5 Tips for Residents on International Orthopaedic Outreach Trips

Recently, I traveled to Cali, Colombia with a group of 22 medical professionals to serve children in need of pediatric orthopaedic care.

As one of two orthopaedic surgery residents on the trip, I want to share 5 tips to help you plan and get the most out of your own orthopaedic global outreach trip.
  1. Get the greenlight 
Gain the support of your department and those around you. Identify areas of need or funding by asking the coordinators of the trip what supplies may still be required. Discuss those requests with your program director to find out if there are ways your program can contribute. 
  1. Work out the logistics
Coordinate any necessary coverage on your service well before the trip. Check your passport to make sure it isn’t expired and won’t expire before or during your trip. Ensure that you have appropriate visas and/or documentation for entering the country. Visit your local international travel health clinic to get appropriate vaccinations or medications you may need before traveling to a certain region of the globe. 
  1. Be respectful and do no harm
Respect your patients, their families, and their community. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do for a patient at home. Offer your abilities in a safe and appropriate fashion. Before you book a patient for surgery, ensure that your patient will have access to appropriate follow-up care. The intent is to have a wonderful and mutually beneficial trip, but be mindful not to leave a wake of complications in your trail. Remember that this trip is not about you, but about the patients and providing them the best care possible. 
  1. Plan, Plan, and Plan
Preop planning is even more important in austere environments. Remember, you may not have the luxury of a full arsenal of equipment, implants, and/or supportive technology that you are used to at home. Before embarking on any case, ensure that the appropriate perioperative accommodations (e.g. blood transfusion, ICU care, neuromonitoring) are available (particularly if things go not as planned).
  1. Enjoy your time and share the experiences at home
During your trip, take the time to connect with your team members in a social setting. These friendships can be a source of great joy and continued learning through the years. Make an effort to get out in the local community to enjoy local dining and culture. This will help you understand your patients better and will make your trip that much more rewarding. Upon arrival home, share your experience with your department in a formal presentation, if possible. Provide a review of the cases, summarize your impact, and describe the experience of operating in a different country. Explain what you want other surgeons and support staff to know about your global outreach efforts. 

With these tips in mind, I hope that you are inspired to join a global outreach trip at some point in your career. This is an invaluable experience as a resident, and I encourage anyone interested to take advantage of the opportunity during your training.  

If I can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at allenkadado@gmail.com.
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