University of Central Lancashire 2020

Nursing, Tanzania Dar es Salaam

I completed my Diploma from University of Central Lancashire in Mental Health Nursing in April 2015. Subsequently, I graduated from University of Chester with a BSc in Professional Practice.

As a child I always dreamt of being a nurse when I grew up. In primary school, in year 6, I had to make my own autobiography book from scratch and in that was one page which read 'My future'. This is where I wrote about my future aspirations of being a nurse. Many years later, here I am, fulfilling my dreams and continuing to progress in my career as a nurse.

I gained more knowledge about mental health nursing when I started working as a healthcare assistant with an agency that supported individuals with mental health diagnoses. This fascinated me and from there I decided mental health nursing was the career for me. I am passionate about nursing and look forward to going to work each day.

It was a very exciting moment for me when I found out that going abroad was an option for my elective placement. I wanted to experience the differences between healthcare in the UK and a healthcare system abroad.

The university had connections with Work the World who specialise in tailoring overseas nursing placements. I went on to their website, read about other people’s experiences and had a look at the destinations available. I wanted to go to Africa and that's how I chose to go to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Everything was organised for me. The only aspects I had to arrange independently were my own flights, insurance and visas. Work the World were very helpful and provided lots of information about the country and its culture. 

I had my own personal “MyTrip” login where I had to provide information. Having MyTrip was extremely helpful, it showed my housemates so I had a rough idea about who I would be living with before I arrived.

I was on placement in Tanzania for a total of 6 weeks. I went to placement Monday to Friday and at the weekends I was able to explore the country a little more.

I chose to do my placement on the psychiatric unit. Every week I was placed in a different area which included a male ward, a female ward, an outpatient clinic, and a methadone clinic. I also spent time with a social worker and we visited an autistic school and a village hospital. 

On the inpatient wards, there was a lack of space and some patients had to share beds. The lack of resources and some of the treatments I witnessed was quite shocking, however after talking to the staff I gained a much better understanding surrounding these issues.

One of the challenges I faced while on placement was the language barrier. Most patients didn’t speak English and just spoke Swahili. We had Swahili lessons twice a week at the Work the World house to help us communicate whilst on placement and I really enjoyed learning this language as it allowed me to communicate with the patients and staff a little better. The language teacher was great!

Outside of placement I would go shopping, to the beach, explore the local area; not to mention the unforgettable safari experience I went on - it is an absolute must for anyone going to Tanzania!

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I loved everything about my placement! From the second I landed to the second I left. Meeting people, learning the language, eating the local food, watching how patients were assessed, how they were treated with medication and how economically disadvantaged the country was.

Families couldn't afford to bring ill family members to hospital, and they would keep them at home, meaning that by the time they came to the hospital they were incredibly unwell, or their condition was well advanced. 

At times I saw nurses having to restrain very sick patients using ripped bed sheets and would give them an intravenous injection. This would calm the patient within minutes, and they would fall asleep. The nurses would complete physical checks on the patient regularly. This was quite sad to watch but also a reality of the cultural differences.

Reflecting on my experience and what I learned, I would say appreciate what you have and never take anything for granted because there are people out there who have nothing or have very little. Be thankful for every second and every minute of your life.

Nurses should definitely consider doing an overseas placement. It is absolutely worth it and the experience will stay with you for life! You can add it to your CV and it will make you stand out from the rest. When you go to interviews, it gives you something to discuss and share and talk passionately about. It is definitely worth the trip and the experience. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience which all nurses should undertake.

One thing I did which turned out to be the best decision ever was organising my placement with Work the World! Also make sure you take a diary and write down what you did every day from the second you leave your house. One day you will look back at your diary with a smile like I did today!

My overall experience was incredible, there are no words to describe it. An experience and memory I will treasure for life! I would go back tomorrow if I could. 

The placement experience was priceless! The staff on placement and the Work the World team at the house were all extremely helpful and friendly. I would highly recommend Work the World to anyone wishing to complete their placement abroad. 

I wish I could do it all over again! 

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