My tutor at uni mentioned elective placements to my cohort between our first and second years. The tutor advised us to think about whether we wanted to do one or not, and if we did, where we wanted to go.
I went to an elective event at uni a few months later and decided I wanted to go somewhere in Africa.
The speaker mentioned Work the World during their presentation, and I later went online and searched ‘elective nursing placements’.
Funnily enough, I ended up on the Work the World website.
I made an enquiry and the team at Work the World contacted me shortly afterwards. I discussed my preferences with the lady who called me, and she advised me that Tanzania — a destination I was interested in before the call — might be for me.
Choosing my placements
I had an in-depth conversation with the Work the World’s UK team. They helped me figure out in detail what my clinical placement should look like.
I wanted to do something that I couldn’t easily do on placement in the UK, so I picked areas that didn’t involve adult nursing.
The UK team also helped align my expectations of what the wards would be like in the hospital I’d be undertaking my placement in.
My first placement
I spent my first two weeks in the Acute Paediatric Care Unit of a national hospital.
When I first went onto the ward I was surprised by the amount of equipment they had. They had cardiac monitors, a resuscitation trolley, and an ultrasound machine.
Local staff were very welcoming on the ward, and tried to get me involved from day one.
I hadn’t experienced a paediatric ward before, so I had nothing to compare my experience to. That said, local nurses didn’t seem as compassionate towards patients as nurses tend to be in the UK.
In general, local nurses definitely had a different nurse-to-patient relationship compared with back home.
Patients’ families did everything for them. If a baby’s nappy needed to be changed, the family saw to it and were expected to stay with the baby at all times.
Doctors told nurses what medication they wanted the children to have, but there were no drug charts. The nurses just wrote what the doctors said on a piece of paper, which then formed the daily care plan.
There were times when patients required lifesaving treatment, but because they couldn’t afford it, they didn’t get it. I watched the doctors discuss, for hours, cheaper alternatives to try and save lives where they could.
They were often unsuccessful.
Matters weren’t helped by the fact that patients often came to hospital when it was too late to do anything for them.
One example of this was a cardiac arrest that I witnessed whilst on the ward — it was quite difficult for me.
There was hardly any privacy on the ward so all of the other patients and their families saw the whole event.
My second placement
I spent my second two weeks on the antenatal and labour ward in another hospital.
It was during the car journey I could tell I was headed into a deprived part of Tanzania. This was confirmed when I got to the hospital.
The wards were eye-opening.
The first thing I saw when I walked on the antenatal ward was four women sharing two pushed-together hospital beds.
Half of the ward was laid out like this.
Other women were lined up on a bench to have their observations done before the doctors arrived.
Their main concern seemed to be whether or not the women had preeclampsia.
The staff here really got me involved and taught me a lot.
I later moved to the labour ward. While I was there I assisted with collecting babies from C-sections.
That involved putting on sterile gowns and gloves, then taking the baby from the doctors to prepare them to go back to the labour ward. That’s where they waited for their mothers to come out of recovery.
The hospital was really under resourced. The patients had to bring in their own equipment — catheters, sterile gloves, cord clamps….
I brought with me more than I needed, so I ended up leaving things like gloves, scrubs and sanitary towels.
The staff were so appreciative of these things that I normally take for granted back at home.
Meeting new people
The Work the World house was really social, and I met some really nice people there from all over the world.
The Tanzanian people are also very friendly. The people who I worked with offered to take us out to show us around Tanzania, they even offered to show us the nightlife.
My placement in Tanzania was an amazing experience. It had its highs and lows, and I am so glad that I experienced it all.
The experience made me become more confident socially and in my clinical practice.
This opportunity was a once in a lifetime — I am glad I listened to my tutor and went!
If I could do it again I would.