I’d always wanted to experience healthcare overseas. So when Work the World presented on electives in Africa at my university I knew that the placement was for me.
Work the World were so supportive. The trip was easy to arrange and they made organising the whole thing stress free.
So, after months of preparation and planning, I flew to live in Tanzania for a month.
A member of the Work the World team was there waiting to meet us at the airport. We then travelled together back to the Work the World house.
The house had a welcoming atmosphere and everyone was incredibly supportive. From the team in the house to my housemates, it really did feel like one big family.
I spent three of my four weeks in Tanzania within the emergency department of Work the World’s partner hospital.
The department looked modern (it had been funded by an American company). But there was a significant gap in the quality of care patients received compared to back home.
There was also a severe lack of resources.
Local staff were keen to learn how we did things in the UK, just as we were keen to see how they got by with so few resources.
It was surprising, culturally speaking, and it made me incredibly grateful for the NHS.
Patients often presented late to the emergency department, and many of them couldn’t afford the treatment they needed. I watched doctors struggle to find cheaper alternatives so their patients could live.
I remember one case of a policeman who arrived at the emergency department. He told us that it took him a week to travel to the hospital by truck. He had a broken spine.
The man was obviously extremely unwell and unfortunately it was too late for anything to be done. He wouldn’t walk again.
My placement in the emergency department was emotional at times but provided moments of great joy.
One of my favourite days was on the labour and delivery unit. Local women showed unbelievable strength often giving birth with minimal pain relief and no family around to support them.
I went on to spend a week in a rural hospital on one of Work the World’s Village Healthcare Weeks.
The hospital in the village had even fewer resources than my main placement hospital in the city.
There were two eight-bed wards in the hospital. One of which was for labour and delivery, the other for those more generally unwell.
The rural hospital also ran clinics and I was heavily involved in these for two days whilst I was there.
In spite of the lack of resources, these clinics offered free HIV and TB medication to the local communities. It was such a positive thing to see.
I also spent a day out in the local community assisting the local nurses vaccinating children.
Some local people ferried me, the box of vaccines, and the local nurses around on their motorbikes.
We set up vaccination stations using someone’s kitchen table, right there on the side of the road. Something you’d never see in the UK!
We were busy in the hospitals, but we had plenty of downtime too.
I spent one weekend on the island of Zanzibar and another on Safari.
Wednesday nights were reserved for karaoke down on the beach, which was a great chance to unwind.
Thursday was BBQ night. I ate some of the best food I’ve ever had at the BBQs, and learned traditional African dancing too.
Tanzania was a trip of a lifetime.
If you are currently deliberating whether or not to take the plunge, I strongly recommended that you do — I made friends (and memories) for life.
I will never forget my time in Tanzania and hope to return one day.
Asante Sana Tanzania!