I did my postgraduate diploma in adult nursing at the University of Southampton. After I had qualified but before I had started my new job I wanted to experience what nursing was like elsewhere in the world.
I was keen to explore a totally different healthcare system so I decided to go to Ghana with a friend from uni and I had the time of my life.
I reached out to Work the World — an organisation I knew had been facilitating overseas clinical placements for Southampton students for years. They offered placements in Ghana and so set me up for a three-week trip.
But I will admit that walking into my placement hospital for the first time was confronting. There was a real lack of resources when compared with hospitals in the UK and that was obvious everywhere.
Given this lack of resources, the staff coped incredibly well. They did their best with what little they had. If they didn’t have something they needed they would come up with different ideas and solutions to the problem. It was incredible to witness.
The staff I spent time with were so welcoming and were not fazed by anything. From my perspective, the lack of resources was challenging, but the local staff stayed level-headed — this was the norm for them. Their calm approach is definitely something I’ve taken back home with me.
They were so friendly and wanted to get to know us. They’d ask us about life at home our families and even what we were watching on Netflix. I never thought I’d be having a conversation about Emily in Paris with Ghanaian doctors. It was their way of getting to know us, making us feel at ease. Their easygoing nature allowed us to build rapport with them.
My time in A&E was busy, and as I had already qualified I felt confident in getting involved. I was involved with triaging all patients that came into the hospital. I am now doing the exact same assessments in my new role at an A&E in Portsmouth.
“You can really immerse yourself in the daily life of living in a remote African village…”
I spent the second of my three weeks in a rural village to get a broader idea of Ghana’s healthcare system. It turned out to be the highlight of my trip.
Spending a week in such a remote village was incredible. We stayed with a family and had a guide with us who also acted as our interpreter. The experience was totally immersive and completely different from my placement in Takoradi.
The family we stayed with cooked delicious food every day, and their children always wanted to play with us — they were so really welcoming and just wanted to make sure we were happy all the time.
When it came to the clinical experience in the village, we went out into the community to assist with checking in on the locals every morning. Healthcare staff here had more of an advisory role in the village, offering guidance before prescribing medication.
This was fascinating because prescription and non-prescription drugs are abundant in the UK, so it was good to see how Ghanaian staff treated patients who, for example, had high blood pressure. Educating them initially rather than just prescribing meds, the latter rarely being an option.
Our afternoons were free for activities trips — BBQs on the beach, visiting Busua castle, and helping collect water from the local well. We got fully involved in village life.
Spending this week in the village helped me get a deeper understanding of the whole Ghanaian healthcare system and Ghanaian culture more broadly.
Seeing just how far these village communities are from big cities gave us insight into why the conditions we saw in our city hospital placement become so advanced. It’s an experience I would recommend to anyone.
“Looking at how measured Ghanian nurses were in what was a very high pressured environment has rubbed off on me.”
I am now working full-time in an A&E department in Portsmouth and there is so much about my time in Ghana that I’m reminded of.
Spending time in my placement hospital in Ghana developed my emotional intelligence, and this really benefits me in my current role. I am also a lot more resilient now having taken notes from the staff in Ghana who always kept their cool when under immense pressure.
If you’re thinking about going overseas to experience a different healthcare system and a different way of nursing, I’d say just go for it.