University of Suffolk 2021

Nursing, Ghana Takoradi

Before starting my university degree I was a carer for a couple of years. I wanted to learn more and progress my career further, which is how I went onto studying nursing.

I was a second year Adult Nursing student at University of Suffolk and was due to do my nursing elective in Ghana in 2020. Covid-19 put a stop to that. Instead, I opted in to help during the pandemic and I was working on a Covid ward for quite some time. To say it was very intense and challenging was an understatement, but I learnt a lot from the experience. 

I always knew I wanted to go to an African country for my elective and Ghana just stood out. Once I phoned and spoke to one of the elective consultants and read the reviews other students had written on the website, I knew Ghana was right for me.

I didn’t get to travel as part of my elective in the end because I graduated during the pandemic. But even as a newly qualified nurse I was keen to not miss out on the opportunity to do an overseas placement.

I travelled to Ghana with a friend from university. I was definitely nervous when I arrived at the airport, my first thoughts were, “wow this is real now”! When we landed in the busy airport of Accra I was so relieved to see a member of the Work the World team in their bright blue t-shirt.

Once we arrived at the Work the World house in Takoradi we were all tired, so we were given a quick tour of the house. There were people who were already on their placement at the house who had just returned from a night out and it was lovely that we got to meet them before heading to bed.

The next day the Work the World team took us on a tour of the hospital and the departments we had chosen to spend time in. Once we arrived outside the hospital I could see immediately it was going to be very different to the world I knew back home. It was so busy that there were even people sitting on the ground.

The lack of resources became immediately apparent. What was amazing to me however was how they seemed to make it work, with the little they had. All the jobs would get done, even if it took more time than I was used to - it was fascinating to see. The hospital teams are so adaptive and work with what they have, it was incredible.

I spent two weeks at the hospital. I spent one week in NICU and one week in A&E. I found NICU quite challenging as I have only ever studied and worked in an adult nursing role, but I was keen to get experience in that area.

The NICU team was so welcoming and friendly, in particular my supervisor. She made me feel at ease, showed me the ropes and was so keen to teach. She was amazing. She was also really interested to learn about nursing in the UK. It was really nice to share my experiences with her.

The staff speak excellent English, but the majority of patients didn’t speak any. It was tricky initially, but I overcame it quickly. You get the weekly Fante language lessons in the Work the World house which really helped. But also a language guide once you sign up - I would definitely recommend you have a quick look at that.You definitely don’t need to be fluent, but knowing one or two words goes a really long way with the patients. That said, it was amazing how easy it was to communicate even with that language barrier. I’m so much more confident now.

A&E was also eye-opening. It was busy and there were so many sick patients. One thing that was really apparent (and very different to home) was people arriving who did not have their insurance cards. This meant no treatment would be offered to them no matter how unwell they were. They would have to go to the office to get the relevant documentation and this was really hard to witness, especially if you could see they needed urgent treatment. Our hands were tied, we could not do anything to help until they had the relevant documentation.   

One elderly lady was carried into A&E by two strangers who had found her. She was so friendly and thankful that we were helping. Her humbleness will stick with me forever. Ghanaians are possibly the most friendly people I have ever met in my life.

My time in the Work the World house was amazing. This is going to sound very cliche but it was a home away from home experience. After a hard day at the hospital, knowing you were going back there to see all the friendly faces of the staff team, to relax in the comfort of the lovely house was so nice. 

When we first arrived at the house, the people who were already there kept saying, wait until the Thursday night BBQ, you’ll be up dancing the night away. At that time I remember thinking, no way - I couldn’t have been more wrong. After 10 minutes I was up there dancing. 

BBQ nights were so much fun and probably one of my trip highlights. Fantastic food, great music and a buzzing atmosphere. It was the perfect way to let our hair down.

As I was only in Ghana for two weeks I had only one weekend to experience more of this amazing country.

So, about six of us from the house decided to head up north to Mole National Park for the weekend. It was a dream! We stayed at a fabulous lodge right in the middle of the jungle and got to see elephants, monkeys, you name it. I had the weekend of my life! 

After waiting so long to go Ghana I could not have been more excited or grateful to have this opportunity. Oddly, I was not at all nervous about travelling in the new Covid world we now live in and seeing how organised everything was and seeing the protocols that were in place in the house made me feel very at ease. 

If I had to offer advice to anyone considering going overseas it would be to go with an open mind and put yourself out there. I honestly had the time of my life. 

I am now a qualified nurse and am currently working on an Acute Medical Ward at the moment. However, after my time in Ghana I am now looking to transfer over to NICU. Watch this space.

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