What an adventure!
During the third year of my nursing degree, I embarked on my biggest journey yet.
With the help of Work the World, I travelled over 3,000 miles to the colorful and historic city of Takoradi in Ghana.
Takoradi is home to many Ghanaians and is a busy, densely populated city. It’s beautiful!
So. Why did I travel all the way from Manchester to Ghana? First, let me give you a bit of a background.
I was coming to the end of my three year BSc(Hons) Adult Nursing course at Edge Hill University.
The program was split so that we spent half the year in a health and social care environment. The other half we spent in lectures (and hitting the books).
During our third year, the university gave us the opportunity to undertake an international placement. We had to find, fund and plan it ourselves.
I thought, why not? I’m an independent woman. I can plan this, right? Then I changed my mind and decided to pay Work the World to do all the hard work for me.
I self-funded the majority of my trip. The Thomas Arnold Fund kindly sponsored me, and that was a huge help.
Work the World were well-organised. They did all the heavy lifting and checked in regularly to update me with all the planning.
I was a nervous wreck flying all the way to Ghana on my own. But with plenty of reading material and a my suitcase in tow, I was on my way.
Coming from the UK, I wasn’t quite ready for the heat and humidity I faced when I got off the plane. It was hair up, shorts on, and all the antiperspirant Emirates let me carry.
A member of the Work the World team met me at the airport, and after an overnight stay in Accra, we travelled to the World the World house. When we arrived, I met the rest of the staff and my housemates.
All the nerves had gone — everyone had a friendly face and we got to know each other quickly.
My house mates came from a range of different countries, including Australia, Belgium, Holland, America and some home birds from the UK.
They were also from a variety of different fields within healthcare. There were medical students, midwives, dentists and fellow nursing students.
The house was lovely. It had fantastic views, a garden, and plenty of social spots and places to sit and read.
There was also a pool, which was rather nice after a warm day at the hospital.
The hospital was a lot bigger than I expected. There was larger range of wards than I thought there would be.
The lack of resources was astonishing and really made me appreciate what we have back in the UK.
The patients had to pay for everything themselves and were turned away if they could not afford treatment.
Seeing small children sent home because their parents could not afford the medication they needed hit me hard.
Everything had to be paid for. Gauze, swabs, morphine, antibiotics. Everything.
At the hospital, I participated in a lot of patient care. Staff on the ward encouraged me to get involved and challenged my knowledge when triaging patients in A&E.
All patient documentation was in English, which made it easier for me to read the patients’ histories and write in the nursing notes.
I witnessed a few different surgeries which was fascinating.
They were strict on sterilizing equipment, but lacked patient-centered care and patient checks, which we’re strict on in the UK.
The doctors didn’t communicate with or reassure patients much either. It was surprising, however I had to respect local culture and keep an open mind.
I witnessed a range of conditions such as malaria, gangrene, road traffic accidents and servere dehydration and malnutrition.
I also saw cases of sepsis, pneumothorax, and ascites leading to makeshift abdominal drains inserted with cannulas.
When I queried this methodology, local staff told me “welcome to Ghana!” This took me by surprise, but I understood that the lack of resources meant they had to utilise what they had.
During my placement at the orthopedic ward, the majority of cases were due to road traffic accidents, due to lack of system and traffic control. They often resulted in open fractures, dislocations and severe lesions.
It was interesting to see the wound care they provided. They adopted a one-cotton-swab-will-clean-all technique, and cross contamination didn’t seem to be a massive concern.
Traveling and Exploring
We had weekends off, which allowed us to do some travelling and exploring.
The first weekend we travelled to Cape Coast. We stayed at a lovely beach resort and visited the Ghana National Museum on Slavery and Freedom.
The museum taught us about the role Ghana played in the slave trade, and about Cape Coast’s history more generally.
We did a hike while we were on the trip, spending the night in a treehouse in the middle of the forest.
Hearing toads and cockroaches (and an animal have a midnight snack on our roof) kept us awake for a short while, but was a very cool experience.
After our hike we did a canopy walk. We saw some monkeys, had lunch at a roadside hotel, then spent the day exploring the markets and meeting local people.
People were friendly, and interested in knowing our names and where we were from. I learnt my ‘Ghana-name’ was Afun.
Everywhere was bright and beautiful and interesting. You could have spent hours roaming the markets, talking to people who’ve experienced a different path in life to yours.
In Ghana, it was considered rude to hand people things with your left hand. Being left handed, I got a few tellings off, but eventually got use to using my right hand.
As cliché as it sounds, I shall remember the memories I made in Ghana for as long as I live.
I am so lucky to have witnessed such an amazing community and culture.
An experience like this makes you appreciate the little things, but also gives you perspective on how amazing the National Health Service is.
We are so, so lucky to have free access to healthcare. It’s incredible.
Ghana will keep a piece of my heart forever. You won’t quite believe it until you see it for yourself.