As a part of my final year of training, I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania to experience their midwifery care!
Choosing where to go was an incredibly difficult decision as all Work the World destinations looked amazing but in the end I kept going back to Tanzania! I wanted something that was completely different from midwifery care back home in London. Hospitals at home are becoming more and more diverse and I wanted to become more culturally competent so I could better care for everyone. And what really helped my decision was reading other reviews, like this one!
I felt very overwhelmed walking into the delivery suite as all the women laid in the same area with no privacy and no dignity. Being in Tanzania, of course the heat is something that would always be a struggle. 33-degree heat with only a few fans that worked was extremely challenging.
Understanding the Tanzanian culture was difficult at times - women laboured on their own without pain relief and with little encouragement or support. In situations where my practices differed to that of the Tanzanian midwives, I was able to share my knowledge, which helped me gain confidence in my own abilities.
It was really nice because Tanzanian medical students wanted to share and exchange knowledge with me. We discussed basic anatomy and the importance of allowing restitution to happen before the baby is born. Following our conversations they began rubbing a woman’s back as a means of support in labour and showed kindness and encouragement and would always ask for consent before doing anything.
The working environment is very relaxed and laid-back, even when there are emergencies. All staff members were extremely welcoming and approachable and were always happy to answer any questions. They are aware of guidelines but go with their own experiences and what works for them when caring for women.
One experience that will stay with me forever was caring for a young woman who was 21. Only two years younger than myself and she was the strongest, most courageous woman I have ever met (and had very good English). She was in pain and was asking for help, so I went over to support her and calm her down. She held my hand and asked if I could please stay with her. So of course, I did. She asked me to check her because she could feel the baby coming, so I did and there was the head, beginning to crown. I told her that her baby was coming but she began to cry and said “it’s ok, I know everything, I know what’s happened.”
Her beautiful baby boy was born sleeping. She held my hand again and said, “thank you, I will never forget you”. I began to cry. I couldn’t believe I was crying, but I couldn’t stop. I feel honoured to have been able to care for her and support her through the absolute worst thing any mother could go through. I truly believe we will remember each other forever.
When not on placement, afternoons and evenings are your own. On Mondays and Wednesdays, we had Swahili lessons and our teacher was absolutely amazing. It’s definitely one of my highlights! He made learning the language so fun and we were able to use this during placement and impress the hospital staff! There are also karaoke Wednesdays, where we went to Coco Beach and sang our hearts out and BBQ Thursdays where there is a lovely party at the Work the World house - delicious food and lots of traditional dancing!
The support I had whilst in the Work the World house was brilliant! I always had a laugh with the team and they were available for anything I needed. Living with so many other students was also an amazing experience – all from different backgrounds and countries but we all became one big family!
On my first weekend I travelled to Zanzibar island (a cheaper version of the Maldives!). After a week of placement, a paradise island was just what was needed! They say if you go to Tanzania and don’t visit Zanzibar then you’ve never really been to Tanzania. On my last weekend I did a 4-hour bike tour (absolute killer!) around the city where I was able to see the ‘real’ Dar es Salaam. The local people living there were incredibly happy people, but it was so overwhelming and shocking to see their living conditions.
I also chose to do the Village Healthcare Experience week, which for me, was more about immersing myself in Tanzanian culture than the healthcare itself. I lived with a host family for 5 days. I was completely out of my comfort zone as facilities are incredibly limited, but it was the best thing I have ever done in my life. I think everyone has a perception of what they think it would be like, but it’s not until you see it for yourself that it really hits you and you are instantly grateful for everything you take for granted. The children I lived with made it the best experience for me, they were so much fun! In the afternoons we did activities such as cycling to the sugar cane plantations, visiting waterfalls and local primary schools and learning traditional dancing.
If you have the opportunity to complete a placement abroad, absolutely do. I was out of my comfort zone for many parts of the trip but you can’t progress if you stay inside your little bubble! It was truly the best thing I have ever experienced in my whole entire life and I am so grateful to have had the experience.