Charlotte is a 3rd-year nursing student from Anglia Ruskin University. She recently travelled to Ghana in Africa on a four-week nursing elective placement to see the differences between healthcare in the UK and in the developing world.
Work the World (an organisation that facilitates overseas healthcare electives) visited my university to give a talk, and they inspired me to undertake my elective overseas. They spoke about the destinations they operated in, and about all the amazing opportunities we could expect while abroad. After carrying out some research, I chose to travel to Ghana. The placement options were great and there was a lot to do at the weekends — it was an easy choice. I secured my place on an elective shortly after.
My friend Katie and I decided to do the trip together. Going with a friend made me feel better because I knew I’d have a friendly face around. However having experienced it, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I imagined. I’d have happily travelled on my own, because I met plenty of students in Ghana who were in the same boat.
So, after a relatively short flight from the UK, we arrived in Ghana. A member of the Work the World team was there at the airport waiting for us. They took us to our accommodation where the rest of the staff and our housemates were waiting. They were all students doing their own electives in Ghana and we quickly got to know each other. They were from a range of different disciplines; medics, dentists, physiotherapists, midwives etc. They came from all over the world too, countries like Australia, Canada, Belgium, Holland and Ireland.
When it came to the placement itself, I went in with an open mind, wanting to take any opportunity that came my way. I went to lots of different wards and saw many different things. It was eye opening!
I saw chest tube insertions, many surgical procedures, births, and frontline Accident and Emergency. I also went out into the local community and carried out house visits and birthing clinics. I thought there was going to be a language barrier in the hospital, but the majority of staff spoke English. All documentation was written in English too, so I had no problems at all. I also got involved in wound dressings, airway bagging, blood pressure checks and foetal heart checks. In terms of cases, I saw how local staff dealt with cardiac arrests and saw a C-section for the first time.
Of course, there were differences in practise when compared with the UK. Local staff used different techniques when removing sutures, or when carrying out CPR. There was also a real lack of resources in the hospital, and this affected how staff carried out many procedures. Things we take for granted, like disposable gloves, were scarce here. More than anything, the placement made me appreciate the NHS more than ever. I realised just how lucky we are to have what we have in the UK.
We went on lots of trips around Ghana at the weekends. One weekend we went to a beautiful coastline where I tried my hand at fabric making and had a cooking lesson. On another weekend, we travelled to an elephant reserve, and it was the best weekend of my life.
This trip was the best thing I have ever done, and I’ll remember it forever.
Work the World specialise in tailoring overseas nursing placements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their destinations provide eye-opening insight into the challenges associated with delivering healthcare in the developing world.