How do I even begin to describe my co-op experience in Taipei, Taiwan? I was stationed in a city full of vibrant history and modern technology. A city full of delicious foods like bubble tea and beef noodle soup; but most importantly, who can forget the distinguishable smell of stinky tofu? Taipei beckoned me to become a destination for my final pharmacy co-op.
I spent most of my fall interning at Wan Fang Hospital, a teaching hospital for students from Taipei Medical University, one of the top medical universities in Taiwan. On my first day, I expected to pay attention and take note of the many differences between American Hospitals and Taiwanese Hospitals. Instead, I was instantly given a handbook of the top drugs used in Taipei and thrown into a whirlwind of white coats and blue scrubs to gain hands on experience and observe how medical care was delivered in Taiwan.
In the hospital, I was able to rotate among many stations in the pharmacy. There would be a week where I would prepare IV bags and then the next week, I would help load medication carts. One time, I was stationed at the ICU. With the help of a nurse, a doctor, a dietician and a pharmacist, we drafted a treatment plan together for a baby suffering from brittle bone disease. Such an experience allowed me to explore the different sides of pharmacy and it’s applications in the hospital, as well as the coordination that occurs between doctors, nurses and pharmacists. While most of the hospital was more dedicated towards Western medicine, it was interesting to note that there was a section of the pharmacy that dealt with Ancient Chinese medicine. In the places I’ve worked, there was no such section. It was one of the things that made Taiwan hospitals very different from American hospitals.
Before starting, I was afraid that I would be a hindrance because of my limited Mandarin language skills. However, I learned that I didn’t need to be afraid. Many of Taiwan’s Medical University’s students were eager to practice their English with me and after a few weeks of listening to people speak Mandarin, the language came easy for me. It wasn’t long before I was asking the pharmacists questions like why a patient was on a particular drug or if the patient had any possible drug interactions in Mandarin.
What do I do when I’m not working in the hospital? Taipei is known as the “city that never sleeps” so there is plenty for me to do when I’m done working. I’ve snacked on local delicacies at the numerous night markets found in Taiwan, visited one of the tallest buildings in the world, Taipei 101, and wished for good luck at Longshan Temple. Good luck not only on my travels, but also good luck in my studies on becoming a pharmacist. I have to really thank Wan Fang hospital for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to not only broaden my pharmacy horizons, but to also let me explore and enjoy this wonderful city.
Cassie Lin, Pharmacy