University of Birmingham 2017
After two long flights from Birmingham to Tanzania, we arrived, tired but excited! The Work the World Programme Manager in Dar es Salaam greeted us at the airport, and we then made our way to the Work the World house. I was amazed at how busy the streets of Tanzania were; street food was being cooked and sold almost everywhere, and women were walking along the street carrying baskets of shopping on their heads. We arrived at the house and I immediately felt welcome and at ease. We were given a tour of what was to be home for the next four weeks.
On our first night, we enjoyed a welcome meal prepared by the chefs - we then chilled out on the sofas outside and got to know our new housemates.
The next day was orientation. We took a ride on the dala-dala (the local bus) to the hospital... what a journey this was! Imagine a minibus packed full of people with limited room to move, and whenever someone wanted to get off from the back, it was an absolute struggle but oh so funny. We had a tour of the hospital, and it was clear already how different nursing in Africa was going to be, but I could not wait to start.
We then went for a Tanzanian lunch and sorted out currency exchange and sim cards, with the help of the WtW team. After this, we got a tuk-tuk (a taxi tricycle) to Slipway. Slipway was a local shopping mall with markets selling all sorts of weird and wonderful things, where boat trips leave from - and it also sold the best ice cream ever! After such a busy day, we chilled out and prepared for our first day on placement.
Off we went on our first day, our rucksacks full of equipment such as gloves, aprons, and hand sanitizer ready for the day ahead. As soon as I got to the emergency department (ED) I felt so nervous, but I was ready to learn and embrace as much as I could, and that’s exactly what I did. I surprised myself at how well I managed complex situations that occurred on each shift. I assisted in resuscitating and manually ventilating patients, I cared for a patient with 80% burns, patients with gunshot wounds and many other cases, some more life threatening than others.
The emergency department was extremely busy and very challenging - but that did not stop me from going back the next day ready to nurse again.
My placement was mainly in the emergency department, but I spent time in internal medicine, neonates, and mental health departments too. In each department, I was surprised to find what seemed “normal” nursing to be, I found myself reaching for resources which just weren’t there. Medication was crushed in a distinctive fashion. Oxygen masks were washed and reused. The nurses in Tanzania would provide best practice with the little they had, and it was frustrating and extremely upsetting when a lack of resources leads to poor outcomes for patients, including death. It made me really appreciate the health system we have in the UK.
I treated the language barrier between myself and the staff and patients as another challenge. Before my trip, I learnt basic words in Swahili such as ‘jambo’ which means hello and ‘kwaheri’ which means goodbye. We had Swahili lessons with Jacob (our Swahili teacher) every Monday and Wednesday at the Work the World house which extended my vocabulary. I absolutely loved learning a new language and I loved speaking Swahili with the locals. I even went home speaking it!
Each weekend we explored the beautiful country we were living in. I went snorkelling (well, I tried), I had a selfie with a HUGE tortoise at Prison Island (which was paradise) and enjoyed an amazing tour of Stone Town in Zanzibar. I sunbathed for most of the day, ate a whole crab and drank beer for lunch on Bongoyo Island (another paradise island). On safari I saw elephants, zebras, giraffes and watched a lioness hunt down a wildebeest for its tea.
Throughout the week after placement, a group of friends and I booked an afternoon of treatments at a spa at Slipway. There were BBQ nights at the house every Thursday - now that was something special, a chance for everyone to let their hair down after placement.
My time in Tanzania was the most eye-opening and amazing experience of my life. I loved the energy and positivity of Tanzania. I made friends and memories that I will never forget. Despite the challenges I faced, I came back from Africa equipped with so much confidence. I have learnt so much about myself and what I can achieve professionally and personally. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary, challenge myself, explore another culture and experience nursing in a low-resource country. The Work the World team at the head office, and most definitely in Dar es Salaam, helped me achieve this and more!
Advice for anyone considering tanzania...Keep an open mind, take plenty of mosquito spray and throw yourself into every opportunity that comes your way. Asante-sana!