Queen's University Belfast 2014
Travelling to Ghana with Work the World (WTW) was my first time in Africa and the first time I had an educational experience in a hospital outside Europe. WTW helped to make the transition very easy coming from the UK to working conditions in a low-resource setting.
To begin with, the hospitality and welcome was exceptionally warm. I was fortunate enough to be greeted at the airport with a traditional Ghanaian greeting and transported to where I would be staying for several weeks. This assisted with settling in and helping me to get my bearings and understand how transportation worked in the country.
Having arrived at the WTW house, each other member of staff was introduced to me and gave a very genuine welcome, making me feel even more settled in the new environment. The WTW house has a very secure and homely feel to it with 24-hour security and the programme co-ordinators making frequent appearances to see how everyone is. The first day at the hospital involves an orientation with introductions to staff, wards and the general layout of the place and preparation for the weeks ahead of placement.
Exposure to ghanaian healthcare gave me the chance to see how some tropical diseases are managed
As a medical student, being on placement in a hospital in Ghana encompassed a similar experience to a placement at home, with observation, shadowing and the opportunity to examine patients and elicit important clinical signs. There was also opportunity to ask the consultant questions and to be asked questions by the consultant, enhancing the learning experience. Exposure to Ghanaian healthcare gave me the chance to see how some tropical diseases are managed. There is equally a raft of complications of cardiovascular disease amongst Ghanaian patients but it was interesting to observe how this is managed with limited resources.
Sadly, I saw many end stage complications of HIV infection in patients and several patients who died at the final stages of malaria. The mortality rate is significantly higher in countries such as Ghana, when compared to the UK, and it would seem to be due to a lack of resources and sometimes a lack of information, as people fail to recognise symptoms of illness in themselves.
Aside from placement, the weekends give us the chance to relax and do some travelling and exploring of the surrounding region. Kakum National Park offers a unique experience to sleep in a rainforest and enjoy an early morning canopy walk, which gives breath-taking views of nature. Cape Coast is also a popular place to visit on the weekend, with the historical castle and plenty of stalls to purchase beautiful and unique souvenirs.
Finally, the WTW house offers fabulous cuisines with traditional Ghanaian dishes each week, palatable to all tastes. I would strongly recommend WTW to anyone travelling to Africa seeking to gain a mixture of education, fun and the opportunity to have a true African experience.