Choose Work the World—this was no doubt one of the best experiences of my life!
When I started my nursing training, I knew I wanted to travel. So, when Bournemouth University introduced me to Work the World, I was immediately intrigued.
Africa had always been on my bucket list, so when I saw I had the option to go to Zambia, there was no other choice.
After much preparation, I left for Zambia with an open mind, and when I arrived I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
I spent my month wisely at the hospital. My first week was in the trauma ward, the next split between ICU and theatre, and the final two weeks in the onsite Oncology hospital.
In England, we choose our specialities before starting training. I chose Adult Nursing, so I had the opportunity to look after children with cancer, as well as adults.
I was surprised at how much freedom to practice local student nurses had. They actively practiced on patients. On the other hand, they were surprised that in the UK we weren’t even allowed to do things like cannula insertions.
The local nurses saw me as a 'senior’ student as I was in my final year. This meant that I could show some local first-year nurses how we did dressings, cleaned wounds and administered injections in the UK.
I saw so many open bone wounds. There were some very sick patients in ICU, many with severe sepsis. I also saw a full stoma construction that took five hours. There were power cuts during the procedure, so we were forced to use our phones as temporary lights so the surgeons could carry on.
I also assisted in delivering chemotherapy to cancer patients, playing with the younger patients to help them through their cancer treatment.
I got the whole ward of children laughing, even though they had no idea what I was saying!
A lack of money was a major issue for my placement hospital. The whole ward shared one box of gloves, meaning they’d use the same pair of gloves to change all the patients’ bedding, which patients had to provide themselves. Staff had to use the same cloth from the day before to damp dust, and they couldn’t double glove for sterile procedures as they simply didn’t have enough.
Staff had to reuse surgical gowns after disinfecting in what could only be described as a giant washing machine. They used chlorine to disinfect all equipment throughout the hospital.
If patients didn’t have the money to pay for their procedures, the ward doctor asked everyone on duty to help donate towards the patient’s care. My placement was the country’s main hospital, so many patients travelled some distance to get there. This cost money, and so when they arrived, patients often couldn’t afford to pay for their treatment. Many staff felt frustrated with the situation.
The Work the World house in Lusaka was amazing. It was much nicer than I imagined. The house caterer was so so lovely. The same can be said of our housekeeper, who taught us how to hand wash our clothing Lusaka style. It felt like arm day at the gym!
The rest of the in-country team were great. They showed us around Lusaka and our placement hospital on our official first day. They even helped us figure out the best places to travel on the weekends.
The language teacher came to the house on Mondays and Tuesdays to teach us Nyanja—one of Zambia’s 72 languages.
The people of Zambia giggled at us when we tried to use Nyanja, but we could tell they loved that we were putting in the effort all the same!
The area around the house was lovely, and there was even a parliament building nearby with impalas and zebra in their garden!
Thursday BBQ nights were great. The food was amazing, and dancers and singers came to the house, singing and dancing to different songs from different regions of Zambia. They explained the meanings of the songs too—it was a powerful experience.
We all got up dancing on these nights, and we felt like klutzes because we couldn’t move our hips the way they did. It was hilarious!
When it came to weekend trips, one of our favourites was visiting Livingstone. We went on a sunset cruise the day we arrived and went over to Botswana for an all-day safari. We spent one morning at Victoria Falls, and I can safely say I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. Although we did get absolutely drenched!
On another weekend, we saw elephant orphans being helped back into the wild. We also visited a reptile farm, and went to Tiffany Canyon.
The African markets were great. We bought so many gifts for our families (and ourselves).
When it comes down to it, Work the World made one of my dreams happen. I am more confident as a person and as a health professional thanks to this experience. I have a greater appreciation for the NHS, and I realise how lucky we are for all we have back in the UK.
So, if Zambia—or one of Work the World’s other destinations—tickle your fancy, just do it.
It was, 100%, the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ll forever remember the people I met and cherish the memories I made.