Volunteer Review: Kyle F., Medicine in China
A typical day of a Medical project in China is full of fun and excitement. We would usually wake up around 7 or so in the morning, just enough time to get cleaned up and eat some breakfast. Breakfast would usually consist of toast and juice that we got from the local market, sometimes we would have pastries that we picked up at a bakery while out shopping. We would report to the hospital each morning at 8 o'clock, just in time to sit in on the morning meeting of doctors and students.
These meetings were usually in Chinese, so it was hard to understand what was going on, but someone would always explain things after it was over. Then we would journey out on rounds with the doctors. We would shadow them as they went around from room to room examining and talking to patients. Usually they would explain things as they went along, and sometimes let us join in. We would get to examine MRI and CT scan results, and on several occasions were able to listen to the hearts of patients.
Many of the patients that we would visit could speak some English, and were more than happy to assist in the education of us as foreigners to the way that the Chinese medical community functioned.
Rounds usually lasted until around lunchtime, at which we were free to go and eat. At lunch we could go and eat in the hospital lunch room, or back to the apartment since it was just across the road. In the afternoon we would return and simply shadow the medical student to which we were assigned. We had the opportunity to ask questions about what we saw earlier that morning, in order to further our understanding. We also had the opportunity to help the Chinese medical students learn more about the American medical community.
We would occasionally get to see examinations and procedures in the afternoon, when they became available. In one case we got to witness a spinal tap on a neurological patient as a part of their evaluation. The afternoons were a more relaxed time than earlier that morning. This is what the typical schedule is like in the hospital; however some schedules varied depending on the department. For instance when we were in surgery, rounds were done before we got there, so after the meetings we went straight into the operating room. Usually we were in the operating room until lunchtime, and then we were free since there were very rarely surgeries in the afternoon. But sometimes we stayed in the operating room until 2 in the afternoon before leaving or left at lunch and came back for the afternoon operations. All of which just depended on the schedule for the day.
After a full day in the hospital, we would usually go back to the apartment to change out of our work clothes and rest for a bit. The rest of the afternoon was usually spent exploring the city. Whether visiting the Jin Mao or Oriental Pearl Towers, or finding our way across the river to explore more of Shanghai, the afternoon was usually spent just taking in the entire city.
For dinner we would usually eat out, at many of the fine restaurants located all around our apartment area. In fact we became regulars at one place down the road, where this nice older lady (who spoke no English, and we spoke really no Chinese), always looked forward to our visits and would take care of us. Sometimes we cooked on our own, taking what we found at the local market, and trying to adapt it into cooking from back home.
Most of the work nights were spent back at the apartment resting and watching movies, but we also spent a great deal of time out and about exploring the city after dark. The Nanjing shopping district is especially a place you would want to visit at night, because it looks totally different than it does during the day. After a long days journey through life in Shangahi, bedtime usually came around 11 or 12 at night, when we had to work the next morning. But on the weekends and when we did not have to work the next day, we would stay up later.
t is also important to note the helpfulness of the local Projects Abroad staff in Shanghai. They were instrumental in our introduction to the city, and were willing to help with anything we needed at any time. We could send them a message asking them for recommendations of where to go, and they were always more than happy to oblige even giving directions. They were also a fun group of people just to get to know and hang out with.
Overall my time in Shanghai was a rich and rewarding experience, which has deeply impacted my life. There is no way that we could have experienced what we did in China, in any American hospital. The Chinese people as a whole were more likely to react better to us observing and participating in their medical treatment, than many of the people here in the United States. China was an amazing place to live, and I whole heartedly recommend the Projects Abroad Medicine in China Program to you. Prepare yourself for an educational and richly rewarding experience.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.