Get Global

Creating together

Our students, Joe and Milou tell us about their global internship at Tata Medical Center, Kolkata. For more information about our global internship opportunities, visit our website.

Namaste readers!

Joe – I am a 21 year old student at Newcastle University where I have just completed second year economics.

Milou – I am 26 years old and I am from Groningen in the Netherlands. I have a MSc. in Business Administration and will complete my MSc. in Economics with a specialization in Health Economics this summer. We came here together with Lydia and Elena, who will introduce themselves next week.

Our internship is at Tata Medical Center (TMC) in Kolkata, India. TMC is a non-profit hospital that focuses completely on cancer. At TMC, they treat patients, conduct research, and provide palliative care. 70% of all patients are treated for free, or at a reduced rate, because they do not have health insurance. Patients come here from all over India, and also from neighbouring countries.

Week 1

In the six weeks of our internship, we will basically work on three projects: The first one focuses on improving the TMC website. The second one focuses on creating training modules for staff to educate them on topics such as fire safety, evacuation plans and infection control. We will do this project together with two Indian students from a local college. In the third project we will research the perceived quality and cost-effectiveness of the end-of-life facility of TMC.

 

 

Joe – I chose to do this internship mainly because I wanted to gain experience in the wide range of activities that this internship entails. Such as experience in research, workplace behavior and techniques in a different culture. Furthermore the opportunity to explore India was a bonus incentive. Whilst I am not completely sure about what I want to do after university, I do know that the research based and analytical nature of this internship will most likely be highly applicable to my future career. Therefore providing me with valuable insight into what type of application of these skills I may find most interesting.

Milou – I chose to take part in the internship primarily because I want to find out if working in a hospital is something I want to do after the summer, when I will start looking for a job. Additionally, it was always a dream of mine to spend some time in a country with a very different culture, since I think that this can give me very useful insights on how to adapt to different cultures and customs.

Both of us had not been in India before and we landed here into a completely different culture than we are used to. At first, we experienced some difficulties. Especially, with getting internet and an Indian sim card. Luckily, our supervisor and the Indian interns helped us out and it is all sorted now. However, we are quickly adapting to it and start to feel at home already.  Not least because of the housekeepers at the guesthouse who are always trying to cater to us.

The first week has been very enjoyable. Both the exciting environment at the hospital and the evenings spent exploring Kolkata have been completely different to past experiences. India has lived up to the expectations of a congested city centre and terrifying car journeys with cows and water buffalo’s on the roads, which definitely adds to the charm.

 

 

Whilst having had a busy first week, our projects are only just getting started after a few days of adjustment and finding our feet. We will provide updates on our work in coming blogs. For now we have plans that include a day observing the palliative care hospital with the aim of process mapping a patient’s journey so that we can analyse efficiency and costs.

Week 2

Even though at the end of our first week of work, we were highly tempted to spend the weekend restoring our sleep levels, our curiosity and passion to explore Kolkata motivated us to begin on an adventurous journey.  Our first stop was Victoria Memorial, where after taking the tour, we found out that even though Queen Victoria was the Empress of India for many years she never actually visited India! Excited by our first historic site, we also went to visit Mother House, where Mother Teresa and her pupils organized Missionaries of Charity, and Birla Temple. Our first day ended with delicious, authentic Indian food at Arsalan’s where we also went to try ‘Thumbs Up’, the Indian version of Cola.

On Sunday we were in a mood for some local shopping, so we decided to visit New Market. Being the only Western tourists present at that time, we had the privilege of special treatment from the locals who were trying to guide us to the stalls they thought would satisfy our taste! After realizing that Sunday is not the right day for shopping at the Market since a lot of the shops are closed, we went to visit Eden Garden stadium. It is the home of Kolkata’s local cricket team, Kolkata Knight Riders, competing on IPL League. On our way there, we also got the opportunity to cross Hooghly Bridge and visit Avani Riverside mall. Bengali sweets’ reputation was highly advertised all this time by our local friends from the internship, so we followed their advice by visiting ‘Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy’, Kolkata’s oldest dessert shop, and of course we were not disappointed!

After a great weekend, we embarked on our second week of our internship full of excitement for what will follow! Our project with Elena is operational theater (OT) utilization. The project aims to assess the duration of the processes involved in the utilization of the OT, and to identify the processes where most delay occurs. As part of the project we need to collect data from various sources such as the Operational Theatre’s registers, together with the online patients’ registry as well as discussing with the nurses and doctors for clarifications in complicated cases. Our cooperation with Elena has been excellent and our backgrounds in Accounting and Finance and Econometrics have both benefited our project.

Working in India is a unique experience and really different from working in the UK. Organization and language barriers can be a challenge sometimes to our work since communication is really important when there is team-work involved. But by being patient and dedicating the amount necessary to make ourselves more familiar with the process to collect data for an organization such as Tata Medical Centre, we were not affected by those challenges. In this project, we came across a different method of collecting data which has helped us develop further our analytical skills. Additionally working with the locals here has been a rewarding experience since we are also benefitting from cultural exchange and great tips on how to make our internship even more enjoyable! On Wednesday we even attended a concert of Sonu Nigam-one of India’s most talented singers! Our supervisor, Soumita, makes us feel like home and she has been really helpful with whatever we needed.

We are now looking forward to the continuation of our internship and to be immersed even more to the work life and culture in Kolkata!

Week 3

 

In the past week and a half our cost and time analysis of the palliative care centre Premashraya has really developed. After designing an observation spreadsheet and piloting its categories at the end of last week, we have now spent the past five days observing the ward and its patients and recorded all activities. This, due to the severity of the patients’ conditions, was at times hard to watch for the both of us. However, the nurses and doctors on the ward have been only welcoming and helpful.

Observing the ward also came with its challenges. In particular the language barrier between us and the patients and staff meant that understanding what was going on could be difficult. This is also the biggest challenge we face outside of work. Guiding taxi drivers or ordering food, it all requires a little bit more patience than usual. Despite this little obstacle, we now have a wealth of data which we can now analyse and use to form our report.

 

It’s monsoon season in Kolkata now and even though it’s still dry, sunny and uncomfortably humid most of the time, the potential for a sudden downpour has led to a couple of drenchings.

Milou managed to convince Ahmed, the housekeeper in charge of our guesthouse, to cook us pasta. Her success possibly had something to do with him having given away the rest of her specially reserved cake which was bought to celebrate her graduation. This was the first time he had deviated from his classic Indian meals which, although are delicious, can get slightly repetitive which some of us are struggling with a little.

 

 

Last weekend was a busy one for all of us interns. It was an early start of around half five on Saturday to catch our three hour van drive from the hospital to Sundarban national park. This UNESCO world heritage site is a 539 square mile wildlife sanctuary, considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world. Our aim was to see a tiger and soon after our arrival we were on a boat, making progress into the coastal mangrove forest. Seven hours later, after a day spent relaxing in the sun on the slow moving boat, we returned having seen monkeys, turtles and crocodiles but unfortunately no tigers.

 

 

Sunday was a much less tiring day, and started with a taxi downtown to a flower market, followed by a tour around an old building once lived in by a king and finally to our favourite cafe for lunch. After which we each went our separate ways either in search of more markets, new shops or for just a spot to read.

Next week we will continue our analysis and analyse the collected data. For now, a weekend awaits in which we will further explore the city of Kolkata!

Week 4

Preparing to write this week’s blog, we were shocked to realize that it is already week 4 in Kolkata. Indeed time flies way too fast when one is having a good time and Kolkata has many ways to make anyone feel like that.

The wakeup alarm of this weekend was very early for the foodies of the group. 5:00 AM to be exact and now you may be wondering what the great reason behind this motivation was. I can assure you Teretti bazar-Kolkata’s Chinatown, ensures there are no regrets! It is the only official Chinatown in India and it offers authentic Chinese breakfast sold by Chinese migrants. It starts at 5:30 AM and ends at 8:00 AM but you better hurry because sometimes it sells out a lot earlier. Chinese have contributed in many areas of the social and economic life of Kolkata! After having a delicious breakfast we visited Indian museum, Jorosanko Thakur Bari which is a museum dedicated to the life of the poet and first non-European Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore and quest mall where we did mostly window shopping. However, then I decided I want to try a new fashion style so I bought a ‘Kurti’- a common local outfit, that I fell in love with! On Sunday we decided to satisfy our scientific minds so we visited ‘Science city’ and Birla planetarium followed by St Paul’s Cathedral which was opposite to the planetarium.

 

After collecting data for a week of our project, we completed our first draft for our project that we have to present in the last week of the internship. Based on the data we gathered for the surgeries of the week, we distributed our findings with tables and percentages. We noted how many surgeries were done in each department and what the type of surgery was.  Additionally, we recorded the Operating theatres utilization from each department and then we went on to analyse each operating theatre separately. The process was to compare the total hours that the operating theatre was used to the total hours of available time for operating theatre utilization and then compare how much of the time used was actually surgery time. This was done daily for a week, so after collecting data for every day of the week we would produce the results for the whole week. In the end of the week, we had a meeting with the Deputy Director of TMC Dr. V R Ramanan, our project supervisor- Dr. Sanjit Agarwal and the team of nurses working on the project to discuss progress and receive feedback on our presentation draft. The comments were very encouraging and the participants were satisfied with our gatherings so far. There were also suggestions on areas that could be improved which we will work on before our next meeting. The plan is to gather data for a few weeks and work on the final presentation during the last week of the internship.The highlight of the week though was that we had the opportunity to observe a surgery performed by Dr Agarwal who specializes in Breast surgery. The process involved removing the breast that had the tumour and reconstructing it. Dr Agarwal used a newly implemented technique and it was definitely a unique experience for us!

 

In those 4 weeks in Kolkata we realised that there will always be something new to surprise us every week and that we will never run out of things to do! Instead we are only running out of time!

Week 5

We can’t believe it is already week 5 and thereby we, Joe and Milou, are writing our last blog about our internship. Last week we received all the data we need for our cost analysis on palliative care patients. Since palliative care patients are treated both in the hospital and in the palliative care center about which we told you earlier, the hospital is very interested in the differences in terms of costs. After we leave, the project will continue and they will focus on interviewing patients and their family members to get an idea about the perceived quality of the palliative care center. Combined with the time mapping we did before, they will then have a complete assessment of the palliative care unit.

Analyzing the data is a lot of work, but we both learn a lot of new Stata skills that we can undoubtedly use back at Uni or at other jobs. We have definitely faced our fair share of challenges, having spent the last week chasing different people for the correct data which is harder to get than you would imagine, but these difficulties have only increased our learning and helped develop our skills in workplace management.

On Monday, we will present our project to the team of doctors and managers of the hospital in their weekly meeting. This will be our opportunity to show off our project, its results and the benefits that we hope can arise from our work. We can then spend the rest of the last week writing the report and analysing our findings before our internship comes to an end. Despite starting our interpretation later than anticipated, we will have plenty of time next week to finish our elements of the project which will in time be published.

It has been a great five weeks and we have both learned so much, both in relation to our project and the hospitals working practises, but also about India in general. From the often wet yet humid weather to the hard to understand and incredibly interested locals, it has taken some getting used to but we have loved it all. We are planning a celebration over the weekend with our fellow interns at the guesthouse as we spend our last weekend together in Kolkata. Luckily, for both of us, our experience abroad is not over yet. Joe will travel for two more weeks through India and Milou will travel for another month through Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

 

 

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