Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

Medical Internship – Advice

Advice from Previous Medical Interns

Advice from Successful Interns

The following are excerpts from the Intern Reports of interns who successfully completed the Medical Internship Project. The names of the interns who wrote the info is not listed and in most cases the names of the hospitals and doctors that interns worked with have been removed or replaced with “…”.

Medical Intern #1

Things that went really well / Things you recommend future volunteers to do in your project/school/placement: Best advice: take control of your own experience. If you’re not satisfied work to get there, the people at “…” and “…” want you to enjoy your internship. At “…”, the best aspect of this internship is the direct interaction with the doctors. As an intern, you eat lunch with them (the food might seem scary but it’s always good!) and can shadow any department you want. The operating room was my favorite place because I had little experience with this area and the language barrier is virtually non-existent when you can see what is going on while it is happening. The anesthesiologists, Dr. “…” and Dr. “…”, are great resources as they both speak very good English, have years of experience in the OR and one of them is always in the operating room. I would save most of the questions for the actual surgeons for before or after the procedure, but you can always talk with the anesthesiologists throughout. Dr. “…” (Chief of Surgery) wants to see your knowledge so do some basic research on the typical procedures (appendectomies, hernias etc.) Every doctor I encountered was generally willing to take the time to explain their daily work and if they didn’t feel comfortable speaking English they would pass me off to someone who did. Utilize your time with them and be as sponge-like as possible. Radiology is great for hands-on learning; you can perform ultrasounds on patients. OPD was beneficial as it gave an overview of the relationship between doctor and patient as well as the types of ailments that come into the hospital. Dr “…” (pediatrician) and Dr “…” (neurosurgeon) are both very helpful and friendly, so seek them out if you can. “…” was very different from “…”, the structure and organization was wonderful and they truly treat you as a guest, but the language barrier is more of an issue here. I enjoyed visiting the STI and TB clinics and would recommend that you try and do the STI clinic on Thurs or Fri when they travel to the different brothels to give advice and contraceptives to the women working there (I wasn’t able to do this because of the schedule, but I imagine it would be interesting.) “…” Hospital is very busy and a more “westernized” hospital, so you can see the difference from “…”. From Community Medicine I learned a LOT about the structure of the health care system and I would recommend that interns do this at the beginning if their time at “…”. The biochemistry department has many interesting projects going on, so I would recommend taking a day to go around and hear about the research, but I would not recommend spending extended periods of time here.

Things that didn’t go so well / Things you do not recommend future volunteers to do in your project/school/placement: At “…”, I would be weary of spending too many days in Pediatrics or OPD, most of their time is spent speaking with patients in Thai punctuated with short explanations. One thing you should NEVER DO is act bored or disinterested, even if you are simply listening to a Thai conversation that you don’t understand. Don’t leave a department early or do anything else that could seem disrespectful, they won’t understand that you are simply trying to maximize your time and will take it as a personal insult.

Comments / Other Suggestions: At “…”, the best schedule that I organized for myself was visiting different departments during the morning (pediatrics, physical therapy, pathology etc) and then going to the OR in the afternoons which is when they have the majority of their interesting cases. Don’t hesitate to ask a doctor if you can shadow them even if it’s not on your schedule; they’re flattered when you’re interested in their field. Mostly just ask a LOT of questions and when you run out of medical questions ask the doctors or nurses about themselves, their professional experiences and why they chose the path they did, you can gain a lot of insight this way. On a non-interning note, I developed a great friendship with one of the doctors at “…” and was able to glimpse an insider’s perspective on Chiang Mai and Thai culture because of it. Don’t be too personal with many of the staff, but when you sense a friendship, nurture it and you’ll be rewarded. I would recommend renting a bicycle and soi-riding around Chiang Mai, one of my favorite pastimes and a great way to see the daily goings-on of the smaller neighborhoods. Street food in Chiang Mai is plentiful and a cheap, delicious way to step outside your comfort zone. (What’s 25 baht if you don’t like it? At least a great story.) Also don’t fret the roosters, you’ll acclimate. Have fun and SMILE. :o)

Medical Intern #2

Things that went really well / Things you recommend future volunteers to do in your project/school/placement: Spend as much time with the different pediatricians as possible. They all have a slightly different style of medicine and you can learn a lot from each person. Stay with the doctors at lunch time (whether they eat at the hospital or outside) because they often discuss interesting cases during lunch. There is an extra copy of Nelson’s textbook of Pediatrics in the outpatient clinic. I took it with me to whatever room I was in for the day and read it between seeing patients. There is an interesting acupuncture clinic that is definitely worth spending a morning at. The doctor there was initially an anesthesiologist and does a very interesting job at combining western and Chinese medicine.

Things that didn’t go so well / Things you do not recommend future volunteers to do in your project/school/placement: Everything went well. Be specific with the doctors on your first day about what field you’re interested in and your level of training. When I arrived they had not read thru my file and hadn’t realized that I am already a pediatric resident. They would have had me observing adult patients all throughout the hospital if I hadn’t made it clear that I was only interested in pediatrics.

Comments / Other Suggestions: If you are doing pediatrics make sure you show that you’re interested and the doctors will take you to all the different parts of the hospital with them including deliveries, the newborn nursery, and ward rounds.

Medical Intern #3

Things that went really well / Things you recommend future volunteers to do in your project/school/placement: Spending time in the OR is a must. Everyone there is extremely friendly, and mostly every doctor and about half the nurses can speak English. Any question I asked was always answered, and if it couldn’t be answered by someone in the room, a nurse would often find someone who could answer your question. While on the topic of asking questions, make sure to do so as much as possible since the Doctors love doing this. Plus, depending on how long you are interning for, they may just allow you to help out a procedure in a way that you could never do back home. (Make sure to become close with Dr. “…”, neurosurgeon, Dr. “…”, anesthesiologist, Dr. “…”, anesthesiologist, Dr. “…”, anesthesiologist, Dr. “…”, general surgeon, Dr. “…”, obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. “…”, chief of surgery.) Lunch time in the doctor’s cafeteria is the place to be at 12:00 pm in “…” Hospital. Aside from the great Thai food you will get to eat, you have a great opportunity to meet many of the doctors. While eating lunch be sure to ask the doctor’s what their specialty is, how long have they been at “…”, etc. Eventually, after conversing with them long enough, you can ask them if they’d be willing to let you shadow them. The reply is almost always an enthusiastic “yes.” Also, if you are just looking for some interesting conversation, speak with Dr. “…”, the director of “…” Hospital. Finally, if you are satisfied with the area of the hospital you are working in, and would like to stay there (or if you are dissatisfied, and would like to change), simply speak with the doctor you were assigned to shadow and then get this agreement confirmed with Dr. “…”. They are very flexible at “…” Hospital.

Medical Intern #4

Things that went really well / Things you recommend future volunteers to do in your project/school/placement:

Spend time talking to the doctors and the nurses – and introduce yourself to everyone. The more you get to know them, the more you are included and thus the more you will see, do, and learn. You don’t always have to talk about medicine to the doctors/nurses as most of them welcome questions regarding almost anything. And just a little pointer -at lunch, sit at the table with the doctors as some of the best conversations occur at the lunch table. Apologize for interrupting, then ask what they are talking about. Normally from here on, they will take breaks to speak in English to include you and even ask your opinion on the subject (they often will turn the conversation more towards your ideas). Often there is a lot of broken up down time. I brought a book, but I rarely read it as I preferred to converse with others as they will have the same down time as you. The OPDs (Out Patient Departments) sometimes finish early, so if you have done surgery already you can likely ask to join any ongoing cases; you can also ask to spend time in the Acupuncture clinic.