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Medforce volunteer describes her elective in Fiji.

"My Fijian journey started about a year before I was due to go on my elective and when I finally got there it certainly did not disappoint!

I feel that my elective consisted of three different sections so I will talk about each in turn and share my experience of the Medforce Fiji elective.

The first part of my elective consisted of two weeks at Savusavu hospital. Staying at the Medforce house just a short taxi ride from the hospital (taxis cost about 1 each way so it doesn't exactly break the bank!), the guest house is nice and really close to everything in Savusavu I shared a room with the other two Manchester medics that I travelled with and with lovely homemade meals every night I had no complaints.

We went to the hospital on weekdays from about 8.30 and depending on what was going on left at various times of day. It certainly is an eye opener though and is very different from medicine here in the UK, on the first day I was expected to run what was essentially the A&E department on my own but I soon realised that the majority of patients came in with coughs and colds and I soon chilled out and began to enjoy this clinic and attended it several times. It was nice to be able to talk to the people and find out things about their culture and their health care. I also got the chance to attend diabetes and hypertension clinic, ward rounds and school health checks. The school health checks were really interesting and the kids were brilliant even though we nearly started a riot when we started taking photos and got the kids into trouble (we did feel a bit guilty!). You soon learn that Fijians love to pose for the odd photo or two! During this part of my elective we had plenty of time to look around Savusavu and the surrounding places and of course top up the tan by the pool!

So after 2 weeks of attending the hospital clinics and ward rounds I was ready to see the dive volunteers arrive and to be heading off to camp.

Camp was completely different with a back to basics approach to living it was great to get away from the hustle and bustle of normal life, with no internet and my mobile phone turned off for weeks it was a breath of fresh air.

The diving started pretty much from day one and it was amazing, I have never dived before but soon enough I was Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver qualified with lots of dives under my belt and plenty of snorkelling. You quickly become familiar with the local wildlife (with a bit of help from the onsite scientists!) and it was great being able to identify the fish I was looking at. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of camp even though I wasn't going to be taking part in the reef surveying.

The medicine side of camp is interesting and mainly involves health promotion on camp and the occasional bandaging of cuts when people fall over or walk into a tree!

Then there is the village; my favourite part of the trip. The people in the village immediately seem to know who the medics are and they quickly queue up asking for health advice and paracetamol as there is very poor access to health care for the villagers without having to travel for hours.

These people welcome you into their homes and their lives. You become part of the family taking part in family meals and consume copious amounts tea and cake and of course not forgetting the post lunch time snooze!

Socialising with the whole village is an experience that cannot be matched by anything you have ever done or will ever do. The villagers ask you questions about home and are interested in your family, your job, your interests and everything about your home life. You become their son/daughter, their brother/sister and they want to know when you will be coming back because their door is always open. My dad even planted a coconut tree for me and at my leaving dinner it was the fact that I wouldn't be seeing these wonderful people or be part of this amazing community for at least a couple of years that made me cry.

After my elective all I want to do is return to Fiji as camp medic and I hope the community outreach programme continues to improve and becomes a bigger aspect of the elective programme.

I cannot wait to go back."


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