I spent a month in the paediatric department at the Karapitiya Hospital in Galle, Sri Lanka. This is the second largest hospital in Sri Lanka located in the South of the country. I was on placement with 3 other medical students from Oxford and stayed in a lovely homestay, a 10 minute bus ride from the hospital. The bus journeys were some of the most interesting experiences of the trip. Buses would be incense infused and overflowing with locals, the bus drivers would use their horns almost continuously and there were numerous near-miss moments with other buses, cars and bikes.
The paediatric ward had around 40 beds so there were always lots of children to see. There was a language barrier so there was limited opportunity to clerk patients but all the parents were very happy for us to examine their children meaning we gained a lot of practical experience. We saw a huge range of presentations from snake bites to severe hepatitis to dengue fever and congenital hypothyroidism. The ward rounds were the main focus of the day, but were incredibly different to the UK – the team alone consisted of a number of doctors, 20 local medical students plus a number of elective students! Various doctors carried out teaching rounds and discussed examinations e.g. the developmental examination. On top of this, the main consultant would quiz students on common paediatric conditions during the ward rounds.
Sri Lanka is a great country to travel around. It is a relatively small island allowing us to travel to lots of the beautiful and historic areas at the weekends. The weather was amazingly hot, (though sometimes slightly overwhelming especially in a lab coat), making it a great change from the UK. The highlights of the trip were visiting the tea plantations and tea factories in the hill country, going on safari, visiting the ancient palace on Sigiriya rock, and surfing at the beaches in Galle.