The reason I chose to go to Tanzania was that I wanted to go somewhere where I’d probably never go again. Somewhere that would benefit me the most and I would get the most out of my time there.
When I was being shown around my placement hospital for the first time during my orientation I was shocked. We didn’t really go into any wards at first, it was more to just show us around.
But the next day, when we saw the wards I was probably more surprised than shocked. I didn’t think that they would have as much equipment as they did, especially equipment that was as advanced as some of it was. For example, I went onto PICU, and the equipment they had looked rather new and not what I expected.
Some aspects of the hospitals in Tanzania resembled the hospitals at home, such as the equipment that they were using, and the paper observation sheets were practically the same. I just never really expected anything to be the same in a country such as Tanzania.
One thing that I noticed was that they had no sense of emergency. Even when working on A&E.
I found this very strange until I found out that the ambulances don’t do the same job that ours do back home. In Tanzania, they transfer people from hospital to hospital, but they don’t get called out to accidents. So, if someone has been in a car crash they have to make their own way to the hospital, so, unfortunately, a lot of people don’t make it.
One day we walked into A&E and it was very busy and a lot was going on. We had been there about 40 minutes when I walked into one room and noticed that there was a very small child lying on a bed, with no one around. I asked what was wrong with the child and it turned out that they had meningitis and sepsis.
I immediately thought of the Sepsis Six. I asked if they would be giving the child some fluids and antibiotics. I had no idea how long this child had been lying there, but the staff seemed to be very chilled and took their time. This surprised me, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that, in their eyes, this probably wasn’t the most important thing to deal with at the time. Whereas at home, we have had the importance of the Golden Hour and the need to treat within an hour drilled into us! But this moment stuck with me.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that the hospitals in Tanzania were much different from the hospitals in England. Although I am talking about the main hospitals and not the more local ones. The equipment was reasonable and they knew to use gloves.
One thing I really liked when at the hospital was that after a bed bath the staff would cover their patients in oil. When I questioned it, they told me that most people, especially women, would use this oil. It keeps their skin nice and smooth and it is good for them.
The staff said that even though their patients are in hospital and can’t wash and care for themselves that there is no reason not to try and help give them some sort of normality and make them look and feel as nice as possible.
This really touched me and made me think about my patients back at home.
This really touched me and made me think about my patients back at home. Now every bed bath I give, I make sure I take the time to look and see if they have their own wash stuff, any deodorant or perfume that they like to wear. I find that my patients really appreciate it and it gives them a sense of normality.
During the evenings, there were always things to do. From karaoke night at the local bar to having a BBQ at the house and participating in African dancing.
We could take a walk down to the local market slipway and have a look around. Or even just chill with our housemates and watch a film. There was never a boring moment.
Although you are on this trip to learn about the ways in which people work in the hospitals and how the healthcare differs, you have to make the most of your time there and experience Tanzania for what it is.
Depending on when you were at the hospital you could spend the morning or afternoon on an island that was a short boat trip away.
The islands were covered in white beautiful sand surrounded by the tranquillity of the sea. It was a good way to relax before a shift or wind down after one. You could also have some food on the island and just spend the day there if you really wanted.
I would also recommend the safari! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We were picked up on Friday and taken to the safari park where we were given lunch and then taken on a short safari ride, just as the sun was setting.
Words cannot describe the experience I had on safari.
We then went off to the hotel to have some dinner and a well-needed sleep after the long drive. Up at the crack of dawn to get breakfast, we then set off to the safari park. We saw lions, giraffe, zebra, elephants, and so much more. Words cannot describe the experience I had on safari.
One weekend we went to Zanzibar and did a trip to Prison Island. We were taken out snorkelling and then visited an island that had a large population of giant tortoises and also the ruins of an old prison. Which was amazing to see.
The next day we went on the Blue Safari day trip, which was absolutely amazing. We were taken out to sea where they dived down and collected starfish for us to hold and look at.
We then had a little break on this sandbank where we could have a little swim in the crystal-clear sea and they presented us with a platter of amazingly fresh fruit for us to eat.
Once that was finished we jumped back onto the boat and headed out for some snorkelling where we saw some magnificent coral and vibrant fish swimming past. Then we spotted a stingray gliding along the bottom of the sea, along with seahorses. Again, I can’t describe how amazing it was to experience.
After that, we were taken to the Blue Lagoon where we could just chill in the boat or have a leisurely swim in the lagoon. After all that swimming, we were feeling rather hungry, so we were taken to an island where a feast had been prepared for us. There was fresh fish, lobster, crab, chicken - everything you could think of was there.
After our bellies were full we decided to relax on the beach. Finally, we got back in the boat, they put the sails up and we sailed back to the island, whilst enjoying yet another amazing fruit platter.
We also enjoyed looking around the local markets, which were great places to get souvenirs. Make sure you have worked on your haggling skills before you go because you will need them.
Village Healthcare Week
As I was reading through the descriptions of the various destinations Work the World offered I saw that you could also take part in a Village Healthcare Week in Tanzania. This is where you go to a village and stay with a local family. You get to experience the life they live.
Although many people will think that different things are put in place to make it more comfortable for you, this was not true. We had an 11-hour journey on a local coach to get to the village and when we got there the toilet was just a hole (as expected)! There was no air-conditioning, so the heat could be unbearable at times.
Regardless of all of these little things, I can honestly say that it was the best week, in terms of the experience, that I had during my stay in Tanzania. I truly got an insight into what it was like to live in those conditions. I really appreciated everything that I have at home and how these things are taken for granted.
Every person I met greeted me with a massive smile. During our time in the village, we visited the local community hospital and the mother and baby clinic. The mothers were patient with us whilst we tried to figure out how much they were saying their baby weighed in Swahili.
We attended the malaria clinic, and also the general clinic. People would travel all day from neighbouring villages just to see someone at the hospital. There would be queues for hours.
Not only did we go to the clinics, but our guide from Work the World also took us on little adventures each afternoon to show us different things.
We climbed a mountain to see where they planted all of their fruit, cycled to the sugar cane plantations and saw the amazing views. We visited the waterfalls, watched the locals do traditional dancing and also visited the Witchdoctor.
Many things were crammed into the short time we had there but it really opened my eyes and made me realised that although these people didn’t have a lot, they were the happiest and nicest people that I had ever met.
My advice to anyone who is thinking about doing their elective abroad is to do it. Don’t worry about the cost, it is a once in a lifetime experience and you will regret not going in the future.
If I could do it all over again then I would. I gained experience that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. I made some amazing friends and shared an experience that will last a lifetime.
It is the best thing I have ever done, and Work the World made it ten times easier to accomplish.