it’s pretty well stocked. I’m sure some more things will shock me but so far nothing has been terrible.
The second day was basically inventory day. The doctor wasn’t there during my placement and the nurses needed help restocking a lot of supplies. I had to individually wrap gloves for sterilization and make cotton swabs out of a giant cotton role – ugh. Normally I’d be really irritated that I had to do these remedial tasks, but the other nurses were also doing it and I could tell it was freeing them up allowing them to do more things, which was good.
So far I really like my placement and all the lady nurses (only two men I’ve met there) are really nice and willing to help me understand despite the language barrier. They already invited me to a Christmas lunch because we are “family” which was really sweet. I’m hoping I get to actually do a blood draw (though I’m actually pretty nervous about that!) and some more things such as a vaccinations, antibiotic administrations, and maybe some lab work!