I had previously studied Youth and Community Work Degree at university and I was qualified in this area.
I always had an interest in mental health and had originally thought I would go back to university to study this but decided to study Adult Nursing at Bradford University.
My first and second year at university has been turbulent in terms of trying to accurew my placement hours - a lot has been cancelled due to the pandemic. Some of my friends currently have a 750 hour deficit, so by going to Ghana I was able to make up a lot of my placement hours.
I travelled on my own to Takordi in Ghana where I was due to undertake a 6 week placement. It was the first time I had ever flown on my own, navigating an airport was quite daunting but I was organised in my planning so it was actually very easy. In advance of going I felt very confident and mentally prepared for travelling in a new Covid world. I was happy to go anywhere to be honest, I was just desperate to get some healthcare experience overseas.
As soon as I stepped out of the arrivals hall I knew I was in a country very different from home. The heat hit me, the smells from food stalls hit me and the sound from what felt like hundreds of taxi drivers trying to encourage me to get into their cabs hit me. Upon the hoards of people I saw a bright blue Work the World t-shirt, which was a welcome relief.
We drove down to Takoradi in a private mini bus after waiting for other WtW arrivals to get through customs. On the journey down I saw a group of young boys sitting on the side of a road with two TV screens playing FIFA with one another which was brilliant.
On our first day in Takoradi we were given a house tour and we all settled in for the day. The house was really nice. It was big, had lovely gardens, a swimming pool, TV’s and WIFI. I expected it to be a lot more basic than home. The team were so welcoming and I immediately felt safe and comfortable.
I spent 6 weeks on placement rotating through a number of different departments including pediatrics, NICU, orthopedics, OBG and A&E.
My first impression of this hospital was better than I expected. The team at the Work the World office had talked me through what I might see etc. plus upon arrival I’d met students at the Work the World house who had already been on placement a number of weeks who also shared their experiences.
In some ways, I think I just prepared myself for the worst. At the end of the day the reason I chose to go overseas was I wanted to gain the experience of a hospital in a developing country, so of course it was not going to be the same as the NHS.
The biggest difference I faced during my time on placement was what appeared to be the lack of urgency when treating patients who required resuscitation. I think this was partially due to the fact they had low expectations of patients surviving, mainly down to the lack of resources they have.
One case that will stick in my mind forever was a lady walking onto the ward carrying a baby. My initial thoughts were, she has come to get the baby weighed. She waited until the nurse on duty had finished a conversation she was having before she approached the nurse to say ‘the baby was unresponsive’. I was shocked to say the least. The hospital team did not undertake a full round of CPR, they simply said ‘ the baby is dead’ we need to move onto the next patient.
This was hard to see but speaking with the Work the World staff team helped me to understand this a little better and made me realise a lot of their outlook was very culturally lead too. Sharing my day to day experiences with the other students and qualified professionals at the house also helped me to process everything I was seeing. I think sharing all our experiences as a group helped everyone.
During my time on placement I found the hospital teams so friendly, welcoming and eager to help you. The level of English they spoke was so much better than I expected.
I attended the language lessons at the Work the World house and I found this so useful. Just knowing a few bits really helped me build relationships with the hospital team. The more I was on placement, the more I was able to ask the language teacher for certain phrases which really helped me day to day. You absolutely don’t need to be able to speak Fante, but showing I was making the effort to learn a little, meant they in return made more of an effort with me.
Staying at the Work the World house was incredible. Living with people who had one common ground - healthcare, was fascinating.
There was a mix of nurses, medics, midwives, physios - from a mixture of countries, we had different goals and ambitions but ultimately we were all there to experience healthcare in a developing country.
Going on my own I was worried about time away from placement, but we all travelled together for weekend trips as a group which was great. We went to Accra, Cape Coast, Mole National Park.
After placement midweek we would also go to some of the local beachside hotels in Takoradi for drinks and sit by the pool or go on nights out together. I’m still in contact with some of the people I met and some of us are already planning a trip with Work the World to Sri Lanka next year!
The food at the house was awesome, in fact I am still waiting on a recipe from the catering team there for their delicious Red Red Groundnut.
What did I take away from my time in Ghana - life is a lot easier for us in the UK. Having had time to reflect and think about my time in Ghana, we take so much for granted. Not only our healthcare system but day to day experiences such as having a cooked dinner every evening.
The people are so friendly and open, so interested in who you are, what you’re doing there. By the end of my time there I knew the people in the local shops, throughout the hospital - everyone knew my name.
I also came away with an appreciation of being a minitory. I had never experienced this before and it really gave me a much better understanding.
If I had to give advice to anyone considering going overseas for their elective - just do it! We all have our own barriers back at home, for example I am a carer for my mum, for me it was about knowing I deserve a break to explore the world and to enhance my career.
Every part of this trip was incredible. The organisation by Work the World was great, I cannot imagine how or why people would want to organise a placement on their own, there is no way I could even see how it would be possible.