Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Placement!


I have two more experiences to add to my previous two in my last entry about school. However, I will go back and add them to that entry later on. I will write them in a different colour so that they stand out. For now I want to talk about my new placement.

All of the other Canadians that were placed in schools were asked to continue teaching English throughout the summer, at least a few days a week. For reasons unknown to me, my school did not want English lessons. I was working on a few other ideas I had for placements when my supervisor Juan told me that a clinic in a nearby town called Otón really needed volunteers. I was terrified at first. My Spanish, especially my Spanish medical terminology, is far less than perfect. I also have virtually no medical knowledge (I don't think things I picked up from Grey's Anatomy count). My host dad had the ladies at the dress shop/tailor shop sew a pocket on a white lab coat for me to wear while at the clinic. (Don't tell him, but I actually only wore it once . . . the doctor and dentist wear white lab coats, and I don't want to be mistaken for either of them. I get asked enough questions I can't answer without a uniform drawing more attention to me. Plus I feel silly in it, and the nurse wears regular clothes.)

I don't really do a whole lot at the clinic, though the doctor assures me she will teach me anything I want to learn, which is an interesting prospect. I often make sure patient files are in order, write up a file for patient information without one, or find the files the doctor needs. Once Allyson (another Canadian who is at the clinic with me sometimes) and I entered patient information into the computer. A few times I have weighed and measured patients, usually children.

The clinic is run but the Ministry of Public Health here in Ecuador. It is a bit different from clinics in Canada in a few ways. Almost everything is free, including medicine. There are also some kind of dietary supplement in the form of a cereal or something to be mixed with a drink for pregnant mothers and young children that is free of charge. The only thing I have seen patients being charged for is a certificate of health that kids need to go to school, and it is $0.50. There are no appointments, it is run on a roughly first come, first served basis. On a day when the doctor has a full day at the clinic, she takes 20 patients, though perhaps she adds more if she has more time at the end, and she often squeezes simple requests between patients.

My favourite thing about working in the clinic is that often the doctor will let me sit and listen in on appointments with patients. I don't understand the whole conversation, but I can usually pick up enough to figure out generally what is wrong, and what the doctor is recommending be done about it. It is sad to watch sometimes because some if the kids are obviously undernourished, and many have parasites, which are both problems one would hope would be easy to avoid, although clearly here they are not.

I am learning a lot about myself through working at this clinic, though two things stand out. Firstly, I am happy to report that I am not grossed out by the medical stuff, but instead actually intrigued by it. Now, if a kid throws up, I might change my tune, but the blood and gore doesn't bother me. Secondly, I can do tedious and repetitive tasks for quite some time without getting too bored. Both of these things are good to know.

But they are closing up this internet place and I have to run.


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