Initially I was very apprehensive about the placement in Dar es Salaam, I’d never been that far away from home before! However the WTW team in England were so supportive making sure we had everything sorted and answering any questions we had, even the small, silly ones!
On arrival we were met by the very friendly face of Alpha, the programme manager in Dar and he immediately took us back to the house where we had a great induction and met the rest of the staff.
The accommodation and food were perfect, such varied food; Rehema is the best cook in the world and bbq Thursdays were always a treat to look forward to.
The house is in a perfect location, it has all the things you need surrounding it, cash machine, local shop, bars and restaurants!
My placement at the regional hospital was amazing. Even though you think you're prepared for how eye opening it might be, you still get a shock initially. But the staff at the hospital are very aware themselves of how different the care is to that in the UK. Most of the staff speak good English and are so friendly, wanting to talk to you and help you. I found that as with any placement in the UK you had to be very proactive to gain the most out of it.
I managed to spend some time in the surgical ward where I saw many awful wounds, hernias and appendicitis. The wounds that I saw were, to put it bluntly, pretty horrific and were often related to HIV. The treatment for them would entail weeks on end in hospital for the patients. It was sometimes frustrating when you saw treatments that you knew were inlikely to have a positive effect, but these are situations you had to accept and could not change. In speaking to some of the professionals they explained that it may not be the best way, but due to resources it was the only way. I also spent some time in theatres where I saw hernia repairs, caesarean sections and removal of cysts.
I spent time in the HIV clinic, where the doctor explained so much around HIV and why it was so rife in Africa. I saw many patients at different stages of the illness, which again was eye opening. I spent a couple of days on the labour ward, which was an experience; you see how different the care is in comparison to England. The placement was amazing, I saw so much, but you have to make an effort to make the most out of your experience there by doing different things. I would definitely recommend choosing more than one area as you get to see more! I even opted to do a night shift in the hospital as I was curious to see what the hospital was like a night; there is hardly any medical cover and there is no on-call or bleep system!
I would recommend taking some supplies with you as the hospital is in dire need of resources. I raised £500 before I went out and took it over to the hospital where they were able to buy some new equipment. I donated gloves, scrubs and alcohol gel to the hospital which they were so grateful for; they want to do the best for their patients and improve their care.
At the weekends there was loads of time to be a tourist and explore the local area. Zanzibar is a must. A group of us went down to Kendwa; a little village that had the most amazing beaches and fish restaurants. The weekend that we went there was a full moon party which was a great night. Safari is another must - this was one of my best experiences, staying in a tent in the middle of the safari park with a camp fire to keep you warm and protect you - something you'd never experience back in the UK! We also arranged to go to a local orphanage one weekend to take toys and games. This was a lovely afternoon. The manager of the orphanage explained some of the children's stories which were enough to bring you to tears. The manager also ran a school for the children which was right out in the bush. We asked if we were able to go and visit and see what the school was like. It was awesome! Although the school was still in the process of being built, we saw a maths lesson in progress and then the school choir sang and they were absolutely amazing!
Another weekend was spent on Prison Island where all the giant tortoises live. The island was beautiful and the views were breath taking, on the way we were able to go snorkelling and the sea was so blue! Other excursions that we managed to undertake were a trip to Bongoyo island which was lovely; a drive on the dala dala into the centre of Stone Town for some shopping; we went to a private beach where we had a lovely relaxing day; we went to see the national stadium where big games were held and we went out for meals at different restaurants while we were there experiencing all the different foods.
The experience was the best thing I have ever done, especially all of the extra things we organised. The staff at the house were so friendly and accommodating, helping us to arrange excursions; they worked so hard to help us to have the best time possible. The house was so comfortable; it was like home in Africa! The placement allowed me to see so much that I would never be able to see here in the UK. I learnt so much about myself and my practice and how I could help others. It makes you appreciate what we have here so much more and how lucky we really are. A placement in Tanzania is a must!