Klara E. Fransson1, Ingrid E. J. Lundahl1, Heidi K. Pasma1, Mohamed R. M. Rishard2 & Maduka de Lanerolle-Dias2

1Faculty of Medicine, Lund University, Sweden; 2Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Abstract

Annually, a number of final year medical students from Lund University in Sweden travel to various healthcare facilities globally. We chose to go to the island of Sri Lanka, spending our elective at the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Colombo. The dissimilarity between healthcare in Sweden and in Sri Lanka was evident throughout our stay. The design of healthcare facilities in Sri Lanka focused less on patient privacy and more on efficiency. The workload for doctors in Colombo was heavier than their Swedish counterparts. In general, outcome for Swedish patients is favourable when compared to Sri Lankan. We believe the difference in outcome is due to the unequal financial situations of the countries. Teaching approach in Sri Lanka diverted from Swedish practice by being more authoritarian but also exceedingly efficient. The large number of patients in wards and outpatient clinics allowed for us to experience a wide range of patient cases, offering important insights in medicine. It has been questioned whether the tradition of international electives is ethically justifiable. We therefore believe it important to stress that throughout our stay we were participating as observing students, not practicing doctors. We regard our elective a valuable experience, providing us with knowledge we will use in our future profession. Time spent observing Sri Lankan healthcare will also serve as a reminder to remain humble towards different cultures. We are now aware of the privileges we have, practicing medicine in a socioeconomically strong country.

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