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Medical Program in Santa Elena (Ecuador)

(Note: Please excuse us for any grammar or spelling mistake since some parts are prepared by our regional managers who may not have English as their native language.)

The hospitals that we work with here are either in the center of Santa Elena or a hospital outside the town. Both of them are normal size for being smaller places/towns in Ecuador with about 10 to 15 doctors working in each hospital. They have the most important departments in both hospitals such as emergency, pediatrics, internal medicine, x-ray, laboratory, operation rooms, obstetrics etc.

The government is doing more and more to build up the public health system in Ecuador and though they have improved a lot with equipment and more specialists. During the last couple of years the hospitals seem to lack of many things still. Patients have to buy their own medicines for example including bandages, needles, IV’s etc.


Interns / Med-students

Interns will work side by side with the doctors and the nurses in the clinic/hospital. Normally it takes a couple of days or a week to get to know the staff, the work and to get familiar with everything and of course the doctors and nurses want to get to know the participant before they start to give them more tasks that they can do by themselves. In this way it`s hard for a quiet and shy intern to get to do things sometimes.
Interns also need to be awake and show their interest, ask questions, ask what they can do to help, ask how to do things, ask what’s wrong with a patient etc. If they don’t have too many patients in the emergency where they might be at the moment but they see a long line of patients in another department, show interest and ask if they can help there instead of just standing against the wall.

Depending on what patients there are etc they might help with taking vital signs, remove stitches, get records for incoming patients, do minor suturing, fill in new records for patients, give shots, give vaccinations, give an IV, assist in operations etc. In some locations the hospital have programs to visit different communities in the area to help people with a check-ups, first aids and to talk about hygiene etc and interns might join the doctors and nurses on this.

Hospitals and clinics in Ecuador still lack a lot of equipment and therefore they also work different in the way that there are not always machines to just plug in to get blood pressure, oxygen level etc so this has to be done manually but it can vary a lot form hospital to hospital as well as between different departments as the health care system is under a lot of changes with the current President.

Medical Volunteers

Educated and experienced doctors and nurses are also welcome to take part of this program. We will of course see where they could help most after their experience but it works the same way for them as for the interns / med-students.

It’s also important that they realize that things work different in Ecuador. Doctors are used to working with what they have in some cases without any technology since like mentioned before some hospitals are lacking equipment but this fact does not mean that the doctors are doing things in the wrong way.


Application with clear passport scan in colour


Interest in working with people and to learn new things.

Adaptable and open-minded to work and live in a different culture.

Open-mindedness that hospitals work in a different way than back home.

At least beginner Spanish is recommended

At least 4 weeks is recommended.

Some experience or education within the medical field is recommended


Monday to Friday, from about 08:00 to 17:00 with lunch normally from 13:00 to 14:00.


To be allowed to start working the interns need to have a white lab coat and a green or blue scrub and if they can’t bring this they have a chance to buy this in Quito for $25-$30 Monday to Friday.

If they want to work with gloves they need to bring this as well or buy it in Ecuador as hospitals normally only have them for operations and similar. Gloves can be bought in most pharmacies throughout the country in any decent big village.

If interns want to have a stethoscope by themselves they might want to bring this as well as they might feel that this is personal.


Interns will stay with a family, normally within 10 to 40 minutes away from the hospital or clinic. They have 3 meals with the family. However, sometimes interns have a hard time to get home for lunch due to for example that no buses run in the middle of the day or they just don’t have time, so the family can either help them with a simple lunch box or they can eat out close to the hospital at their own expense.


Interns have to arrive to Quito for at least the first day when we have the orientation. If they want Spanish classes they will of course stay for a while before heading to the location of their work.

When it’s time to leave Quito they will take a cab for about $8 to the small bus terminal where they take the bus to Puerto Lopez for about $13. On arrival to Puerto Lopez after about 10 hours a family member will wait in the bus terminal to take the intern in another bus for about 2 hours or $3 to Santa Elena and finally a taxi ride their home for about $1.

The host mother or father will then accompany the intern to the hospital to get introduced the first working day so they also know how to get there.


This placement is recommended to medical students and healthcare professionals.


The interns that have the best experience are the ones that are most open to a different world with different way of living, different way of working and practicing medical etc.
The most important things are Spanish level, experience/education and how open they are as a person and that they show the staff that they are interested and want to work by asking, talking, offer their help etc as if they are shy and just stand on a corner looking the staff might interpret this as if they don’t understand/ talk Spanish or don’t want to work/have an interest of learning.

Some have arrived to Ecuador with low Spanish but with an personality that is amazing and they connect to the staff in the hospital right away and have a great time but sometimes we get participants that have a high Spanish level and a lot of experience but they are too shy to talk or expect everybody to adapt to them so they never connect to the staff and in the end they have a bad time.

One very important thing to remember for interns in this program is that it normally takes a couple of days or sometimes a week before they start to get into the routines of the hospital, get to know the staff and also the staff get to know them so they can’t expect to do everything the first day of work.