5.3 Case Studies

Case 1 – Dangerous Equipment

A nurse handing a doctor a pair of suture scissors.

A young woman arrives at the ER with a large laceration. You are working in a public clinic where there are no doctors and the nurses have limited training, but do their best. You are asked to suture the wound of the young woman, but you find poor quality surgical equipment that does not appear clean. The local nurses tell you it doesn’t really matter and that you should just use what you have.

Question: How do you respond?

Ask an Expert

Read the video transcript

Hello, my name is Dr. Peter Tugwell, and I am Canada Research Chair in Health Equity. When physicians work in resource limited settings they will encounter conditions and situations outside their normal experience. This scenario highlights the importance of working within the limits of our knowledge and skills. In this scenario, the student is likely working outside their competencies and should seek support from a mentor in order to minimize the risk to patients and maximize the safety for the student. Confronting the nurse, improving the sanitary standards of the ER, and ensuring a healthy learning environment requires considerable expertise and sustained commitment.

Duration: 43 seconds

Tips for Global Health Electives

The inside of a tent.


  • Personal health
  • Inform interpreter about approximate length of interview
  • Give a brief overview of the topics to be covered
  • If ad-hoc interpreter of family/friend interpreter, explain the “rules”
  • Emphasize confidentiality

A group of men rowing boats on a river.

During the Elective

  • Practice within your skill and knowledge level
  • Practice ethical engagement, safety for both yourself and your patients
  • Practice self reflection, journaling, discussions to cope with stresses
  • Remember your role as “medical ambassador” in resource limited settings

A doctor checking a young boy's mouth.

End of Elective

  • Meet with other students & global health mentors to discuss your experiences
  • Give yourself time to rest and readjust, practice self –compassion and plan how to better prepare for your next trip
  • Join a global health network

Note: For additional case studies and information, you can complete the optional Blackbelt section.