My elective placement in Ghana has been the most amazing experience of my life, I have learnt so much and gained more confidence in myself than I ever remember having.
Firstly, due to being able to receive the Turing funding, I was able to book the elective with a reputable company that I knew would be safe and I would feel supported throughout my stay there and also book a direct flight, which meant that for me (a first time adult flyer!) I wasn’t nervous or scared I was going to get lost in a different country and I wouldn’t be travelling needlessly for hours.
I booked with Work the World and they were fantastic all the way through. A staff member met us at the airport, even though our flight was delayed by 5 hours and drove us to our home for the time we were there. In the house there were many students, from different fields such as medicine, nursing, midwifery and physio as well as individuals that has already qualified, many from the UK but also from Belgium and the USA. Before stepping foot in the hospital, this alone was such a confidence building experience. We were all able to discuss our fields of practice from our own experiences and our own countries, which was very interesting!
The first week during the stay I was placed specifically in the NICU, there were so many premature babies, much more than I have seen in the UK and unfortunately there were many babies with much more severe illnesses, such as Malaria and HIV.
This definitely took some adjusting for me, it was difficult to see babies so poorly and trying to treat them with such minimal resources. However, the skills I learnt due to this was very extensive, I was actively encouraged to be very hands on and practice skills I have previously and develop new skills. I was also able to remember information I can use now I am back at home.
Due to the lack of equipment in the hospital, running blood tests for answers was not really an option, therefore they have their own way of getting to a quick diagnosis, this was so interesting to watch and learn. In the hospital, it is also not normal practice to have common technology here, such as recording NEWS scales, this was all done mentally and with paper, so being able to trust myself to understand the stages or improvement or deterioration was amazing, it was like all the skills I have learnt at university all made sense for the first time!
Whilst in this first week, I began to understand and see some of the Ghanian culture first-hand, some of these things being very strikingly different to things we have back at home, for example the way in which women experience childbirth is something that I don’t believe we would ever see in the UK.
I also began to see the heavy weight, religion plays in their country as well as even their healthcare system. Finally, as it has been said so many times before, how lucky we are to have the NHS like we do! This has never been more obvious to me personally than being there, seeing families struggle to pay for the care of their newborn baby or even unable to afford to have their baby taken to the mortuary in some very upsetting cases. I will forever be grateful we are able to treat our patients in the UK without that added stress for them.
Our first weekend, wow!
This was amazing and a true once in a lifetime experience. We travelled over to Kakum National Park to stay in the middle of the rainforest up high in a treehouse where we slept for the night. Early the next morning we got up and walked through the rainforest as the monkeys were beginning to wake up, the forest alive with sounds, then arriving at a collection of rope bridges 205m above the rainforest, we walked over them all, seeing all the amazing sights that I will never forget.
Even this in itself shows the confidence I have gained in every area, as only a week prior I would not have looked down from a bridge 10m from the ground!
This was also supported by the warm and supportive nature of all the people I met from Ghana whilst there. Following this, we travelled on to our next excursion, the slave castles at Cape Coast, it was this experience that really helped me to understand the sad history of the country and how far they have come. It was so interesting to be able to walk the same walk as many slaves had years before, and truly feel the cold and distressing atmosphere amongst everybody there. This experience has really stayed with me.
After this, we then travelled to a beautiful location surrounded by huge lakes, to do a completely different activity, crocodile stroking! Yep, that’s what we did. Luckily for us one of the 19 crocodiles was already out basking on the lakeside, so we then went over to give him a little stroke one at a time, this was very bizarre, we just seemed to be relaxing the crocodile even more as he sunbathed, even our driver Lewis gave it a go!
After all this excitement (and sweaty exhaustion) we really needed our next location, the most gorgeous location Coconut Grove, a resort set on a beach, with rooms and a lovely little restaurant and bar next to the sea. This was a lovely day which we definitely needed, we regrouped, chatted about our placements in the hospital, what we had seen and how we felt about it all.
The next day, straight from the hotel, I was about to go onto something extremely different! As I was the only one going to the village healthcare week.
For this week, I stayed with a local family, around 2 hours from Takoradi in a rural farming village. There I stayed with Auntie Jane and Uncle Bob, their 5 adult children and 6 young grandchildren. t was this week that I truly gained more self-confidence, skills, understanding and empathy than I thought I ever would.
I was thrown straight in to the ‘real’ Ghanian life, with no internet, no running water and living from the bare minimum, it was an experience like no other.
In the mornings I was placed in the village health clinic and was on call wiht the team throughout the night for any instances that arouse that may be a learning experience or an opportunity to see something I may never see again.
During the health clinic, I saw a lot of Malaria, especially in very young children and older adults, on the first day after seeing 3 Malaria patients back-to-back, I was able to take control of my own patients, diagnose the problem and suggest treatment options - under supervision.
I was able to insert many cannulas on patients of all ages, mix and set up IV’s under supervision and many injections.
Due to this being the only access to healthcare the people in the village have, I was able to also spend a lot of time with the only midwife in the village, she taught me so much about pregnancy and prenatal care.
By the end of the week, I was able to accurately feel the baby’s position in the womb, find the heartbeat using a doppler and even feel the dilation of an expectant mother in early labour! This was something I would struggle to get the opportunity to do in the UK.
During my time in the village, I was able to have so many different experiences out of the clinic too! I was taken on a canoe through the middle of the jungle, had a bonfire on the beach with all of the staff from the clinic, visit the local castle which was a remaining piece of history from WW2, learnt to carry water from the well on my head and even learn a popular African TikTok dance!
When walking through the village, everyone is very excited to see a new visitor and the children will run over to cuddle and hold your hand, it is such a lovely community. I was able to participate in a local baby weighing and immunisation day which was in the middle of the village and a community walk, this included walking to peoples houses (at random), checking in and seeing if they needed any healthcare or free advice.
There are so many more amazing stories I have been fortunate enough to be a part of and skills I have gained which I would not have been able to do if it weren’t for knowing to apply for the funding available through the Turing scheme.
The confidence I have gained has completely changed me as a student and even as person.
I have a greater understanding of individuals from different cultures, the ability to understand different languages and so many new practical skills.
If you are thinking about doing something like this, my advice would be 100% JUST DO IT!!