University of East Anglia (UEA) 2011

Medical, Tanzania Dar es Salaam

I wanted to do my medical elective in an environment that would be culturally enriching, provide me with many opportunities to actively get involved and somewhere where it wouldn’t be as rainy as the UK… and I’m pleased to say that Dar es Salaam did not disappoint me.

From the moment I set foot off of the plane I knew that I was going to have one of those fantastic life experiences that I would never forget.

The Dar es Salaam house exceeded all expectations. I had looked at pictures on the website but seeing the house in real life, it looks even better!  The huge pool was definitely a plus point and was especially useful for unwinding after a long day at the hospital.

The staff at the house were extremely friendly, Mark and Alpha were always there to have a friendly chat with or help you obtain things such as phone cards so that you could call home. The cook, Rehema provided us with delicious food that tantalised our taste buds every much so that we would linger in the dining room before dinner was ready then all rush and push past each other to be first in the queue.

I worked at the district hospital. Being completely honest, I found it to be a shock initially. On my first day a combination of intense heat and lots of blood around in the delivery room led to me nearly fainting several times. The doctors laughed at me and questioned my ability as to whether I had what it took to survive on the obstetrics and gynaecology department. However after a good night's sleep and plenty of cool drinks during my shift...I was ready to go again the next day.

The obstetrics and gynaecology department was unlike anything I had ever seen before. As many as eight labouring women at once, with another four sitting on a bench who had just delivered within the last 15mins and others waiting to come in as soon as there was a vacant bed...busy would be an understatement. Babies were being delivered every 5 to 10 minutes at peak. At some points the only word you would hear in the labour room would be 'sacouma' which means push. Despite the department being so busy the staff  were always very friendly and always willing to answer our questions and teach us. On my second day I observed many deliveries and was taught what I should do when delivering a baby, from the next day onwards I was delivering babies for myself, catheterizing, cannulating and taking blood from patients.

It was such a fantastic experience to have been given the opportunity to have such an active role in patient care. Never had I imagined that I would have been delivering babies from my 3rd day in the department.  However it wasn't all fun at times; there were situations where patients didn't survive which were quite difficult to deal with. The hardest challenge I had to deal with was when I was asked to conduct a delivery of a mother whose baby had already died in utero. It was a very sad situation but I didn't have any time to listen or react to my emotions, I had to simply be strong and supportive for the patient while delivering her baby. After I had finished I went back to the house and was cheered up and supported by the other students.

When I wasn't working at the hospital there was certainly more than enough to keep me entertained. From shopping at local craft markets, to partying with the locals, eating out at the weekends and enjoying the beautiful beaches.

One of my highlights was when I organised a trip for myself and a few other students to head down to the orphanage. We took lots of toys, sweets, pens, books etc. with us to donate to the children and enjoyed the day playing with them and getting to know them. They were extremely grateful and well mannered. They each in turn introduced themselves to us and shook our hands. It was a very humbling experience. It's a trip I would definitely recommend doing. My only regret was not staying for longer although I'm sure that one day I will return once more.

Overall, I've had a fantastic experience in Dar es Salaam, met lots of lovely people, experienced a new culture with lots of exciting food, music and art and developed my clinical skills and experience a lot further!

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