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Name: Banu Thuraisingam

Elective Location: Universal Hospital Bodrum, Turkey

Dates of Elective: 26/07/2010 – 24/09/2010

Bodrum is located in the south-western Aegean region of Turkey. It is located on the coast of the
Bodrum Peninsula where it checks the Gulf of Gokova. Turkey has a population of around 70.5 million and has
a growth rate of 1.04% per year. It has a young population with 25.5% of the population in the 0-15 age
category. There are a wide range of ethnic groups, Turks being the major ethnic group followed by Kurds and
then Zazas and Circassians. Turkey is a secular country but the most dominant religion is Islam and the spoken
language is Turkish. The main cause of mortality in Turkey is ischemic heart disease followed by
cerebrovascular disease and then perinatal conditions.

Being half Turkish myself but never having lived there, I was excited to go and explore my country and
view how the Turkish healthcare system worked. My main objective was not only to understand the healthcare
system there but to experience how teams of healthcare professionals worked there and the kind of rapport they
had with each other. The main reason for this is because I plan to work in Turkey when I graduate. Therefore,
when we were given the opportunity to go abroad, Turkey seemed to be the most logical place to go and
experience life as ‘Doctor’ in a country I plan to live in. I also knew that the Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Consultant in the Universal Hospital is known to be one of the best in the country. This is the field that I am
aiming towards and another objective for me was to see if this area of medicine is really suited for me.

My first day on attachment, I walked in and did not have even the slightest idea of what they had in store
for me and it was daunting. I was placed in Accident and Emergency which a very warm-hearted team of
professionals who immediately made me feel right at home. The main activities during the day were to observe
all the patients that came into Accident and Emergency. As soon as a patient would arrive, I was expected to take
their blood pressure and temperature. The majority of the patients were tourists and out of those the majority
were British or German. When such cases came in I was called upon as the translator as I can speak Turkish,
English and German fluently. In this sense, I felt like I was part of the team and for the first time felt like I had a
real use in a team of professionals. It felt really rewarding as it would put the foreigners at ease knowing that
they could speak to someone who could relay their information on and it made the doctors’ job easier as they
would not have to call in for a translator. After the initial assessment of the patients in Accident and Emergency,
if they were to go on to other places such as surgery or imaging, I was allowed to follow them if I thought it
would be beneficial to me. They also allowed me to ride in the ambulance which was a different experience in
itself and I even had to do cardio pulmonary resuscitation on a man who had a myocardial infarction and
drowned in the sea. If before I wanted to be a doctor, after this experience I need to become a doctor, such hands
on experience just made me realize how much I want this career. I went into various surgeries but mainly
Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Orthopaedic surgeries. The Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon even taught me to
stitch which was an experience in itself. I was also allowed to do night shifts in Accident and Emergency. I did a
total of seven night shifts but it was not as beneficial as there were not as many patients in comparison to the day
time shifts.

The most important thing I learnt on my attachment was that I want to work in Turkey. The main reason
for this is that I really enjoyed working with the whole team in the hospital. I built very good friendships from
the secretaries, security guards, nurses all the way up to the consultants. The hospital offered free meals and all
of us used to sit on the same table and there was no hierarchy or divide between different professionals or
workers. It was so refreshing to see and it is one of the best environments I have ever been in. They did not even
treat me as a student but as one of their colleagues and I think this is the reason that I learnt even more then my
whole third year clinical attachments.

As mentioned previously the teaching was of a very high quality as it was very hands on. The doctors
did expect me to know everything but when I did not they would sit down with an x-ray or ECG and talk me
through it. It was done in a manner that was not patronising and they were not intimidating which for me is the
best way to learn. The doctors and other healthcare professionals seemed to have time to sit down and teach even
if they were not told to. They also allowed me to actually do a lot rather than just observe. For example, they
showed and taught me how to do venesection and cannulation in their way and I was allowed to do it on every
patient I saw that needed it. I was also allowed to use their phone system and speak to consultants, order tests,
check test results and check patient details for them. All of this made me feel like part of the team.

The hospital was located just a five minute walk away from the seaside. There were plenty of
opportunities for non academic activities. After placement during the day, a group of us from the hospital went
to the beach and the sea was perfect that that time. Bodrum is also a city of history, and it also has one of the
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Tomb of Mausolus. Our weekends were spent exploring sites like
these. Bodrum also faces the Greek island of Kos and day trips are reasonably priced and we went to there for a
weekend. We also took a scuba diving and wind surfing courses on the weekends. One of the Consultants even
took us all out on his yacht and we went round all the famous bays in Bodrum. There was plenty more to do but I
did not have enough time to get a chance to do everything.

The attachment went smoothly without any problems. The only downfall was the fact that my house was
located an hour away from the hospital and I usually took the public transport called ‘dolmus’ which took an
hour and a half. I think that if I were to do it again I would chose to stay in the free accommodation they offered
me in the beginning which is right behind the hospital itself. In that sense I could have been better prepared and
thought about it realistically and practically. I think I could have also organized my time better so that I could get
more time to do non academic things. It would have been a good idea to draw up an itinerary and plan each day.

In terms of cultural diversity, I did not experience anything I did not already know. Since my mother is
Turkish and while I have never lived there, all my holidays are spent in Turkey. It was more of a culture shock
when I start university in England. I think the main difference in Turkish and British culture is the religion and
the fact that males are a lot more dominant in Turkey. However, since I am accustomed to this lifestyle it did not
surprise me.

Overall, I think this experience was invaluable to me. Not only did it further motivate me to become a
good doctor it also taught me how to work in a team of professionals. I was also able to experience what
working life would be like in a country that I am planning my future in. I learnt a lot about medicine, my future
career path and even myself.