University of Manchester 2019
I decided to undertake my 6-week elective placement in Ghana as I’ve always wanted to visit Africa and I wanted to experience health care in a part of the world where resources are in low supply.
From the moment I booked my place with Work the World the support was amazing. I was able to log into MyTrip which helped with knowing when I needed to have things done – from applying for a visa to getting vaccinations. I was also able to speak on the phone to the team at Work the World at various points before my trip to discuss any questions I had which really put my mind at ease.
When we landed in Ghana, a member of the Work the World team was waiting for us at the airport – in his bright blue t-shirt with the most welcoming smile. He helped us to navigate the busy airport and took us to the house. This is definitely a home away from home. You become a family – able to chat about placement as well as experience what Takoradi has to offer outside of placement together. The food is amazing! The house has the best chefs – and they would always try and tailor it to what we wanted. The best food they cooked was definitely on barbeque night! This was the best night of the week by far! We would eat, and then we would start the dancing – which ranged from Cha Cha Slide to African dancing. It was always such a laugh.
I feel this is something that will definitely improve my clinical practice in the UK.
I spent most of my placement in A&E. It was honestly an eye-opening experience. The A&E was tiny and had no cubicles. It just had beds piled in wherever there was space. Patients had no privacy, even for intimate examinations. This was a hard thing to get used to. Patients also had to pay for medical treatment – meaning you had to be sure they needed a specific scan or test before sending them for it. Therefore, I was able to develop my basic knowledge a lot further – learning how to work through my differential diagnoses without having test results to work from. I feel this is something that will definitely improve my clinical practice in the UK. There were opportunities to improve skills such as taking blood and catheterising patients – which made you feel like part of the team.
One case that will always stick in my mind was a 9-year-old girl with cerebral malaria. She had been unwell for a while but the parents decided to use herbal treatments for days before bringing her to hospital. She arrived unconscious with a temperature of 42°C and at risk of seizures. In the UK we would have used medication such as paracetamol to try and reduce this temperature. However, the parents couldn’t afford it so all we could do was use an old face cloth to try and get cold water on the girl’s body to cool her. I found this really upsetting and a complete contrast to healthcare I am used to in the UK. It really made me appreciate our health system more.
Everyone in the house took a day off placement and went to the local special needs school to put on a sports day. This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip! The kids were amazing, so funny and happy – and I think the Work the World group had just as much fun completing the sports day activities as the children did!
Outside of the hospital I made some of the best memories ever. We spent the weekends travelling to different parts of Ghana. One weekend we did a treetop canopy walk at sunrise in Kakum National Park. This was incredible! We slept overnight in a treehouse and then trekked the next morning to the canopy walk which was scary, but the views were definitely worth it!
Another trip we did was to Mole National Park where we went on safari. I was stood less than 10 metres from elephants! I can’t even start to describe how that feels – it is unreal! During that trip we were also able to spend the day at a hotel in the middle of the safari park that had an infinity pool that looked over the elephant’s watering hole. It was like watching animals on TV, it didn’t feel real at all!
I can’t recommend undertaking your elective in Ghana enough. It was easily the best experience of my life and will stick with me forever. The Work the World team in the country help you to settle in really quickly and all the locals are so friendly and welcoming. I will definitely be returning to Ghana at some point in the future!