‘Helpful’ experience for Iceland doctors

2017-01-16 10:51
Icelandic student doctors (from left) Oddur Bjornsson, Sigrun Petursdottir and Daniel Arnarson in the emergency room at Edendale Hospital on Friday.

Icelandic student doctors (from left) Oddur Bjornsson, Sigrun Petursdottir and Daniel Arnarson in the emergency room at Edendale Hospital on Friday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Currently placed at Edendale Hospital’s emergency department, three sixth-year medical students from Iceland said their South African experience has been a refreshing change.

Oddur Bjornsson, Sigrun Petursdottir and Daniel Arnarson got thrown right into the swing of things as they started their six-week tenure in the country at the heart of New Year’s mayhem.

Bjornsson, from Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, said he had never seen so many stab and gunshot wounds in his entire life.

“If someone got stabbed in Iceland they would probably make the headlines of every newspaper and it happens once a year maybe,” he said.

Twenty-six-year-old Petursdottir said she encountered her first TB patient at Edendale.

“The prognosis is very shocking and different. You get more trauma and more lifestyle diseases here whereas in Iceland with a life expectancy at 83 years old most patients are older and die from heart disease and cancer,” she said.

The trio agreed that the varied and different disease profile was very helpful with their studies and would enable them to become all-rounders.

“Even though we’ve never seen much of the diseases that we’ve encountered here before, all these are common diseases all over the world. We just don’t get exposed to them in our population,” said Bjornsson.

Another welcome change, the Icelanders said, was Pietermaritzburg’s warm weather.

Coming from a country whose highest temperature is at 26 degrees Celsius, the Icelanders said although they have to bury themselves in “50-plus sunscreen to avoid sun burn” they enjoy being able to go out in the sun.

“I love being able to go outside and do some exercises instead of always being inside a gym because it’s so cold,” said Petursdottir.

The trio said they miss home food and traditional dishes usually enjoyed on St Þorlákur’s Day, on December 23. The holiday is celebrated as a symbolic end to the Christmas fast and on this day a popular Iceland dish enjoyed is “skate” (pickled and fermented shark meat).

Local dishes that the trio have tried include bobotie, maas and, because they’ve been told they could never leave the country without having one, a good old South African braai.

Bjornsson said he had picked up some Zulu phrases like “sawubona, unjani” (hello, how are you?) and “hlungu” (pain), which he said was a very handy word to know in their field. “I use hlungu a lot. I just point at a place on a patient’s body and say hlungu?” said Bjornsson.

Before they leave, Bjornsson, Petursdottir and Arnarson said they want to go surfing in Durban, visit the Drakensberg as well as explore the rich African wildlife at some local game reserves.

“This is my first time in Africa and it was great seeing giraffes and wildebeest,” said Arnarson, adding that he would definitely return to the country for both business and pleasure.

Head of the Edendale emergency department Sandy Inglis said the students were part of the hospital’s year-round elective programme and it was a pleasure to host them.

“We are very highly regarded as an elective destination because of the wealth of clinical exposure here, the excellent teaching and academic standards as well as the great opportunities to explore our beautiful KZN and beyond.

“Our only advert is word of mouth. Presently we have electives booked well into next year,” he said.

Read more on:    iceland  |  pietermaritzburg  |  doctors

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