What if a problem arises while on placement abroad?

What if a problem arises while on placement abroad?

It can be quite a nightmare if that placement abroad that you have always dreamed of turns out to be what you never expected. You may ask yourself, how? Doesn’t seem like it can happen, right? Well, in my years with Elective Africa, helping students and volunteers organise for placements abroad, I have encountered such cases where participants or rather students get frustrated by the experience of what they get.

We cannot fully avoid problems in life or even in our healthcare placements abroad; one or two things may go wrong but this doesn’t mean that the underlying issues cannot be solved or managed. Let me take this case scenario; as a medical elective student you start your placement in a hospital in a country like Kenya for example and from the word go, you realize that once you come to the hospital for your rotations you do not get any mentorship or supervision from your mentors at the hospital and if you get any, it is very minimal such that you are not gaining any knowledge at all, or you even realize that you being in your senior clinical years, you do not get the opportunity for supervised hands on experience at all. So what do you; instead of communicating this to your supervisors at the hospital or informing your placement organisers, you decide to get angry and go silent on the issue, only to wait for the last minute when your program is ending to give a negative feedback of the whole program, stating how bad the experience was, how you regret to have undertaken the program and so forth.

In this article,I want to challenge you; how about if in such a case you would have taken charge of your placement and be at the center of it all.

  • Do not wait until the last minute to inform your placement organizer of the problem

At times the local healthcare professionals might be very busy with their work and at times forget that they have to mentors or rather involve you. How about the first or second day after noticing such an incidence, you talk to your supervisors and mentors or to your placement organisers and clearly state the problem as it is and remind them of your objectives to undertaking the placement. This way you have solved a problem at its very early stages, saved yourself from getting a bad placement abroad experience.

  • Don’t be afraid to approach your mentors or supervisors

Again some participants may be afraid to approach their mentor or supervisor incase

of a hiccup. Always remember that you have the right to have a good experience and

it all depends on how proactive you are in each and every situation.

  • Cooperate with your placement provider and supervisors to come up with a


Once you have approached your mentors, supervisors or placement advisors, be

open minded to solve the problem and stay positive. Giving a lot of stress may cause

some negativity and cause frictions. So work hand in hand with them to provide a

solution. It doesn’t mean just because a hiccup occurred, a solution cannot be found, but remember it all requires an open mind and the willingness to cooperate so as to find a solution.

As someone once said, “ stop waiting for things to happen, go out and make them happen” so make sure that you are proactive and work towards getting the kind of placement abroad experience that you would like to have.

by Elective Africa

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