I was supposed to do my elective placement in my second year at university but I was called up to help during the pandemic, so I moved it until after I had finished studying.
I always knew I wanted to go overseas. I wanted to see nursing in a totally different way to what I am used to at home. I felt like I would never get the chance to go away for 4 weeks once I was qualified and it really felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity that I just had to go for.
I have just graduated from the University of Hertfordshire as an adult nurse. I had originally booked to go to The Philippines but when I got a call to say Ghana was open this summer my thoughts were, I don’t really mind where I go - I am going to experience healthcare overseas so I jumped at the chance to spend 4 weeks in Africa.
I had booked to go on my own which I was nervous about. When I first landed in Ghana my initial thought was ‘what have I done?’ I was met by the Work the World team at the airport and by the time I arrived at the house, settled in, unpacked and met some of the people who had already been on placement a week or so, I was absolutely fine.
It was great to live with other healthcare students and professionals. We were all going through the same experience - it was also nice that new arrivals were coming in every week meaning those who had arrived ahead of me were able to ease my nerves, share some of their experiences and talk about how confident they were now feeling. It really helped.
When we were first taken to the hospital we were given a very detailed tour. Initial thoughts were ‘this is scary’. It could not have been more different than what I am used to.
During my 4 week placement, I spent time in A&E, orthopedics, OBG, NICU and I also attended some community clinics.
After my first couple of days I felt so much more confident and settled. The team in the hospital were really nice. They were very welcoming and wanted to know all about nursing in the UK. To see how they work together with minimal resources and a lack of funding is incredible.
One example of the incredible care I witnessed was a patient on the orthopedic ward, he had suffered from a brain haemorrhage. He could not afford his treatment so he was going to have to self-discharge. The doctors and nurses saw how unwell he was and all chipped in to pay for his treatment which was lovely to see. Obviously, and sadly, they can’t do this for all their patients.
Being confronted with such advanced conditions is just not something you’d see at home. There was one patient who had been involved in a bad car crash three days before he finally came into A&E. He was in such a bad way and was incredibly unwell. He simply didn’t have the money to be able to afford treatment hence he held off coming into the hospital.
When you think about people turning up at A&E in England when they really don’t need hospital care then compare that to people in Ghana who are desperate to be treated (and need to be treated), but simply don’t have the money to pay for it, it is so sad.
The hospital teams speak excellent English, I was really surprised there were no language barriers whatsoever.
Most patients didn’t speak any English however, this was eased slightly by going to the weekly Fante lessons. My nonverbal communication massively improved, which I will find very useful back home. If I was about to take a patients blood pressure for example, I would tap them on the arm so they were aware of what I was about to do and they understood me no problem. If I did need to ask them more in-depth questions one of the nursing supervisors would help me.
The staff knew I was in my third year of nursing, about to become a qualified nurse. They really pushed me to get more involved but in a very supportive way. I also think being there for 4 weeks allowed them to get to know me much better and from that we built up a good working relationship.
There were stark differences to how the hospitals operate compared to back home. The lack of equipment, the lack of sterilisation - they simply don’t have enough of anything so need to reuse things, even latex gloves.
It was not all about being in the hospital. Getting to explore the city of Takoradi and Ghana as a country was fun. The people are so welcoming - everyone says hello. There was never a point where I felt intimidated, everyone was so friendly.
It was also so nice to see people so happy, people who often have very little - such as children not having any clothes.
We travelled every weekend as a group, before I left home, I was worried I would be on my own a lot of the time outside of placement and this simply wasn’t the case.
I went to Mole National Park which was definitely my highlight from the whole trip. I stayed at an amazing lodge in the middle of the jungle. There were so many elephants everywhere, it was unbelievable. Ghana is an incredible country.
Although I said at the start of my story, this is a once in a lifetime experience, I am hoping to try to recreate another similar experience with a couple of the girls I met in the house - our aim is to go to WtW programme in Sri Lanka next summer for two weeks.