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Volunteer Medicine & Healthcare in Bolivia

Medicine & Healthcare in Bolivia - Vaccination

As a volunteer on our Medicine project in Bolivia you may work in one of two public hospitals or various ‘Centros de Salud’; these are public health clinics that are open to everyone in Cochabamba, regardless of their ability to pay.

At the Centros de Salud you can work in a variety of departments; possible options include paediatrics, gynaecology, admissions and pharmacy work. You can also get involved in community work, including vaccination programmes, which the clinics organise throughout the year. With basic facilities, the health clinics attend to mostly minor emergencies, accidents and routine visits. There is insufficient funding to maintain the facilities in complete working order, or provide the clinics with sufficient staff or materials. Volunteers are therefore needed to help and your work will be greatly appreciated.

As a Medical volunteer, you may also be placed at a public hospital in the city centre that, although receiving little funding, has a well-known Burns Unit and patients often travel far to receive treatment there. More experienced volunteers will have the opportunity to enter the surgery room. The second hospital you may work at is a non-profit hospital where you will learn the regular medical procedures that are carried out by observing the professionals that work there. The staff at both hospitals will be more than willing to answer any questions that you may have.

Projects Abroad organises regular workshops for our Medical volunteers. The workshops provide a greater understanding of Bolivia’s medical system and focus on many of the common medical issues facing the local people. Volunteers also visit local communities to provide health education in a wide variety of topics. The health education work and the workshops are supervised and run by a qualified nurse.

You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our Bolivia Medicine & Healthcare Management Plan.

Requirements for Volunteering in Bolivia

Volunteers on all Medicine & Healthcare projects in Bolivia should be aged 18 or older and will need intermediate Spanish in order to communicate directly with the majority of doctors and patients. Many volunteers who lack confidence in their Spanish language ability take a Spanish Language course or join a Teaching or Care project before joining their Medicine & Healthcare programme. This gives you the opportunity to improve your language skills before starting the medical part of your placement.

While in Bolivia as a Medical volunteer, you will live with a host family. You will spend much of your free time in the lively city of Cochabamba with the Projects Abroad volunteer community.

Volunteer Physiotherapy in Bolivia

Medicine & Healthcare in Bolivia - Hospital Burns Unit

At the Burns Unit there is also a lot of scope for volunteers who are qualified as, or wish to become, physiotherapists. If you already have a certain level of expertise, we can find a suitably specialised role for you.

Working in the Burns unit can be shocking and volunteers need to be well prepared. Situations where patients are badly burned, and treatment is painful and uncomfortable can be very hard to witness, especially when you are new on the placement. However, by helping here you will start to understand the problems faced in Bolivia, and your presence and assistance will make a difference to both the patients and the staff.

Volunteers with some physiotherapy experience are also needed to work at a day care centre for disabled children. The centre helps children through a variety of sessions including physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, psychology and speech therapy and volunteers with skills in these other areas would also be very welcome. Volunteers also get involved in identifying and working with children from local orphanages that also need to receive physiotherapy or other treatments.

Volunteer Nursing in Bolivia

Medicine & Healthcare in Bolivia - New Born

Volunteering on a Nursing project in Bolivia is a rewarding opportunity that allows you to work at one of two public hospitals or various ‘Centros de Salud’; these are public health clinics that are open to everyone in the city of Cochabamba.

At the Centros de Salud you can work in a variety of departments, such as paediatrics, gynaecology, admissions or pharmacy work. With basic facilities, the health clinics attend to mostly minor emergencies, accidents and routine visits. There is insufficient funding to maintain the facilities in complete working order, or provide the clinics with sufficient staff or materials.

As a Nursing volunteer, you may also be placed at a public hospital in the city centre that, although receiving little funding, has a well-known Burns Unit and patients often travel far to receive treatment there. The second hospital you may work at was founded in 1978 and at this non-profit hospital, you will learn the regular medical procedures that are carried out by observing the professionals that work there.

Volunteers participating in the Nursing project can also get involved in community-outreach programmes, including vaccination programmes and dental health campaign, which the clinic organises throughout the year.

Your Role in Bolivia

As a volunteer nurse, you can help with basic duties such as making beds and taking basic observations including weight, height, temperature and blood pressure. You may also be able to dress wounds and carry out basic medical tasks. This placement is ideal for people who are already qualified or currently studying nursing.

You could volunteer as a nurse with Projects Abroad in Bolivia if you are a trained nurse, a nursing student, or simply on a gap year or career-break or holiday period and interested in gaining some experience in the field.

Requirements for Volunteering in Bolivia

Volunteers on all nursing projects in Bolivia should be aged 18 or older and will need intermediate Spanish in order to communicate directly with the majority of doctors and patients. Volunteers who lack confidence in their Spanish language ability take a Spanish Language course or join a Teaching or Care project before joining their Medicine & Healthcare programme.

All volunteers live with host families, which is an enriching experience as you gain an insight into the real day-to-day life of Cochabamba. You will spend your free time with your host family and other Projects Abroad volunteers.

Volunteer Dentistry in Bolivia

Medicine & Healthcare in Bolivia - Child at dentist

Whether you are planning to study dentistry, a trained professional looking to gain some work experience, or somewhere in-between, Projects Abroad Dentistry placements in Bolivia offer a great opportunity to both help and learn at a project that is literally one of a kind.

The municipal government in Cochabamba have initiated a unique project to improve dental care for young children across the region. The “Escuelas Saludables” (Healthy Schools) project offers free dental care and education to children aged 5 to 16, and is the only project of this kind in Bolivia, offering rehabilitation, prevention and educational activities.

Each Escuela is situated within walking distance of four or five schools and has a catchment area of some 140,000 students. The Escuelas are open all day, from 8:00am-12:00 and 2:00-6:00pm. Volunteers must work either morning or afternoon hours, but depending on your energy, you could also choose to work a full day.

Projects Abroad Dentistry volunteers on this project will be assigned to a specific Escuela, working alongside a qualified dentist as a dental assistant. You will have the opportunity to observe and help out with a huge variety of dental procedures, from fillings to root canals and tooth extractions, and even the opportunity to observe complex orthodontic surgeries.

Outside of the surgery, Dentistry project volunteers are encouraged to get involved with all aspects of this regional programme; dental campaigns to educate children about how to care for their teeth, donation programmes providing dental equipment to schools, orthodontic campaigns and even monthly meetings to share ideas on how to improve and develop the service.

Volunteers on this project will have all their learning organised and supported by our own dental supervisor, who runs regular workshops and training sessions in dental techniques to help develop or introduce new skills.

Volunteer Occupational Therapy in Bolivia

As a training or qualified Occupational Therapy volunteer in Bolivia, you'll be placed in one of a number of institutions for people who are mentally and physically disabled. While residents largely have access to the necessary physiotherapy care, staff are limited in number and don't have enough time to spend one-to-one with these individuals. Physical facilities in these care institutions are also often ill-suited to those with disabilities and are in dire need of a skilled redesign. By coming into the home and using your skills to assess and treat the wide variety of physical and psychiatric conditions you come across, you can help these people to find purposeful activities they can participate in, and help to promote independence in aspects of their life for what may be the first time since they moved there.

Depending on your interest, you could also choose to spend some time at a centre for older patients with diseases such as dementia. Here your skills could be put into action training patients in the use of aids to compensate for cognitive decline, or training their care givers in coping-behaviours and supervision. The one-to-one attention you are able to give them, combined with your experience, could make a vital difference to their condition.

Intermediate Spanish is recommended for this placement to allow volunteers to communicate with both staff and their patients.

Elective Placements in Bolivia

You can do an Elective in Bolivia in Medicine, Physiotherapy or Nursing.

If you choose to do your elective in Bolivia, you will most likely be working in a hospital or health centre in Cochabamba. You will be given a supervisor who will coordinate your placement and act as interpreter in departments where the standard of English is not so high. They will be keen to test out your medical knowledge, as well as giving you the benefit of their training and experience.

Outside of the hospital you will live with a local host family in close proximity to your place of work. Cochabamba is a lively and entertaining city and there are always a number of other Projects Abroad volunteers around for you to explore it with.

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